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Thread: Protestantism's failure in Ireland

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    Default Protestantism's failure in Ireland

    So why did the Reformation fundamentally fail in Ireland on a popular level?

    Certainly, a Protestant ruling elite was put in place artificially by British intervention and ruled for centuries, but for the most part, the Protestant population of the whole island of Ireland are the descendents of immigrants from Scotland and England who were already Protestant when they came over.

    Certainly there was limited conversion of the locals(specifically in Ulster it seems) but for the most part the native population not only remained Catholic but also suffered persecution, lack of rights and social advancement opportunities, in their determination to do so.

    So where did the Brits go wrong? There are examples of colonised peoples converting to Protestantism at the behest of their occupier(Sweden and Finland spring to mind) so why didn't the Irish do so, even when they had been defeated comprehensively militarily and where they were then made economically impotent for their loyalty to Catholicism?

    Why did they not seize the chance to throw of the yoke of the Romish church, which according to some had sold Ireland out to the English in the first place?

    Some may attribute it to the fact that the Catholic Church is the one true church and the Irish were doing what was morally right, but I don't think most of us would buy that argument. I don't think many would argue that there is anything that made Irish people inately unable to convert to Protestantism in the past.

    So what are people's views?

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    From 'What is Europe without Christianity?' thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelR
    In my opinion (external, I admit) it was politics that ruined the much-needed possibility of Reformation in Ireland - a Reformation on the English bayonet was seen as worse than none at all.
    I'm not at all sure what you're driving at here. Certainly, if it is going to become a debate in its own right, we should start a thread in the history section. But while I agree the Reformation in Ireland was hindered by politics, it was the politics of the English administration rather than the indigenous population.

    Two dual policies, that of Reformation and Anglicanisation (that being the spread of English language and custom rather than proselytisation), were at loggerheads with one another. A major part of the Reformation process was preaching and printing in the vernacular- not for nothing are the earliest Irish prints Reformation literature- but such a policy would have driven against the strengthening of English speaking Ireland over Irish speaking Ireland, and that was the Crown's priority. The Reformation took a back seat to this policy, the authorities assuming that once the population spoke English Reformation could be driven at full throttle. But the delay resulted in counter-revolutionary forces arriving in Ireland before the Reformation ever got off the ground, thus scuppering the Reformation movement in Ireland permanently.
    We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the internet, we know this is not true.

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    Language is one of the main factors. The Reformation was a success in Germany etc because the preacher spoke in the native languge of the people. This was not the case in Ireland where the Church of Ireland in particular remained strictly English. Part of the problem was the cost of printing in Irish which had lettering quiet different from the Roman alphabeth at the time. There was some attempts and it is interesting to note than the first Irish language book was a Protestant Prayer book. Wales however was a complete contrast with a mass of reformation literature available in the Welsh language.

    Culture also had a lot to do with it. Protestantism was also a movement od anglicising Ireland and viewed Irish customs with suspicion. In a reformed Ireland there would be no place for the traditions such as wakes and laments. "Smells and Bells" the very public display of religion and ceremony by the Catholic Church appealed more to the people than the plain simple approach of Protestantism plus there was no serious effort to create a truly native church, in personnel, language or culture

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    Also it is important to remember that the reformation arrived rather late to Ireland. As such the contra movement was gathering pace anyway and the fact is that the association of protestantism and English made it become a nationalist issue, at least in the very early days.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jady88
    the association of protestantism and English made it become a nationalist issue, at least in the very early days.
    That could be argued for the Gaelic Irish certainly, but not necessarily for the Old English settlers who also remained Catholic but very much loyal to England.

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    The Anglican Church was elitist in Ireland. They only ever amounted to 1/6th of the population, and liked it that way. It was a badge of the ruling class.

    I don't think the British Ruling Class were ever interested in mass converting Ireland to Protestantism.
    "If the Germans land in Ireland they will be welcomed as liberators".

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    Default Re: Protestantism's failure in Ireland

    Quote Originally Posted by Gombeen
    So where did the Brits go wrong? There are examples of colonised peoples converting to Protestantism at the behest of their occupier(Sweden and Finland spring to mind) so why didn't the Irish do so, even when they had been defeated comprehensively militarily and where they were then made economically impotent for their loyalty to Catholicism?

    ?
    In fact, In Finland Sweden was the occupier which imposed protestantism on Finland. Actually, Swedes still maintain that Christianity itself came to Finland from Sweden in the 12th century. All the evidence shows that christianity came to Finland from the east much earlier. So much for the Swedish civilization!

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    Default Re: Protestantism's failure in Ireland

    Quote Originally Posted by THR
    Quote Originally Posted by Gombeen
    So where did the Brits go wrong? There are examples of colonised peoples converting to Protestantism at the behest of their occupier(Sweden and Finland spring to mind) so why didn't the Irish do so, even when they had been defeated comprehensively militarily and where they were then made economically impotent for their loyalty to Catholicism?

    ?
    In fact, In Finland Sweden was the occupier which imposed protestantism on Finland.
    That's exactly what I was referring to. Why, did you get the impression that I was suggesting that Finland occupied Sweden? No, my admittedly imcomplete understanding of Scandinavian history isn't quite that bad.
    So why do you as a Finn, think that a Counter-Reformation against imposed Protestantism did not happen in Finland, as in Ireland. Was the Catholic Church always associated with Swedish rule as much as Protestantism there?

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    the tendency in the past has been to rely on the national identity issue to explain the failure of the reformation to take hold in ireland but recently it has been shown that this is ignores the chronology .by the time the identification of religon with one or other nationality th reformation had already failed .

    ireland had different social relationships to england where the great gaelic families were intimately connected with the monastic churches which represented the power of the irish church rather than the secular clergy. unlike england where the dissolution led to the enrichment of many noble familes and therefore co opted them to the henrician church the great families here had little desire to see the monasteries destroyed .also
    the other literate intellectual class, the bards and brehon judges were hostile to what they saw as ill founded foreign innovations in faith .

    remember that the reformation in england failed to take hold with ordinary people until a generation after it had suceeded with the elite ( see the stripping of the altars) so in ireland where the elite remained unconvinced the ordinary people were not likely to embrace this strange novelty. ireland was an extremely conserative culture where the same basic forms of law church and social organisation had remained substantially unchange d for centuries
    "Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair"
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    Calm down. I got the impression from from your text that you thought that Finland AND Sweden were occupied and the occupier was someone else. Now I realise how I have misinterpreted your text, sorry!

    As for the counter-reformation, I can only say that Finland being a geographically a fairly large country, there was no control by the authorities which religion the people in various parts of the country practiced but as the king of Sweden said that lutheranism was the religion of the land there was no arguing in those days.

    There were a lot of border-differences between the Swedes and the Russians and The Swedes conquered large chunks of land from Russia in the peace-treaty of Stolbova in 1617. This left a lot of Finns, practicing Russian orthodox-religion, under the Swedish rule. These people were persecuted by the Swedish establishment and at the earliest opportunity they fled back to Russia.

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