Moral Monopoly: The Catholic Church in Modern Irish Society by Tom Inglis (Gill and Macmillan, £25).
TOM Inglis lectures in society at University College, Dublin. He was previously research officer for the Irish Episcopal Commission for research and development. This is his doctoral thesis on a survey of religious practices.
His observations on "the bachelor drinking group", which first emerged in the 1840s, are most revealing. Chapter eight on "The Irish Mother" is an eye opener. "Great men", he says, "it would seem, make great history; women make only beds and dinners".
The book is a mine of information on the Irish Church and its obsession with sexual morality and individual salvation, and its organised system of power which conditions and limits what Irish people have done and said.
While bowing to the author's immense research I would question the value of surveys of students and their attitudes to things Catholic. Student surveys are notoriously unreliable.
I would also question his thesis that such is the part of the Catholic Church in Ireland that "it is still difficult, if not impossible in some parts of the country, for a Catholic to obtain and maintain the respect of others without going to Mass on Sundays."
One of the problems with young Ireland is that is falls between the two stools of American business ethics and British business ethics. A successful young Irish businessman or politician, for example, can be a cheat, a liar, a womaniser, have a series of mistresses, or be an alcoholic or homosexual, but as long as he is a financial or political "success" he is forgiven for being "a broth of a boy".
The Celtic Alternative by Shirley Toulson (Century, £7.95). The religion of the Celts was more akin to the East, and it flourished for a brief period before Rome moved in at the Council of Whitby in 664 AD. Culturally and spiritually the Celtic Church had links with the Druids, with magic, with Jewish and Coptic Christians of Egypt, and the desert fathers.
This book is truly a final reminder of a fresh Christ-like Christianity with which we have lost contact. This is the story of the Church of Columba and of Brendan and Oswuld and Finan, a Church of great kindness, gentleness and tolerance.
The Benedictines of Downside are the first among the many that the writer pays her acknowledgements to.
Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan (Weidenfeld, £8.95). Christopher Nolan, who suffered from severe brain damage at birth, and who is restricted, mute, to a wheelchair, published his now famous book of poems, Dam Bust or Dreams, just six years ago. This book is his life as a 21 year old spastic whose writings have been compared to W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. His is an account of a unique world.
For off the beaten track reading it would be difficult to beat "The TDs and Senators for Laois and Offaly", by Patrick Meehan, published by the Leinster Express, Portlaoise, Co Laois. There are all sorts of historical surprises in its pages. Who, for example, remembers today such figures as Eamon Donnelly TD, MP, of Newery, who helped found the present day Fianna Fail Party?
And Eamon Bulfin, born in Argentina, son of William Bulfin, author of Rambles in Erin? Eamon attended Patrick Pearse's School, St Enda, and was the volunteer who hoisted the green flag of the Irish Republic over the General Post Office in Dublin at the start of the Easter Rising of 1916.
Kevin O'Higgins features prominently in these pages. He was murdered by three Belfast IRA communists, as he walked to Mass on Sunday July 10, 1927. His father, Dr Thomas Higgins, an old man, was murdered in his home by the IRA.
His widow later married Arthur Cox, the Dublin solicitor, who, on her death, became a priest, and was killed in a plane crash in Kenya.
Long before Ireland of the Bloodshed, Senator Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Poe (who was born in 1850 and died in 1934) entertained the Empress — Queen of Austria in his home in Ballinakill, and she presented a set of vestments to the local Catholic Church, and a stained glass window of St Elizabeth of Hungary to the local Protestant church.
I like the quotation from Thomas Tynan TD, who said, during an election, "Hogan is putting the electric light in the pig houses, but he's not putting the pigs in".