Friday, 31 October 2014


From The Brandsma Review, Issue 74, Vol. 13, No 5, September-October 2004


Sancta ergo, et salubris est cogitatio pro defunctis exorare, ut a peccatis solvantur (2 Macchabees, 12:46)

WHEN I was ten, I had to write an essay on Hallowe'en.  I went home from school, researched the customs and background of the festival and was commended for my work by the vice-principal.  Which was ironic as he had imposed this on us as a punishment.  Much later I graduated in Celtic Studies and with the passage of time observed the changing nature of Hallowe'en.

Hallowe'en is a phenomenon.  In the United States, it is second in commercial value only to Christmas.  It surpasses Easter, the distinctly American feasts of Thanksgiving and Independence Day and all the other holidays and commemoration days in the calendar.  This explains how Hallowe'en is encroaching rapidly upon countries and cultures where it is not traditional.  It is no exaggeration to say it has taken the German-speaking world by storm.  From being almost unknown in Germany in the mid-1990s, it is now marked even in small towns and villages all over the country.
Powers of Darkness
It is also the case that Hallowe'en is changing.  Traditionally, Hallowe'en was primarily focussed on children and, in Ireland at least, adults indulged in some innocent amusements.  But in recent years, Hallowe'en has taken a distinctly adult character.  This stems from the United States and is mainly an exploitation of the festival's market value.  And this has become a very successful export, as the profitable new Hallowe'en becomes universal.

It is more than fair to say Hallowe'en presents a threat.  Hallowe'en, as currently understood, gives us every reason for concern.  This does not relate to Hallowe'en in itself or any of the folk customs I understood to be part of Hallowe'en when I wrote my fifth-class penalty essay.  Hallowe'en is almost exclusively associated with the powers of darkness.  The post-Christian West denies these powers' existence, but increasingly pays annual tribute to them on October 31.  The witch movement keeps this date as its most important sabbath.

New Ageism in general appeals to the four principal Celtic festivals.  These festivals, which the witch movement has more or less taken as "sabbaths", mark the turning of the seasons in the British Isles.  Samain, on 1 November, was the most important of these; and all feature in so-called Celtic spirituality.  For its part, the Satanist/Luciferian movement also keeps Hallowe'en as a feast.  Though this is very much a fringe movement, this is the direction in which the ubiquitous shop window displays point.

How much do we know about the original Hallowe'en?  The Celtic feast of Samain was kept around the beginning of November.  This was a new year celebration, which also represented a harvest thanksgiving.  This new year differed from ours.  We are accustomed to go immediately from the old year to the new.  Samain was a three-day feast between the end of one year and the beginning of the next.  This "out of time" quality of Samain led the Celts to believe the dead were free to walk the earth again and that they would visit their old homes.  For this reason, the Celts were particularly mindful of dead relatives and friends around this time.

.But there is really very little evidence in source material as to how Samain was celebrated.  I have read many secondary accounts about some gruesome practices the Celts indulged in at Samain.  While I have no trouble believing the Celts to have been thoroughly barbarous as heathens (despite what Celtic Spirituality devotees may believe), I have seen no evidence for most of the claims made by occultists about Samain.  Much of this is the product of overactive imaginations.

 The Celts dominated Europe before the Roman Empire took shape.  It is impossible to reckon the extent to which Samain was observed in Europe, but it is certain it was still strong among the Gauls when they were evangelized.  The Church recognised the significance of Samain.  So two great feasts were initiated at the time - All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1 and All Souls on November 2.
Samain was providential
So was the Church culturally imperialistic or opportunistic?  Did the Church attempt to suppress Samain or use it as an instrument for conversion?  Let us say Samain, whatever it might have been in heathendom, was providential.  It served two purposes; for the Celts in helping them assimilate Christianity and for the Church, in compelling her to clarify the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.

After the institution of the two feasts, Samain became Hallowe'en, taking the name Eve of All Hallows or Halloweven, later Hallowe'en.  Thus the three day festival of Samain was maintained in the Celtic world, but with a distinctly Christian ethos.  It may well be that many of the Hallowe'en practices have their origins in pagan times.  Or it may not.  Folk traditions only last as long as they are supported by the prevailing culture and they rarely survive indefinitely without alteration.

