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Catholicism in Twentieth-Century Ireland: From “an Atmosphere Steeped in the Faith” to à la Carte Catholicism

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The aim of this article is to give a historical overview of Catholic culture in the Republic of Ireland in the twentieth century and to examine how it has changed. Ireland has in a short period changed from a largely rural agricultural economy to a modern urbanised one. Religious practice has declined steadily in that time and Catholicism no longer exercises the same influence on people's lives, or on the political/legislative process. The climate of the 1960s and the events that unfolded from that time made traditional Catholicism unsustainable. However in the 2011 census, eighty-four percent of Irish people still call themselves Catholic and recent surveys estimate the weekly Mass attendance rate at about forty-three percent. This and other contra-indications suggest that one should be cautious about adopting secularisation theories too readily in the Irish case. It would appear that many Irish still identify with their Catholic cultural heritage.

Affiliations: 1: National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland,


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