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Institutional Disbelief

Monday, November 16, 2009; 05:16 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Ah, the soul. For once someo0ne with clear ideas set down on paper that doesn’t involve a lot of guess work, and reading for secret Freudian imagery. I suspect that Joyce is trying to toss something over my head that I simply will not notice because I was too busy being happy with Molly’s directness.

Comparing what she has to say about Catholicism to what Lotus-Eaters was hinting at with the power structure of Joyce’s Ireland, I’m glad to say that Molly seems to be pretty consistent. Molly’s belief in God is absolute, but she clearly does not have much use for the institution of the church. At the very beginning of the chapter, she discredits the masses said for the soul after death, in her dismissal of Mrs. Riordan (608.5-11). The scene is interesting as the rejection of masses as selfishly spending money on yourself rather than giving to those who have been good to you on earth is a highly Protestant idea. However, Mrs. Riordan, the “greatest miser ever was actually afraid to lay out 4d for her methylated spirit,” becomes a Catholic’s caricature of Protestantism, the miser too busy saving money to be concerned for the safety of their soul (608.6-7).

Again, there is the reinforcement that religion is a thing for women and the elderly, as Molly’s recollections of Church are almost never personal recollections of Mass, or feast day, but associations with the older women in her life. The Spanish servant (?) Mrs. Rubio turns Catholicism into a mechanism of superiority and judgment, a tool of oppression in her hands. However, “with all her religion domineering,” Mrs. Rubio is actually disarmed by Britain, acting in this instance as an unusual savior for Molly (624.753-754). Mrs. Rubio, after all “could not get over the Atlantic fleet coming in half the ships of the world and the Union Jack flying with all her carabineros because 4 drunken English sailors took all the rock from them” (624.754-625.756). Molly, half Irish, half Jewish, half Spanish, fully Catholic, is associated with the conquering Protestant English by the domineering Rubio. On a literal level because her father was with the British Army, but also because Molly is not willing to bend under the full Catholic sanctity. Mrs. Rubio becomes the institution, angry, flaunted at the way the English have taken Ireland from her, but ultimately she is useless. Baleful to those who flirt with British norms, like Molly, but incapable of getting them to “run to mass in Santa Maria to please her” (625.757).

Of course, Molly will not run to the mass because she does not believe that there is a real need to constantly be cloistered within the ritual and ceremony of the Church. Indeed, Molly is exasperated by the need for some of the most important rituals, echoing Gerty as she dis approves of priestly interference between herself and the divine: “what did he want to know for, when I had already confessed it to God?” (610.114). Molly’s statement is more clear than the girlish Gerty’s mis-interpretation of major sin and confession (300). This is a fully experienced person’s opinion of the Church institutions, and again there is a strange Protestant-Catholic dichotomy to her thoughts. Molly’s objection to Father Corrigan could be a Protestant refusal of the intercessor, or it could be skeptical Catholicism taking a look at corruption within the church. Molly, still retaining her interest in Father Corrigan, at least as a sexual partner (610.119-120), gives the corruption argument more weight, as she wishes to indulge that corruption, rather than turning away in prim disgust. She notices that the Father will not look at her, so possibly he does not know who she is out of the hundreds he hears confessions from, which allows him the sanctity of his office (610. 116). Molly’s opions about “bullneck[s] in horse collars” are her own invention superimposed on the image of the priest (610.116). Even then, her imagination does not give him an active role. Father Corrigan she suspects of being impure, but she does not fantasize that he will act on that impurity.

Molly is a good Catholic. She believes in the soul and God, just not the institution. Admittedly it could be argued that Catholicism is nothing without the Mother Church and respect for Papal decisions, yet Molly affirms Catholicism with her thoughts, and keeps her respect even when paired with skepticism. Her balanced religion is a pure relief after Stephen’s circular thoughts, and Bloom’s cloudy confusion. Molly becomes the perfect example of the moderate religion, that influences, but does not drive or define one’s actions.

Unanswered things:

– The Virgin Mary’s place in the Trinity (not Catholic doctrine, obviously, but I feel that it should be connected somehow, from all the crazy connections that we’ve had throughout the book).

– Irish Nationalism and the Catholic Church (the scene with Mrs. Rubio was useful, but did not really add anything to previous knowledge. There hasn’t been much of this since Cyclops, and I was hoping for more of a revelation than the fact that Joyce does not think that a religious identity should be super imposed upon the racial identity if there even is such a thing).

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