As you walk beside the lake at Killarney, if you look towards the town you will see a view that looks quite spookily like John Constable's picture of Salisbury Cathedral across the English watermeadows; a Pugin Cathedral romantically discerned across Kerry watermeadows. It was built under the auspices of the Catholic Viscounts Kenmare (a Jacobite viscountcy), who kept the Faith through the darkest periods, and also managed to retain their property and to thwart the anti-recusancy laws by the deft mechanism of only having one male heir in each generation.
Go and look inside it: and you will get a rude shock. Virtually all the rich 'Victorian' furnishings and decorations have been stripped out, leaving bare walls of crude stone and rough brickwork, which the architect never intended to be seen without a covering of plaster. Very few of the fittings remain. The tabernacle has been replaced by a dumpy 'sacrament house' which the tourists stroll around and, unaware that it asserts any sacrality, prod and poke at.
A long time ago now, when I first looked inside this once great church, I got talking with a group of admirable Irish crones. They had graphic accounts of the spoliation: great skips outside the Cathedral filled with smashed statuary and marble altar rails. Although I thought I knew the answer, I asked a question. "Who did this?" They pursed their lips ... and then confirmed my suspicions.
Eamonn Casey, Bishop of Kerry before he was translated to Galway and from there into international scandal, was one of the most charismatic young bishops of the post-conciliar period. He was loved and admired, and he sponsored not a few churches in the idiom of the 1960s. He opened the windows and blew out the cobwebs and brought his diocese into modernity.
He also met Anne Murphy, an American divorcee.
To be continued.