In the case of the Irish Hallowe'en, the public practice of All Saints and All Souls was suppressed in Penal Times, but Hallowe'en continued.  Over time, the celebration apparently lost its intimate connection with the Church feasts.  It is difficult to say.  For a few generations, wake practices in Ireland were held to be in direct continuity with pagan practices.  Then some scholar suggested some were invented in Penal Times to conceal the presence of a priest illegally performing the necessary ministrations.

If I apply Occam's Razor to Hallowe'en - unbroken continuity with pagan Samain or an attempt to keep a suppressed feast alive - which is the more probable?  I am mindful of the coincidence of Hallowe'en/All Saints and Guy Fawkes' Night on November 5.  That a distinctly anti-Catholic holiday should be instituted in England to commemorate the foiling of one of the many highly dubious Catholic conspiracies in Tudor and Stuart times is very interesting indeed.  I don't believe Guy Fawkes' Night would have emerged had All Hallows not been strong in previously Catholic England.
Distorted notion of fun
So I believe that instead of reconstructing a lost heathen new year, one should compare Hallowe'en with the outlandish folk festivals associated with Catholic feasts in Mediterranean Europe. Such festivals are even more bizzare in the Orthodox world and anyone steeped in a Calvinist anthropology would shout “paganism”.

Hallowe'en was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants in the 1800s. This Hallowe'en had long lost its close ties with All Saints and All Souls. Any older significance was long forgotten. But it took many generations to take its present horrific form. It is easy to see how an apparently non-religious festival could be so attractive in a society in the process of advanced secularization. It is also easy to see how Hallowe'en could become a horror Fest once the Catholic understanding of the next world has been extracted.  Following that, it is not too difficult to see how competing groups - New Ageists, Occultists, Luciferians - could impose their own meaning on Hallowe'en.  And in the process, the commercial value increases.  Especially in a world in which adults have a distorted notion of what constitutes fun.  The terrifying new Hallowe'en is now a successful American export - even to countries in which Hallowe'en is traditional.

Television is to blame.  When I was a child, we used to go from house to house asking for apples and nuts.  More advanced children would ask for help for the Hallowe'en party.  Now it is almost universal for children to say "trick or treat" in the American manner.  One wonders about the educational value of allowing impressionable children to get what they want by threatening people with tricks.

It is a long established custom in Ireland to tell ghost stories around Hallowe'en.  These stories are told as true stories and are of a local nature the audience will identify with.  Though many may be scary, the purpose is not to frighten people.  In fact, some reflect the Catholic belief that the souls in Purgatory need our prayers and the ghosts are there to alert our attention to this fact.  Film and television does not present us with this type of ghost story.  Instead, it transmits plain and simple horror, just for the sake of shocking the viewers.  But this is all part of the Hallowe'en industry and it builds up the Hallowe'en various neo-pagan and satanist elements wish to impose upon the general public.  They have made great strides in this direction.
The Mystical Body
So what do we do about Hallowe'en?  There is very little we can do in the short term, as it is impossible to immunize oneself from the dominants culturee.  So Hallowe'en has to be put back in the context of All Saints/All Souls.  If there are to be fruit and nut collections and fun and games, this should be done as a harvest thanksgiving and in preparation for the great feasts.  In Ireland, a minor fast is kept in November to assist the souls in Purgatory.  The celebration of Hallowe'en may point in this direction.
The first step towar a new understanding of Hallowe'en is a new understanding of the relationship between the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering.  The Church - in Heaven, on Earth and in Purgatory - is the Mystical Body of Christ.  Hallowe'en should ultimately mark the launch of a festival to restate our belief in these realities and especially for charitable works towards the relief of the sould in Purgatory.  And those who think Hallowe'en too flamboyant to precede a fast ought to recall Mardi Gras and Fasching are very colourful ways of marking the beginning of Lent.

