Ireland’s “birthright” to English culture and language is in serious doubt after an Irish Catholic priest claimed he was “born into it”.
Archbishop of Dublin Patrick McLaughlin has said he was born in 1820 in the county of Wicklow and his family were “from that place”.
The Archbishop of Dublin, who is in Rome for a meeting with the Pope, has been accused of “misquoting history” after he said he did not know what the word “pope” meant until he was 12.
He said he had been “incredibly shocked” to discover that he was the first Catholic to marry a Protestant woman in the city of Cork, and he said that he had “no idea” what the Pope meant when he said the church “was a Protestant institution”.
The Bishop of Cork confirmed that Mr McLaughlin was “the first to marry Protestant”.
He said his family moved to Wicklow from the south in 1832 and he was baptized at a parish church in 1833.
He was ordained a priest in 1840 and served in the Cathedral of Wickliffe until his death in 1950.
The Bishop said he could not speak on behalf of the archdiocese of Wickline because of a “conflict of interest”.
“I can say for certain that he did marry a Catholic woman in Wicklough, and I was the priest at the time,” he said.
“The fact is that I did not think of it until he said it.”
Mr McLaughlin said he found the remark “very insulting and uncharitable” and that he would “never want to be associated with it”.
“It is certainly an interesting historical detail, but it does not change my position on that matter,” he told the Irish Times newspaper.
He added: “It was not my intention to offend anyone and I have always maintained that.”
Archbishop McLaughlin’s remarks follow a similar one made by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby last year, who was a parish priest in Wicklow at the same time as Archbishop McLaughlin.
Mr Welby said the Archbishop of Ireland, who died in October, had not been aware of his history in Wickloire until he spoke of it at a service.
Archbishop Welby had been a priest for 20 years before he died, and said he would not be drawn on how long his family had been living in Wicklin.
Archbishops in Ireland have also been embroiled in a controversy over their handling of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 4,000 people and prompted the resignation of the head of the Irish bishops’ conference.
Archimandrite Mark Stansfield said it was “an extraordinary, unprecedented situation” that the Archbishop had been speaking out about.
“If the Archbishop were to speak publicly, he would be very, very, much under pressure, particularly as he is a Catholic,” he added.
Archdiocese spokesman Father Michael McNeill said Mr McLaughlins claims were “very surprising”.
“We would always advise that he speak to his bishop,” he was quoted as saying by the Irish Independent.
Archibishop McNeill also rejected claims that Mr Welby was making up the history of Wickloir to bolster his own political agenda.
“That is completely false and completely unfounded,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I am simply speaking to the history and history does not tell the whole story.
It is a history that is very much a history of Ireland and its people.”
He said there were “many interesting, fascinating stories” about Wicklloire, which he said were “the story of Irish history, the story of the people, and it is a story that we must be proud of”.