James Connolly


Dogma and Food

(December 1899)

From The Workers’ Republic, 9 December 1899.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.18.
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

At a meeting of the Sacred Heart Home in Dublin the other day a most powerful and impassioned appeal was made by the Archbishop of Dublin for funds to provide proper care and training for the Catholic children who, from the poverty and carelessness of their parents, frequently fall into the clutches of “proselytisers” who make their misery a weapon of warfare against their religion. We do not propose now, nor at any other time, to enter into the disputes of rival religions, but we do think that the occasion merits at least a passing notice on our part, helping as it does to illustrate the truth of our contention that the social question, or the bread and butter question, is the root question of all, and until it is settled no other question of fundamental importance can be grappled with in any but an incomplete and unsatisfactory manner.

For what is the position upon which the appeal for funds to carry on the charitable work of the Sacred Heart Home was based? That owing to the poverty-stricken condition of large masses of the people the Catholic faith of the children was at the mercy of those missionaries and other Protestant agencies who come with charitable contributions to the parents and make of their charity a means for obtaining control of the education and bodily person of the child. Here then we have the statement clearly made that the manifold dangers against which we are so solemnly warned spring from POVERTY. Reasoning on this matter from the standpoint of a mere layman we would be inclined to say that the first line of attack along which the Archbishop should direct the forces of his eloquence, and the attention of the world in general, is that of poverty and the institutions which create it. If you destroy the social institutions which create poverty, if you lift the working class from their present position of economic dependence, and in so doing assure to all men and women a sufficiency of the good things in life in return for a moderate amount of labour, then the insidious work of the “souper” is ended and all religious denominations will require to stand or progress by their inherent truths alone.

But nowhere in all the passionate exhortations of our clerical leaders do we find this point ever noted; instead we are to have appeals for funds to be applied for the purpose of saving Catholic children from the temptations of “proselytisers;” and as said temptations usually take the form of food and raiment, to supply food, raiment, and if necessary, shelter through Catholic sources. In all this there is no question of whether it would be a subject worthy of consideration to consider what means should be taken to abolish the poverty which degrades the workers so much that they are ready to traffic in their children in such a manner.

Yet until this question is dealt with all the efforts of the Sacred Heart Home, and such-like institutions, will be of practically no avail in combatting such degradation. The place of the children rescued today will be filled tomorrow by the children of other parents hurled into the abyss of slum life and misery by the ceaseless working of our unjust social system. We on this journal, or in this party, are not allied, nor opposed to, any particular creed or Church – seeking the emancipation of the working class from the unholy trinity of Rent, Interest and Profit we require the aid of men of all religions and of none – but we consider it our duty to point out that if the speakers at the Sacred Heart Home at Drumcondra were really in earnest in their desire to save the children, they would find in the Municipal Programme of the Socialist Republican Party a plank, that of the Free Maintenance of Children, which, if applied in practice, would prevent effectually all that hopeless misery out of which such degrading incidents as those complained of spring.

But it is at all times more congenial to a certain class of minds to nibble at consequences rather than to strike boldly at the root of the evil; that, and the unpopularity sure to be the reward of the political party which, despising cheap methods of gaining sympathy, instead of whining over the sufferings of the poor, calls upon them to rebel against the oppressive institutions which cause it, explains why our public men in general are chary about touching a reform, be it ever so practical, which appeals to manhood rather than to wealth.

But all such admissions of timidity coupled with an admission of the degrading nature of capitalist society, such as that the assembled clerics treated us to on Monday last, only tend to confirm the faith of the Socialist Republican in that uncompromising course of action which rests all its hopes in the right arms and clear brains of the disinherited – the working class.


Last updated on 6.7.2004