And yet if the dislodging of the church as Ireland’s most important institution has been a longer, slower process that many recognize, the idea that Ireland has simply transformed into another secular Western European country is also a caricature. In 2013, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin published an article entitled “A Post-Catholic Ireland?” in America: The National Catholic Review. In it, he explained that one can “fully define post-Catholic only in terms of the Catholicism that has been displaced.”
For the sociologist Gladys Ganiel, “post-Catholic” does not mean that the island of Ireland was once Catholic and now is not. Rather, she believes that the dominant, traditional form of Irish Catholicism is losing ground, but that different spiritual outlets are emerging to fill the void. In some cases, this has meant other forms of Christianity; in others, it has meant extra-institutional religion; in others, a new relationship with the church. But in all cases, the people Ms. Ganiel interviewed for her work could not stop talking about Catholicism, defining their choices in terms of the church or against it; Irish Catholicism may be in decline, but its legacy continues to cast a long shadow.