On 23 September 2023, Archbishop Eamon Martin delivered a reflection on the Catholic Church and the Irish Civil War. The Primate address was the epilogue at the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland’s Annual Conference, which was held in the Seamus Heaney Lecture Theatre of Dublin City University.
In his address, the Primate acknowledged that the pastoral letter published by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in 1922, and the way it was interpreted, clearly provoked much hurt and anguish among families which has permeated down the generations. Archbishop Martin further expressed that there is no doubt in his mind that the Bishops’ letter was exploited and distorted to excuse and provide moral justification for un-Christian, sinful and criminal behaviour. However, the bishops failed to publicly respond to that.
Archbishop Martin said that the Bishops’ failure to name and shame the atrocities that were committed by the pro-Treaty side fed the narrative that they spoke with two voices, namely, that the Free State government could act with impunity, whilst those continuing the armed struggle for an all-Ireland solution could do no good.
The Archbishop concluded by stating that experience tells us that those who understand the past more deeply and honestly will be more likely to be open to engage in the work of reconciliation.
Other contributors on the day included Dr Daithí Ó Corráin (Dublin City University); Mr Michael Loughman (Dublin City University); Prof Oliver P Rafferty SJ (Boston College); Dr Leeann Lane (Dublin City University); Dr Brian Kirby (Irish Capuchin Archives); Dr Brian Heffernan (KU Leuven); Dr Síobhra Aiken (Queen’s University Belfast); Dr Mary Harris (University of Galway); and, Professor Margaret O’Callaghan (Queen’s University Belfast).
To access Archbishop Martin’s full address click here.