Demented Brothers

Declan Kiberd

  • The Hill Bachelors by William Trevor
    Viking, 245 pp, £15.99, October 2000, ISBN 0 670 89256 4

George Birmingham, a Church of Ireland clergyman and novelist, wrote in 1926 that the Irish conflict, whatever its roots, could now be reduced to a matter of style:

In Catholicism there seems to be a certain suavity, the result of a feeling of security. Protestantism is another name for aggression in religion. The Catholic spirit belongs to the man who is comfortably aware of being one of the unassailable majority. The Protestant is forced to assert himself and his position. His spirit is the vice – or perhaps the virtue – of active minorities. The Catholic is conscious of being a member of that universal, time-transcending Church which is the blessed company of all faithful people. He does not want to say so and is quietly tolerant of people who do not understand. The Protestant is eager to proclaim an evangel of some kind, and therefore must be aggressive.

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