Renewing the Irish Church: Towards an Irish Liberation Theology, by Joe McVeigh, Mercier Press, £6.99 Tuns is A disappointing book on an important topic.
The Irish Church is both ready for and likely soon to undergo a radical renewal. Ireland overflows with true religious feeling, but in recent years its theological energies have been diverted into seemingly endless quarrels about abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
There have been times in the past 15 years when a visiting missionary from Mars would have been forgiven for believing that Jesus had preached about little else.
Now, with a new progressive government in office, the Church is on the verge of rationalising its relations with the State and thereby freeing itself to flourish as a moral force.
Joe McVeigh's book is about none of these issues. Its opening three sentences accurately summarise both the theme and the tone of what follows: "Ireland is a country of 'haves' and 'have nuts: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because the economic system favours those who have money and property. This is true of both states, the 26 county state which has had a degree of independence since 1992 and the six county state which is still ruled by the Westminster parliament against the wishes of the majority of the Irish people."
There is a great deal more nationalist rhetoric along these lines. McVeigh's assertions about "the colonial causes of inequality and poverty in Ireland" and the "institutionalised" inequality which has resulted from the "forced partition" of Ireland are nowhere supported by argument or evidence.
The volume's intellectual roots are also firmly in the 1960s and early 1970s. McVeigh devotes nearly half his book to a worthy account of events such as the Medellin conference in 1968 and the writings of such luminaries as Camara, Gutierrez and Freire.
Though reference is subsequently made to figures such as Romero and Leonardo Boff, there is little sense of how the liberation theology of this earlier, simpler era has become both more complex and more interesting.
The final substantive chapter, on a liberation theology for Ireland, starts by remindir7, us once again of the "legacy of British colonial rule and oppression".
The final sentence of the same chapter declares that only "a Church of the poor, actively engaged in the lives of the poor and oppressed, demanding justice and equality by confronting those in power, will be a prophetic witness to the Gospel of Christ."
What does this mean?
BN' DR CONOR GEARTY