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Irish Catholic Identities$
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Oliver P. Rafferty

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719097317

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719097317.001.0001

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Island of saints and scholars

Island of saints and scholars

myth or reality?

(p.32) 2 Island of saints and scholars
Irish Catholic Identities

Donnchadh Ó Corráin

Manchester University Press

This chapter poses a challenge to the romanticised idea of medieval Ireland as a land of saints and scholars. A concept so beloved of generations of Catholics in Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Having said that there is no doubt that the Irish did contribute enormously to the development of European civilisation. However, the role of the church in the middle ages within Ireland was much more ambiguous. It was by turns domineering and rapacious. It acted to ensure its own place in Irish society, and in particular it vigorously defended its right to property, that it had not always honestly acquired. Its scholar manipulated the teaching of scripture, the Fathers and the traditions of early Irish ecclesiastical history to ensure and approve practices such as slavery, and the sexual exploitation of women. Whatever about the absence of saintliness this carefully researched and reasoned piece demonstrates that medieval Ireland’s reputation for scholarship is securely grounded.

Keywords:   Saints scholarship law St Patrick slavery

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