George Weigel analyzes the "why" and "how" of once staunchly Catholic countries transforming, in just a few decades, into hotbeds of anti-Catholic rhetoric and law:
Ireland — where the constitution begins, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity” — has become the most stridently anti-Catholic country in the Western world. ...
Sixty years into the 20th century, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Quebec were among the most intensely Catholic nations on the planet. Fifty years later, Quebec is the most religiously arid space between Point Barrow and Tierra del Fuego; Portuguese Catholicism, outside the pilgrimage shrine of Fatima, is hardly robust; Spain has the most self-consciously secularist government in Europe; and Ireland has now become the epicenter of European anti-Catholicism. What happened?
Perhaps some comparative history and sociology suggest an answer. In each of these cases, the state, through the agency of an authoritarian government, deliberately delayed the nation’s confrontation with modernity. In each of these cases, the Catholic Church was closely allied to state power (or, in the case of Quebec, to the power of the dominant Liberal party). In each of these cases, Catholic intellectual life withered, largely untouched by the mid-20th-century Catholic renaissance in biblical, historical, philosophical, and theological studies that paved the way toward the Second Vatican Council. And in each of these cases, the local Catholicism was highly clerical, with ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate being understood by everyone, clergy and laity alike, as conferring membership in a higher caste.
Then came le déluge: the deluge of Vatican II, the deluge that Europeans refer to as “1968,” and the deluge of the “Quiet Revolution” in la Belle Province. Once breached, the fortifications of Counter-Reformation Catholicism in Spain, Portugal, Quebec, and Ireland quickly crumbled. And absent the intellectual resources to resist the flood-tides of secularism, these four once-hyper-Catholic nations flipped, undergoing an accelerated course of radical secularization that has now, in each case, given birth to a serious problem of Christophobia: not mere indifference to the Church, but active hostility to it, not infrequently manifested through coercive state power.
Read the entire essay, "Erin Go Bonkers". On a much smaller, more intimate level, I liken this process in some ways to what I witnessed with many "preacher's kids" ("PKs", they were often called) from my Fundamentalist youth: they were so tightly controlled and directed in every facet of life—even into their late teens—that they struggled to think critically and properly engage with the larger culture. They were often given pat answers that weren't, in many cases, necessarily wrong, but which weren't so much taught as foisted upon them. There was, in other words, an approach to life that was quite reactionary and fearful, rather than confident and open to questions and debate—the sort of lacking approach that Dr. Mark Noll (who now teaches at the University of Notre Dame after many years at Wheaton College) criticized so insightfully and often harshly in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994). In a 2004 essay in First Things, Noll reflected on the book and its main premises:
What is true throughout the Christian world is true for American Christians: we who are in pietistic, generically evangelical, Baptist, fundamentalist, Restorationist, holiness, "Bible church," megachurch, or Pentecostal traditions face special difficulties when putting the mind to use. Taken together, American evangelicals display many virtues and do many things well, but built-in barriers to careful and constructive thinking remain substantial.
These barriers include an immediatism that insists on action, decision, and even perfection right now, a populism that confuses winning supporters with mastering actually existing situations, an anti-traditionalism that privileges one’s own current judgments on biblical, theological, and ethical issues (however hastily formed) over insight from the past (however hard won and carefully stated), and a nearly gnostic dualism that rushes to spiritualize all manner of bodily, terrestrial, physical, and material realities (despite the origin and providential maintenance of these realities in God). In addition, we evangelicals as a rule still prefer to put our money into programs offering immediate results, whether evangelistic or humanitarian, instead of into institutions promoting intellectual development over the long term.
Granted, there are significant differences between what Weigel describes and Noll explains. But the common element is the lack of "intellectual resources" and "intellectual development", especially for critically, thoughtfully, and firmly taking on the chaotic flood of falsehoods, half-truths, skewed perceptions, trendy "isms", and confused flailings of the dominant culture.
On a related note, see: