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Control and Constraints

Maurice Curtis

Militant Catholicism in 20th century Ireland found expression in the Catholic Action Movement. This became one of the most important social movements in Ireland, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to this day. It consisted of many lay organisations that campaigned vigorously for the reinforcement of the role, rules, principles and moral code of Catholicism in every facet of Irish life.

There were hundreds of thousands of members in these organisations, acting as the ‘eyes and ears of the (bishop’s) palace’. ‘Vigilance and propaganda’ were two of their strategies in ensuring that a conservative Catholic identity was intrinsic to Irishness. Some of these organisations included the Catholic Defence Society, the Irish Vigilance Association, the Catholic Protection and Rescue Society, the Good Literature Crusade, the Pillar of Fire Society, the Angelic Warfare Society, the Irish Christian Front, Maria Duce, the Modest Dress and Deportment Crusade and the C.T.S.I. This latter organisation was instrumental in ensuring the enactment of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929.

Consequently, the movement had a resounding impact on Irish law, politics and society that hall-marked Irish life until the closing decades of the 20th century.

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