Irish historian to speak about changes in Catholic culture in her country

Louise Fuller, a historian who teaches at the National University of Ireland-Maynooth, will give a free lecture, “Irish Catholicism Today,” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, in the auditorium of John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts at the University of St. Thomas.

The lecture, free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the university’s Center for Irish Studies and Theology Department.

Fuller is the author of an acclaimed historical study, Irish Catholicism Since 1950: The Undoing of a Culture (Gill & Macmillan, 2004), which traces the fortunes of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland from its apogee around 1950 to its present condition. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the lecture.

In recent years, vocations, Mass attendance and other indicators of religious life in the overwhelmingly Catholic country have declined sharply. Recently quoted in the Irish Times, Fuller said that while the sex scandals of the 1990s were “enormously damaging,” the church’s recent loss of authority can be traced to the 1950s, when its influence was greatest. “The power the institutional church enjoyed in the early years of independence, and the deferential approach of lay Catholics to that power, has in the long run been a liability rather than an advantage,” she said.

Fuller currently holds a Government of Ireland Fellowship, a position funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. She has presented papers on Ireland ’s distinctive Catholic experience at universities throughout Europe and the United States; she is scheduled to present her paper, “Irish Catholicism: Its Rise and Fall,” at the University of Melbourne in Australia the week before she visits St. Thomas.

For more information, contact Jim Rogers, managing director of the UST Center for Irish Studies, (651) 962-5662, or send e-mail to jrogers@stthomas.edu.