March 21, 2006

Tale of Two Irish Clubs

I'm hyp-mo-tized - as Letterman used to say, and which has now officially become my crutch (what else could be used? 'fascinated'? 'interested'? Watson, get me a thesaurus!) - by the difference between the two Irish groups in town, and how one is sort of pre-Vatican II-ish and the other more post-Vatican II-ish, to the extent, of course, you can compare St. Peter's net to Central Ohio Irish clubs.

Still, the Ancient Order of Hiberians is old school. Like the Latin Mass or the requirement of doctrinal assent, there are barriers to entry for the would-be convert to AOH: You have to be of Irish heritage and you have to be a practicing Catholic. (I practice, I'm just not very good at it. rimshot!) They also emphasize tradition and have that clannish old world feel to them. They used to stand cheek to jowl with (appropriately) St. Patrick's Church - Ah, but for the days of Tara Hall, the AOH'rs social hall which was also St. Pat's social hall, the thatched hut decor, the elegiac rooms with that "old building smell" and the tall ceiling'd dance hall where first the Irish dancers beguiled with their high-kicking black-tarded legs and where we first saw, from the windows behind the bar, our Dickensian work mill and we toasted Guinnesses to Friday freedom. All that was cruelly taken away when a new pastor at St. Patrick's apparently didn't like all that drinking on church property. Cue Loretta:
"Don't come to church a drinkin', with prayin' not on your mind."
But I digress.

AOH and their better-half counterpart "The Daughters of Erin", nominate anonymous saints in human garb for their respective Irishmen & Irishwomen of the year awards. These folks usually homeschool eight children while starting a food pantry for the homeless and taking the 3am slot for Eucharistic Adoration.

I know less about the Shamrock Club, but one can tell something from the name. Which is the more inoffensive, welcoming and non-traditional: the "Ancient Order of Hibernians", which sounds like a Masonic group of sleeping bears, or the "Shamrock Club", a bit fey, sounding of kitschy green bowlers, watery beer and members who don't know St. Patrick from St. Nick and don't much care?

Barriers to entry to the Shamrock Club are low; it's an egalitarian world after all. You don't have to be Irish or Catholic, in fact a third of the members aren't Irish at all. You could be an orange-wearing, Cromwell-loving Ulsterite. Like St. Peter's net, you can make the net big or you can make it small and you'll catch varying numbers of fish. AOH is a small and shrinking group while the Shamrockers are, well, rockin'.

But don't you suffer in quality? The Shamrock's Irishman of the Year this year is a hack politician, a lenient judge, and, of course, we all want lenient judges for ourselves if not for others. He's also been arrested eight times for DUI and knows himself to be a chastened sinner. He therefore does what chastened sinners often do: he lowers punishments and loosens standards for other sinners where he can, sometimes at the risk of public safety. "He has a disease - just like I do," he said about a pedophile who raped two children and received only probation.

So this judge is the Shamrock's "Irishman of the Year". Draw your own conclusions. As Tom of Disputations famously said, "No Church that practices infant baptism can expect very much from its members." I suppose no Irish club with no barriers to entry can expect much from its members either?

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