Ireland and the Vatican: The Politics and Diplomacy of Church-State Relations, 1922-1960

Article excerpt

Ireland and the Vatican: The Politics and Diplomacy of Church-State Relations, 1922-1960. By Dermot Keogh. (Cork: Cork University Press. 1995. Pp. xvi, 410. L37.50, $62.00 hardcover; 17.50 paperback.) Ireland may still be known to some as "the island of saints and scholars," but few would know of the extraordinary importance that Irish diplomats placed upon Ireland's "special relationship" with the Holy See in regard to international affairs. The tendency of Ireland's accredited representatives to the Holy See to view Irish foreign policy as an adjunct to that of the Vatican, highlights the profound influence of the Catholic Church upon the Irish people. This tendency and its eventual demise are examined in Dermot Keogh's meticulously researched and illuminating study of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and newly independent Ireland. It is only in recent decades that Ireland has shed some of its traditional piety as a concession to modern consumer culture and Europeanization. However, for all the change that has occurred, including the recent successful referendum on divorce, Ireland remains to this day the most devout Catholic nation in Europe. The Irish people continue to find great solace in their faith, and it can be argued that this condition exists due to the strenuous efforts of successive Irish governments to cultivate and encourage the role of the Catholic Church in Irish society in the period under study.

Keogh's focus is designed to illuminate the nature of `high politics' between Ireland and the Vatican, and as a result, there is little to be found concerning the role of the clergy in local politics-where priests and nuns carry considerable weight on advisory boards and councils and in local organizations. Yet, as such matters are not the proper focus of Keogh's study, this is hardly unexpected. The concern for a moral and civil body politic since the founding of Ireland as an independent nation in 1922 seems to have been uppermost in the minds of both statesmen and churchmen alike. It was not enough for Irish men and women to be solid citizens; they were to be servants of God as well.

Clearly,the pageantry and solemnity of the 1932 Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin combined to serve as a vast profession of faith in which politics and spirituality combined to reinforce devotion to both church and state. Prominent Irish leaders, such as Eamon de Valera sought to protect the nation from the crass materialism and moral decadence of the outside world by asserting the right of the state to ensure the spiritual development of the population, by recognizing the special position of the Catholic Church in Irish society. …


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