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West and East: Europe\'s Post-Communist Transition

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Is the upsurge in an unwillingness to engage in wide-ranging political discourse in Western society today inversely related the decline in support for religious freedom? The current issue of Studies examines, in a series of wide-ranging articles plus several comprehensive book reviews, the extent to which public discourse has become polarised and religion is often apportioned a diminished role in the wider conversation.



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Written when any notion of a global pandemic would have been dismissed as the fanciful imaginings of an overwrought mind, the Spring 2020 issue of Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review takes as its starting point the ‘dual experience’ in terms of political development in East and West Europe and the role of Christianity within that.

A common feature across many Western political and social landscapes today is a failure in preparedness to take the longer view and the broader perspective.  We need only glance at the nationalistic, inward-looking rhetoric in the USA in the UK where ‘fake news’ and false memories abound untrammelled and unimpeded by any interest in comprehensive public discourse.  Indeed on our own doorstep in Ireland, a surge in popularity of Sinn Féin (‘ourselves alone’) on its social and housing platform seemingly fails to take that party’s involvement in our country’s recent violent past into account.

Is this polarisation of viewpoints into silos of misinformation related in any way to the decline of religious sensibility? Is religion, which has as its foundation a vision of a shared humanity and a wider community spirit, being moved to the margins of public life to such an extent that a former struggle for religious freedom has transformed into a struggle from religion?

Tomáš Halík, author of the lead article of the issue, argues that what Christianity has to offer in today’s highly secularised society is to allow for open questions and paradoxes, to encourage the art of spiritual discernment both in personal life and in the life of society. Related themes are addressed by William Kingston, Dr Patrick Riordan and David Begg among others, as well as in several book reviews within the issue.


  • ‘The English Language Belongs to Us?’

    Brian Cosgrove

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    It was hardly headline-grabbing news, but some of us found a certain interest in the report, late in 2019, that the society or group dedicated to preserving the apostrophe had decided to abandon their efforts.

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  • Hopkins and Lanier: A Transatlantic Note

    Gerald Roberts

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    At the time in April 1884 when he became (briefly) acquainted with the name of the American poet Sidney Lanier some three years after the latter’s death, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s knowledge of his transatlantic contemporaries was certainly very limited.

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  • John Henry Newman and the Idea of a University

    David Begg

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    In an address to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome on 11 October 2019 to mark the canonisation of John Henry Newman, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin observed: ‘The development of university education in Ireland has lost this dream of Newman. The main universities proclaim themselves to be, by definition, exclusively secular and thus they shun any real place for religion in their culture’.

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  • Making Sense of Britain’s Strange ‘Brexit’ Parliament

    William Kingston

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    English parliaments have been known by many names, including ‘Reformation,’ ‘Cavalier,’ Long’ and ‘Rump.’ The one which has just been dissolved will surely have the title ‘Brexit’, because it was so dominated by the issue of leaving the European Union.

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  • Ornithic Joyce- An Egregiously Preliminary Round of Avian Observations

    James McElroy

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    Ronald Bates published an article entitled ‘The Correspondence of Birds to Things of the Intellect’ in the James Joyce Quarterly of Summer 1965. In his article Bates identified a species of ‘ornithic’ guise that he claimed to be a common trait in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

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  • Religious Liberty: The Next Big Thing?

    Patrick Riordan SJ

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    Pope Francis’s timely letter Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, coincided with a general awakening of awareness of the crisis posed by climate change and the degradation of the natural environment.

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  • West and East_ Europe’s Dual Experience

    Tomáš Halík

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    The spirit of the West

    When we speak of East and West in relation to Europe the terms usually have a cultural and political, rather than a geographical sense. The cultural differences between Christianity in the two areas stem from the difference between Greek and Latin thinking.

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