point out that the best way for Catholics to understand
the change brought about by the Second Vatican Council
(1962- 1965) is to see it in terms of a shift from
classicism to historical consciousness.
has struck me, over the years, that this is also the
best way to understand the shift in Irish republicanism
-- as typified by Ruari O' Bradaigh (classicism),
former president of Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams (historical
consciousness), current Sinn Fein president.
views reality in terms of the immutable, the never
changing. It uses the deductive method of reasoning:
from the universal to the particular. This is best
illustrated by the following syllogism, which was
taught in Scholastic logic to every student for the
priesthood, up to the mid 60's:
human beings are rational.
Seamus is a human being.
Ergo (therefore) Seamus is rational.
uses the DEDUCTIVE METHOD of reasoning. It seeks conclusions
that are always true, in all situations: If it was
true in 1962, it is true in 2002.
consciousness uses the INDUCTIVE METHOD of reasoning:
from the particular to the universal. The conclusions
it reaches (from the ground up, so to speak) will
be based on changing circumstances and history. It
does not seek absolute, dogmatic certitude but settles
for moral, practical certitude.
therefore, can be seen as the Cardinal Ottaviani of
Irish republicanism. (0ttavani was the supreme classicist
of the Second Vatican Council. As the orthodoxy-watchdog
for the Curia he resisted all change -- and lost).
can be seen as the leader of the " new theologians"
(historical consciousness) who pushed for change at
the Second Vatican Council -- and won.
"new theology" of the Second Vatican Council
led to " liberation theology ", which emphasizes
that the Church must not just work to change sinful
hearts, but all sinful structures that oppress human
beings.It stresses that God loves justice and wants
to deliver the poor and oppressed from injustice.
It also stresses " praxis", as opposed to
theory -- that the way to come to the truth is to
be totally involved in the struggle for liberation,
and not just studying it in books.
Second Vatican Council began in 1962. That same year
Ruari O'Bradaigh, as Chief of Staff of the IRA, issued
a public statement that " all arms and other
material have been dumped", bringing to an end
the IRA Border Campaign launched in 1956. Before and
since that time, 0'Bradaigh has lived in the South
of Ireland. Adams, on the other hand, has lived all
his life in Belfast --the hub of the struggle.
has been my observation, over the years, that it is
often the people who have been least involved -- in
this country and in Ireland -- who are of the quickest
to cry "sell-out". Something which emphasizes
again the importance of " praxis".
The Second Vatican Council ended, Archbishop John
Charles Mc Quaid (another famous classicist) arrived
back at Dublin airport and declared, "Nothing
has changed". After the Good Friday Agreement
was signed, David Trimble declared "Nothing has
changed, the Union is safe". Ruari O'Bradaigh
declared, in effect, "Too much has changed and
everybody but me and my few followers have sold out".
I believe -- because of his historical consciousness
and his praxis (staying in the North, and putting
his life and liberty on the line every day for justice
and peace) -- has got it about right. And Irish-Americans
owe him an eternal debt of gratitude for not leading
us into another cul-de-sac of Irish history.
Ed Moloney had understood these matters better he
might have written a real history of the IRA.
Classicism tends to use a static model. Historical
consciousness uses a dynamic model. So for example,
the classicist will argue "English rule was the
problem in 1962. There is still English rule on the
island of Ireland in 2002. Therefore nothing has changed".
if we use the dynamic model, here is what we get:
The cold war is over and the British Government can
no longer scare the United States about the danger
of Ireland becoming "another Cuba"; the
European Union is changing the face of Europe; the
old Empire-culture is almost dead in Britain and the
Unionists have no longer great blocks of old English
families/industrialists/generals backing their supremacy;
the stature and the involvement of the Irish Government
have grown in leaps and bounds; the confidence (and
numbers) of the Catholics in Northern Ireland knows
no bounds and for them there is no turning back; and
Irish America is sophisticated, strong and organized.
instead of nothing having changed, a million things
former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Jim Molyneaux
(and mentor to Jeoffrey Donaldson) memorably -- and
very revealingly -- said the IRA cease-fire was the
most destabilizing thing that had happened to Northern
Ireland. The veteran Irish-American activist (and
classicist) George Harrison regularly says, "Irish
freedom will only come by the gun". Indeed, the
only thing that can stop the inevitable march to justice
and peace in Ireland is the gun. Why else are the
Unionist Parties/Unionist Paramilitaries trying to
force the IRA into breaking its cease-fire?
author is the president of the Washington D.C. Capitol
Hill based Irish National Caucus. The Caucus is nonviolent
and has no foreign principal.
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