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Freindly Fire


IRA and ISIS Not the Same

by Chris Freind
 

'Twas a miracle.

How else can you explain the ability of one man – an Irishman, no less – to dampen St. Patrick's Day for so many? That's no easy feat, as the happy-go-lucky Irish have made St. Paddy's the most festive holiday of the year.

But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, did just that.

How? By likening the Irish Republican Army, which fought against the oppressive English occupation of Northern Ireland, to the brutal terrorist group ISIS – the animals known for their beheadings, mass executions, burning people alive, and desire to establish a totalitarian Islamic caliphate around the world.

In making his comparison, Dolan, and by extension, the Catholic Church, once again shot itself in the foot, alienating a huge part of its dwindling constituency.


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Too bad stupidity isn't grounds for ex-communication. If it were, the church would be growing instead of deteriorating. Gone would be clueless leaders and the continued exodus of Catholics, replaced by visionaries in the mold of Pope Francis.

We should pray for that to occur. And a good start would be kicking Cardinal Dolan out on his arse.

"The parallel I've drawn is ... the IRA claimed to be Catholic. They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity," Dolan said during a CNN interview. "What they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for ... the analogy (to the IRA) is accurate."

It's bad enough Dolan's position is ludicrous, but it boggles the mind that he would say it just days before leading New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade – the country's largest – as grand marshal.

To say that Irish the world over are infuriated, as are countless others, is a gross understatement.

Consider:

1.) Dolan said ISIS was conducting a "systematic, well-choreographed, very well-focused attempt to eradicate the ancient Christian population in the Mideast," and agreed with the interviewer that it was engaged in targeted genocide.

Perhaps Dolan could explain what population the IRA tried to eradicate, and, specifically, where, how and against whom they engaged in genocide.

ISIS is, above all, known for its sheer brutality against innocent people, and its desire to conquer, convert or kill "non-believers." The IRA never remotely pursued such things, making the cardinal's analogy patently preposterous.

2.) Unlike ISIS, whose entire existence is predicated on religious tenets, the IRA's fight was never a religious one. Ironically, the IRA fought for principles that ISIS finds abominable – human rights and equality. The IRA never wanted to remold Ireland as a theocratic Catholic state, nor to purge the country of non-Catholics. Quite the opposite, through both political and military tactics, its main objective was to expel a foreign force that had openly engaged in anti-Catholicism in secular ways: Catholics in Northern Ireland had substandard education, scant employment opportunities – even when they were more qualified than a pro-English Protestant – and saw many of their rights eliminated. Equal pay? A pipe dream. Freedom of speech? No. Freedom of the press? Nope. Freedom of movement and the right to congregate? Keep going. Freedom to own family land without fear of confiscation? Nada.

In point of fact, Catholics in Northern Ireland were treated as third-class citizens subservient to Protestant rule, with few rights, making it almost impossible to have a decent living.

They were deliberately kept down by brass-knuckled Protestant police backed by the vastly superior strength of the British army. It can be reasonably argued that the majority of "terroristic" tactics were committed by the English who, under cover of "law," forcefully entered Catholics' houses, workplaces and vehicles, at any time, for any reason or no reason at all. They turned things inside out, destroyed property, stole, and hauled away anyone they suspected of conspiring against them, incarcerating and often torturing their prisoners.

Terrorism is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. Even some tactics of American Revolutionaries could justifiably be placed in that category. That said, in no way should all of the IRA's actions be condoned, as innocents were sometimes caught in the crossfire. But for a Catholic leader to compare people who fought for independence – especially religious freedom – with a group who slaughters all who dare oppose them, is inexcusably irresponsible.

3.) Apparently, Cardinal Dolan forgot the adage that those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Terrorism – the act of terrifying people – doesn't always involve bombs and killings, nor is it limited to physical combat. In fact, one of the most devastating acts of terror over the last several decades was of the homegrown variety – pedophile priests preying on the most innocent and vulnerable among us: our children.

Adults in positions of power, especially religious leaders, forcing themselves on helpless children is one of the most terrifying ordeals any human could face. Even worse, that terror was condoned by many clerical leaders – some at the top levels of Church hierarchy – as they looked out only for themselves.

Victims of the Church's pedophilia terror will never be the same; some took their own lives as a result of the trauma, and countless others still have nightmares, part of their spirit lost forever. And through it all, with the exception of Pope Francis, we have yet to hear sincere apologies by Church leaders for not just the harm inflicted, but the massive cover-up.

Cardinal Dolan would be much better served discussing ways to heal those wounds rather than digging up a conflict that has long since mended.

4.) Why the IRA, Cardinal Dolan, and why now? It was a bloody fight during The Troubles, to be sure. But after shifting to diplomatic and political solutions – albeit changes generated by the IRA's military tactics – both sides came to the table and hammered out accords that brought widespread peace, and a new wave of freedoms and prosperity. Both sides admit faults, and lament on how things could have been different, but the conflict in Northern Ireland has become a model for how disagreements can be solved amicably when both sides lay down arms and embrace common sense ideas.

So why resurrect that group, and that war? The cardinal's comments served only to rip open wounds that had healed, and generate intense animosity toward the Catholic Church at a time it can least afford it.

Kudos to the many who opposed to Cardinal Dolan, including some members of Congress. Doing so showed a welcome solidarity, making everyone – regardless of religion or nationality – "Irish" in spirit. And that's worth more than any pot of gold.

So Cardinal Dolan, a collective thumb's down, and to everyone else, Erin go Bragh!

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at CF@FFZMedia.com.

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