I think I'm getting near to the end of what I want to say about Ireland. There is a very interesting comment by GOR in the last post which provides me with a good link to this comment, which I promised some posts ago.
The parish priest in Ireland was more than just a religious functionary. In many ways he substituted for local government. Different nations react differently to occupation. The French, for instance, either resisted or collaborated. The Irish (as I have suggested some time ago) simply circumvented, and went on with business in their own way. The parish priest, their own man and public figure, in many ways became the mayor and the magistrate of a town; someone whose authority all the local Irish acknowledged. In some places, he was the 'clerk'; the one who could read and write, who could speak up for the local people and if necessary represent them to higher authority. The Irish preferred not to deal with the English establishment except where it was necessary: the parish priest, with his mutually accepted authority, performed almost all the necessary functions of government. As for religion; well, as I have suggested, the people did it themselves, except for the necessary administration of the Sacraments.
With the coming of independence, Ireland had its own governors, and the parish priest no longer exercised civil authority. But his moral prestige remained as it had always done. It's just that he didn't have so much to do. From the Renaissance onwards, the notion of pastoral practice was increasingly becoming important. No doubt it would be interesting to do a post some time on what is really quite surprising; pastoral work on the part of priests is quite a new phenomenon, championed by figures such as St Vincent de Paul, St Philip Neri and others. I'm not convinced that this aspect of priestly life ever really took hold in Ireland. When the business of government moved from the Parochial House, all that there was there to fill the void was the G.A.A. and the golf course.
Hence the anger of the Irish people. The prestige of the priesthood has been enormous in Ireland. Now people are asking just what those priests have done to earn it, and to some of them it seems that as a body they have treated the Irish people very badly. Again, of course there are exceptions, many many exceptions, but there are more than enough of those who barely deserve the name of pastor.
In the early autumn, the breviary sets out at length (it seems to go on for ever) the great sermon of St Augustine De Pastoribus, On the Shepherds. In this sermon Augustine excoriates those people called shepherds who take the sheep's milk and wool but deny those same sheep the care that they need.
Beware, they say, the wrath of the lamb!