7 JUNE 1913, Page 13


[To THE EDITOR Or THE " SPECTATOR...1 SIR, It is indeed amazing to find the suggestion made that "Bunnahone "—the provincial seminary described in the novel, " Father Ralph," recently reviewed in your columns—might conceivably be typical of religions life in Ireland. Of course, I cannot here go into all the details that would prove how utterly unlike the reality is the general picture given by Mr. O'Donovan. But as regards Catholicity and Progress in Ireland, a complete answer will be found to every single implied accusation in Monsignor O'Riordan's book bearing that title. Perhaps I may be permitted to mention a few of the facts and statistics. As regards co-operation, for instance. In 1905 there were six hundred priests identified with the movement ; the number will have increased, of course, since then. Long before Sir Horace Plunkett began his great work, Father Dooley started his co-operative factory in Galway, also a loan fund. Both have been most successfuL The nuns in Yonghal were the first to start lace making in Ireland in 1847. Lately, they have made it into a profit-sharing business. The co-operative system has also been adopted in their industries by the nuns in Gort, Carrickmacross, Sligo, and many other places. In 1891 Mother Bernard started the woollen factory at Foxford, which in five years changed the face of that poor district. It has gone on growing ever since, and there are now at Foxford a co-operative creamery, a shirtmaking and stocking industry also carried on by the sisters. Mon- signor O'Riordan gives, too, the figures concerning the nuns who are engaged in the poultry rearing, hygiene, cookery, and other technical branches, and many other statistics con- cerning the part the religious orders have played in education generally and in temperance in Ireland. There is not one Irish convent where there would be time for the nonsense described by Mr. O'Donovan. As for the charge of extrava- gance in church building, the statistics again are the best refutation. Having been deprived of our old churches we built some:new ones as soon as we could afford to do so. We still have far from enough—one church for every 1,368 Catholics, while the Protestants have a church for every 320 members of their communion. I should like also to know where there exists a palatial convent in Ireland. Any large building in which perhaps several hundred people, orphans, school children, &c., &c., are housed must have, besides solidity, some architectural features, if it is not to be hideous. Unfortunately lack of funds has sometimes made the second alternative inevitable. But as regards the interior of these convents anyone who, like me, has lived in several of them can vouch for the fact that the arrangements, in their extreme simplicity and cleanliness, are in harmony with the hard, absolutely self-denying lives of the sisters. It is most unfortunate that Mr. O'Donovan's no doubt sincere con- viction of the all-importance of Modernism should have led him into fabricating a case against popular Catholicity by painting it in impossibly dark colours and omitting to bring out all that is beautiful and strong in the religious life of the