Yes, Hallowe'en is a threat; it is a battleground upon which the forces of darkness appear invincible.  Our Lord Himself reminds us the children of this world are wiser than the children of light.  But Hallowe'en is also an opportunity - for the children of light to prepare for a reaffirmation of the Communion of Saints and to do something for the souls in Purgatory.  In the early years of the Church, Samain was taken from real pagans to become All Saints and All Souls, upon which Hallowe'en depended.  Taking Hallowe'en back from neo-pagans should be less of a challenge.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

March-April 2014

I just received the hard copy of Issue 131, March-April 2014.  A summary of contents are visible here.  As the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf occurs on 23 April this year, two articles appear which commemorate the battle and Brian Boru.  There is also a tribute to the late Tom O'Gorman; some words from a German pro-lifer; a reaction to Christian politics in Ireland; and a couple of stories concerning the operation of grace prior to death.  And more.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

One Day More, Part II


In this article, Clíona Johnson discusses the advice she received during her pregnancy
with John Paul junior, particularly in reference to abortion, and offers her own advice
to mothers in the same tragic situation. See Part I here.

VERY LITTLE direct advice was given at the time of our diagnosis. A lot of sympathy and compassion were given which was very helpful. From a practical perspective, the consultant began to explain to me that under these circumstances, some would choose to terminate. I found this very hard to listen to because I had just heard that my child’s life, instead of stretching out indefinitely before us, was going to be limited to a very short amount of time. Now I felt like this delicate life was being further threatened by the talk of traveling to terminate the pregnancy. I told the consultant I didn’t want to hear any talk of termination but he explained that he was required to give me all my options. Once we’d heard what our practical “options” were, we made it clear to him that this was not even a consideration for us. He then promised that the hospital staff would do all they could to care for us in the weeks and months ahead. This was very reassuring for us at the time.
When we first got the diagnosis, I was shocked and horrified, though not utterly surprised. I’d had a gut feeling that there was going to be something very different about this pregnancy and I couldn’t explain why - now I understood. As I already described, it took a few nightmarish days to let the truth of the situation sink in but I came out of that with the resolve that from there on we would make the most of every day we had our son. My emotions changed over time. There was huge apprehension approaching the birth, mixed with the joy that he was still alive. It was like an emotional roller-coaster. But in general, it can be said that while we had John Paul, we wanted to make it all about him – make the most of every day, celebrate him, so to an extent I was putting my own pain aside for a time, although unwittingly.
Emotional roller-coaster
For me therefore, the real pain of grief, sorrow and hopelessness came after he had died and after all was said and done. I was now left to process all that happened and it was awful. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain of this type of grief. From there, it has been a journey towards healing. This journey has  involved anger, pain, tears followed by relief, then the whole process staring again. Sometimes it has involved a time of feeling numb and then angry all over again. But one thing which has been hugely significant is that in the midst of the pain I have the memories of the precious time we had with John Paul and that has been of great comfort.

I was told that abortion was one of my options and that I could travel if this was my choice, since it was not available in this country.
I found great support in my family, friends and the hospital staff. We searched the internet and read stories of families who had been through similar journeys.  Finally, the thing that was most helpful was the knowledge that if God had sent this child to us, He would give us all we needed to parent him. I knew I was not alone. Grace was available. I would definitely not choose abortion in the situation again. Undeniably I have suffered at the death of my baby but I have precious memories of him to hold on to for life. When I put myself back at that moment of diagnosis, I realise that no matter what happened from there, the future held my child passing on and me left to grieve him. This was unavoidable. So the only choice I really had is what role I would play in his short life and what role I would play in his death.  This choice has been crucial for my own healing. When I look back, I not only have pain but peace and treasured memories to give me comfort and assist with healing. If I had had an abortion, I think I would be trying to forget instead of being free to remember. Our family wouldn’t be celebrating his birthday every year and the fact that he is still part of us and always will be. I think I would be plagued by questions about what could have been and I think healing from such an experience would have been a lot more complex.
Abortion adds another layer of pain
I’d like to say I am so sorry for any couple that finds themselves in this situation. No one knows better than you the hopelessness of this situation. One thing that I think is crucial to recognise is that whatever choice you make now cannot change the inevitability of the loss of your baby. Many who are concerned for you will try to help and some may think the easier road would be to have an abortion.  But I firmly believe that choosing that road will only add another layer to the pain and suffering you will experience at the death of your child. Not only will you be left missing your baby but also left with many questions about what might have been.
Secondly, while the death of your child is part of the path ahead, there are many moments of life also to be had along the way. Choosing to terminate the pregnancy now will certainly rob you of those moments of life and joy which will be a big help to you in your own healing. To be able to remember the birth date of your child and keep mementos is invaluable, as is having a memorial stone/grave to visit as a special place to remember and talk to your child. All this will be forfeit if you choose to terminate. I have found these small but deeply significant things to be invaluable and I would wish them for any woman who finds herself in this situation.
Thirdly, it is my observation that every child has something unique to bring into the world and also that each child has some handicap, be it small (shyness/lack of confidence) or big (mental/physical). As parents, what we want is to be there to celebrate and show how proud we are of our kids in their strengths and to support them in their weaknesses. There is joy to be had out of both and sometimes more joy to be had out of the latter. With a child like this, the same applies. The handicap is much greater than anything you may have experienced before but there is a distinct joy to be had from being there for every day of your child’s life that you can be there.  Also even this child can bring some good into the world and change the shape of a family for the good. I found this in a profound way with my son, John Paul.
The long-term effects it has had on my family because of the closeness we experienced and because of the things I learnt in grieving him are things I wouldn’t swap for the world. They are part of the story of John Paul. He has had a hugely positive influence on my husband, our children and me. He has even had an impact on our wider family and friends and I am so proud of him for this. He has made his mark on the world.
We are just average people. There’s nothing extra special about us but when something like this happens to you, it brings the extra special with it if you are willing to take the pain.
Finally, death is part of life. We all know this to be the case. We try to live life to the full and accept the inevitability of death along the way. So in accepting this life, short as it may be, you would be doing just that - accepting life, limited as it is. But in choosing to end this life, you would sacrifice the life part of the journey. This is a huge sacrifice and could be more costly than you realise.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


