So, I was hoping that we could discuss the brand of Catholicism seen in the Dubliners stories, especially when it confronts Protestantism as can be seen in “The Dead”. The scenes that caught my attention juxtaposed reverence with contempt for the church, such as the encounter with Father Keon on page 109. He is offered the utmost respect, and then once he leaves, the men fall to discussing how he exactly fits into the structure of the church as they know it. This kind of attitude echoes Aunt Kate’s statements in “The Dead”: “I know all about the honor of God, Mary Jane” (167). Yet in a few minutes she defends the Popes decision to Mr. Browne, who is not of their “persuasion” (168).
How did this kind of attitude appear? The reverent irreverence only seems available to the Catholic players in the stories. Browne is not allowed to remark that Mount Melleray seems to be a retreat from the world (without doing anything to earn it) before all the Catholic members of the party jump up and down on his head (173). Only the true Catholics can see the fails of the church, which the English-leaning protestants ignore, in favor of petty differences, perhaps? Does this imply that the divide between Catholic and Protestant is somewhat amusingly ambiguous to Joyce’s contemporary Ireland? What of the “Uncrowned King” Parnell (115)? Parnell was Anglican, but the majority of his supporters were the nationalist Irish Catholics. It was Catholic bishops who condemned his marriage to his mistress (these are facts dredged from a shaky memory of a ninth grade project that I worked on while I was in Germany, and then refreshed with a quick scan of Wikipedia. If anyone out there actually has some real historical knowledge of Parnell, that’d be welcome). Point of the matter is: what view of Irish Catholicism is Joyce giving us?