Dublin's Catholic Cathdral

Sunday, 8 April 1900 - Dublin, Ireland

Today I attended Dublin’s Catholic Cathedral...more or less. If you ask the Pope what is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Dublin, he will tell you it is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, more commonly called Christ Church. However if you go to Christ Church you will not find any Catholics, just Protestants. It is now the Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, too--and they are not sharing.

Christ Church, Dublin
How did this come about? Remember when the Pope refused to give Henry the 8th a divorce on the grounds that he was tired of his old wife and wanted a new one? King Henry thumbed his nose at Rome and started his own Church of England and made himself the head. He outlawed Catholics and seized church property as his own.

England was ruling Ireland at the time (more or less) so Henry seized churches in Ireland, too, and created the Church of Ireland. If suddenly being forced to switch religions had been unpopular with the people of England, it was far worse in Ireland. Even if Pope Adrian had given Ireland to England, the Irish were still loyal to their Catholic faith. No amount of oppression would stop them.

Ring or Thumb Rosary
Despite being the majority religion, Catholics had to worship in secret. Any priest found giving a mass would be imprisoned or executed. Even rosaries were outlawed. The crafty Irish carried small easily hidden ring rosaries in their pockets and continued to pray with them.

Having to worship in secret, no Catholic churches were allowed until the 19th century when the laws were slowly abolished. Dublin could now have a Catholic Cathedral--except they already had a Cathedral they never officially let go of, but was now occupied by protestants who had worshipped there for generations and were not about to let go either.

And so St. Mary’s Church was built in 1825. From the very beginning the Irish called it a pro-Cathedral. In 1886 the Pope granted them the title of pro-Cathedral officially. So what is a pro-Cathedral, you ask? It is a church that acts as a temporary cathedral until an official one can be built. Dublin has been dragging it’s feet about building a real cathedral, never agreeing where to put it or perhaps hoping the Church of Ireland will give them their old one back. Besides, St. Mary’s was built grand enough to serve the purpose.

Inside St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral
By the way, St. Mary’s Church should not be confused with the other St. Mary’s Church, which is Church of Ireland. The Catholics after being forced out of their original medieval churches, refused to give up the old names and would bestow it upon their new churches. And when the Protestants build a new church to replace a crumbling one, they also keep the original name. So any time you ask the whereabouts of a particular church, you must add the denomination or you will be sent on a wild goose chase.

Is it any wonder the new Celtic Church was formed 100 years later to replace the two churches who had betrayed the Irish at one time or another? It was a revival of the original Christian Church that had been created on this island. It was a faith where there were no Protestants or Catholics and therefore no axe to grind. It eventually caught on.

The Orange and the Green
I think this song sums up the deboggle of Protestants and Catholics.

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