SEPTEMBER’S GERMAN GENERAL election changed the political landscape as never before.  For the first time since the war, the Liberal Democrats (FDP) received less than 5% of votes and therefore lost all their Bundestag seats. And for the very first time, a new party, the liberal-conservative Alternativ für Deutschland, gained more than 3% in their first election outing. With an overall result of 4.7%, AfD have missed seats in Berlin by only 0.3%. In some Eastern German towns, AfD even showed a local success of 6%. And politicians as well as university sociologists and the media wonder what support AfD might win in next year’s European elections.

Professor Bernd Lücke

Surprisingly enough, AfD not only won over 250,000 FDP supporters; but attracted disaffected left-wingers from parties like Die Linke and motivated citizens who stayed at home in 2009 to cast a vote for them. This broadly scattered base baffled many commentators. Fitting AfD into the German political spectrum seemed difficult and dangerous, even more so as leading AfD members themselves diverge as to their party’s basic aims. While the AfD candidate in a major Berlin constituency told TV presenters on election eve that his party was very clearly the immediate successor of a broken FDP, FDP members tried to label AfD as right-wing extremists rather than true liberals. AfD president Professor Lücke hoped to deflect accusations of fascist tendency to position himself in the centre of German democracy. Professor Lücke was especially proud of leftist and Eastern German votes he had gained. In his opinion, AfD are a party concerned for families, middle-class employees and dilligent workers who were all fed up with squandering tax on international finance and foreign debt. Social Democrats (SDP), Greens and Die Linke, however, do not seem to regard AfD as a serious competitor for the left wing vote. It is rather the Christian Democratic/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) who took the surprising AfD result most seriously. On ZDF television, a Bavarian CSU representative said that he had always opposed Angela Merkel’s shifts towards liberalism and socialism as he knew a new conservative party might try to take their place sooner or later.
Another force on the right
Germany’s leading newspapers have taken up this topic with fear. A report in Die Zeit has especially
criticised AfD attempts to form international coalitions with parties which would not be considered “true to the constitution” in Germany. And the Die Zeit journalist rightly stated that some right-wing media have already began to promote AfD to their audiences. In contrast to the smaller right-wing parties like the NPD, Republikaner and local nationalist groups, AfD offers German radical theorists a platform on international matters. Though worldwide migration needs innovation and clear decisions, revived Islamophobia is not going to solve any problem.

Quite apparently, it is getting more difficult to distinguish what AfD really want–and what others wish them to be. And in the end, there might not even be a difference between internal and external views.  Die Zeit eloquently names this problem as 21st century “soft populism”.

And the AfD’s major problem–which also is the voter’s problem–is that their own manifesto remains
“under construction”. This is why future changes to the outline might bring bad surprises. Equally, the
AfD homepage looks like a news blog right now and lacks both taditional party
stability and boredom. This must have been attractive to more than 88,000 people who “like” it on
Facebook so far, but one wonders if they really know more about party policy than ordinary citizens.
Striking colours
This leads us to the important question what AfD did right to attract so many different strata of society
in the first place. During the election campaign itself, AfD could convince many undecided voters with a
four-page manifesto in a well written and readable PDF download. At the same time, they provided printed folders with extensive charts and scientifically presented data for more intellectual readers. And looks are just as important as content.

The colour AFD chose for themselves was a shining blue which seemed lighter and more progressive than CSU’s traditional design. On campaign posters, this blue background was wittingly combined with white print and a striking red arrow below the party’s name. This choice of colours and layout fooled all visual culture theorists of political orientation as it drew on stylistic devices of almost the entire political spectrum.

All in all, it is very short-sighted to attribute AfD’s success to Euro-scepticism after the Greek Crisis. Most commentators agree the AfD brought Germany a major shift to right-wing extremism. And socialists who had voted for AfD are said to have been drawn by post-communist-nationalism and anti-Europeanism. But abolishing the common European currency and going back to national currencies if a state bankrupts and debt rises was just one AfD policy–and not even the most prominent on campaign posters and television election spots.

More than 50% of AfD posters and leaflets tackled topics other than the financial crisis and displayed a more general unease with current proceedings in economics, education and family care. AfD appealed to a European spirit of active community life beyond financial issues and state interests closely related to 18th and 19th century classical republicanism. Aside from their call for an easier taxation system, higher education levels and sensible pension and health care reform, AfD especially promoted family life and openness to children, which appealed to all who trust personal relationships and private networks above the state.

So we ought to take a look at the other parties’ losses of voters to the new-comers again:

Firstly, a large amount of 42% for Angela Merkel included tactical votes against Peer Steinbrück, and a
personal liking for Dr Merkel does not mean a support for Christian Democrats and their ideas. Above all, Angela Merkel offered nothing but a shaky track between all lines of fire; and giving so little chance for confrontation might not save her another time.
Broken promises and self-centred
Secondly, FDP not only lost votes because they broke their 2009 promises to reduce taxes; they also failed in their public relations and ideological representation during the 2013 campaign itself. Most of their statements were self-centered and lacked actual content, simply repeating a vague liberal, pro-economical,
anti-regulatory image.

As a ZDF journalist rightly stated a day after the election, it was all about credibility, and FDP could not prove credibility. In this context, one must not forget both FDP and Greens came under pressure when 1980s comments on legalising paedophilia came to light. The two parties who had criticised the Catholic Church most for covering up child abuse since 2010, were now just as unwilling to admit past mistakes and left comment entirely to the media. The major problem for FDP and Greens, though, was lack of lasting vision.

In their best days, FDP stood for a vital tradition of enlightened thought, republicanism and federal responsibility with personal freedoms and international respect. Even non-FDP voters regarded FDP
values as essential to post-Nazi Germany. And FDP government participation was deeply respected.  Those who did not like them at least relished a good fight. The national relevance of FDP ideals, however, is now historic and can only be revived after a serious shake-up, leaving cold capitalism behind and embracing
duties for the rich.

Equally, the neo-liberal Piraten (linked to the Swedish “pirates”) did not meet their own targets though the NSA scandal suited their programme perfectly.  But protest without vision is as barren as progress without conscience.
Provocative vision
AfD, on the other hand, seemed to attract new voters with the provocative vision of those who do not need to live on parliament positions. Their leadership, made up of academics and successful business people who, at the same time, had at least two children each, provided a whole new set for identification and respect. Germany had not seen a female candidate with a toddler on her arm on a political stage.  And it was well received that the AfD election campaign had focussed on topics rather than faces. Their messages were not as cryptic and ironic as the Green Party’s. Instead of the forced contemporary slogan Mensch vor Bank (“man before bank”, a pun of German “bank” and “bench”), AfD simply stated Ja zu Europa–nein zur Schuldenunion (Yes to Europe–No to union of debts). In campaign posters, AfD used few images and relied on identical print.  Like it or not: it was effective minimalist propaganda reaching out to all audiences and avoiding emotions. This might prove policital protest is not necessarily irrational and voters do not only go for glossy advertisements and the promise of fun.

At this stage, we must examine AfD’s two mistakes.  It did them no good that some euphoric members
claimed their party would gain more than 8% in the EU elections: spectators were confused to see ambiguous iconography of raised arms on the party’s Facebook page. Professor Lücke’s statement that
German politics had seen too many Entartungen (degeneracies) in past legislatures was a dangerous allusion to right-wing terminology which was ill received in all media.

A French intellectual therefore claimed in a German debating show that he saw clear parallels between AfD and his own country’s Front National.  In fact it is true that there is a back-door for radicalism though most current AfD members and voters would not share it or even be aware of it. So it will all depend on the party’s academic elite to close this avenue soon.

A more fitting assessment came from Germany’s largest tabloid Bildzeitung: in its opinion, AfD have a lot more in common with the US Tea Party than European right-wing extemism. Bildzeitung see a reduction of state intervention in economics; stronger family ties instead of social insurances; and pre-liberal republican values of virtue, education and civic engagement at the core of party policy. AfD frequently refers to Anglo-Saxon models (including James Cameron) themselves.

If AfD continue their rise, Germany might experience a new Americanisation. And voters must watch out for new publications from AfD headquarters to understand the party’s long term setup. The 2014 European election may or may not pave the way for a better future. Hopefully, leading German politicans will rediscover passion and creativity for the sake of all.

Muinice de Bairgéad is a doctoral student in the University of Konstanz, currently on exchange to Harvard University.  This article appear in The Brandsma Review.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Over at the website

My practice at the Brandsma Review website is to post one article from each magazine.  Sometimes it's hard to pick one out, but feedback for January-February led me to choose this.  This is Hibernicus' analysis of Fr Tony Flannery's latest book.  It's long, but it's excellent.  And having read the book myself, not only is Hibernicus fair; if anything, he's lenient.

Happy reading.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Tom O'Gorman, RIP

When I announce the death of a Brandsma Review writer, regardless of the volume of their contribution, my expectation is that I will talk about some worthy old gentleman or lady who lived a full life and had long since been prepared for its final end.  This was the case with the late Louis Power or the late Father George Duggan SM, who died shortly before his 100th birthday and shortly after he filed his last article for the Review which was published posthumously.  For all that, I am concerned for the safety of another long serving contributor, Niall Brady, who is about to leave a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the United States Army these coming days and I would ask all to keep Niall and his family in your prayers
This time, the deceased writer was not an old man, but someone far younger than me.  I speak of the late Tom O'Gorman, researcher for the Iona Institute ( ) who wrote the piece about same sex marriage in our July-August edition (see: ).  Tom was a gentleman and a Christian, a man who offered much in the past and who had the potential to offer more in the future, were he not murdered in such a foul manner in his own home in Castleknock in the Dublin suburbs last night.  His name will be inscribed on the list of the Brandsma Review dead, but I will arrange for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be offered for the repose of his soul forthwith.
On behalf of Sabine, the boys and myself and the entire team behind the Brandsma Review extend our sympathies to the family and friends of Tom and to his colleagues in the Iona Institute at this shocking time.
Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace
In Domino & Domina,
Peadar Laighléis,

Sunday, 5 January 2014

St John of Nepomuk, Martyr for the Seal of the Confessional

In central Europe, one often encounters this saint presiding over bridges:

St John Nepomuk, Martyr (1345-1393)

St John Nepomuk was confessor to the Queen of Bohemia of the day, which was fine until Wenceslaus IV wanted to know what she was confessing. St John refused to tell under torture, so he was thrown into the Vltava from Charles Bridge in Prague where he drowned.  His statue stands on Charles Bridge and many other bridges in Bavaria, Austria, Bohemia, Northern Italy, Poland and Lithuania.  Sometimes he is depicted with his finger on his lips.  He is the first known martyr regarding the Seal of the Confessional.

Most western nations uphold the freedom of religion and the inviolability of the Seal is a keystone of religious freedom for Catholics and Orthodox.  Irish jurisprudence extended this privilege to any pastoral business between priests, ministers, rabbis and other religious official with members of their denominations.  This prevailed until a particularly sorry set of individuals came to power in Ireland and decided they knew better than decades of court decisions and deliberation on human rights.

The less said, the better.  Next election, use your vote wisely.