… but no snake.
In his book How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill despite a pro-Catholic bias that often leads him into callousness and distortion nevertheless allows himself (perhaps because his Irish bias here counters his Catholic one) to make a strong case for the superiority of the Celtic Church to the Catholic Church (prior to the formers incorporation into the latter). Four of his main contrasts are:
a) The Celtic Church was decentralised while the Catholic Church was hierarchical and authoritarian.
b) The Celtic Church respected women while the Catholic Church regarded them as vessels of temptation.
c) The Celtic Church was celebrating the beauty of the natural world while the Catholics were condemning it as fallen.
d) The Celtic Church was devoting most of its energy to denouncing the sin of slavery while the Catholic Church was devoting most of its energy to denouncing sins of sexuality.
Points (b) and (c) are said to explain why Irish monks were willing to preserve and copy pagan literature during the Dark Ages when throughout mainland Europe it was being discarded. And point (d) might well be explained by the fact that St. Patrick who, although he didnt bring Christianity to Ireland, was one of the chief founders of the Celtic Church there was himself an escaped slave. (As a boy, Padraic/Patricius had been kidnapped by Irish slavers from his native Wales thats the right, the patron saint of Irish Catholicism was neither Irish nor Catholic and upon his escape decided to return to the site of his enslavement to promote the Christian message of not treating other people like crap so much.)
Mind you, St. Paddy was no libertarian he famously went around knocking down statues of other peoples gods (most notably Crom Crúaich yes, Conans god), which is at least rude. Moreover, he seems to have attempted, unsuccessfully, to impose a diocesan system on Ireland and so deserves no great credit for point (a). And Cahill may be overstating the virtues of the Celtic Church vis-à-vis the Catholic when its a matter of Irish versus others, just as he tends to overstate the virtues of the Catholic Church when its a matter of Catholics versus non-Irish others. (Im reminded of the medieval historian Gerald of Wales, who cheers on the Anglo-Norman conquest of that awful Ireland but suddenly loses enthusiasm when discussing the Anglo-Norman conquest of his own homeland Wales.) Still, it sounds like the Celtic Churchs eventual subjection to Rome was overall a loss, so lets drink a toast to the early years of the movement symbolized, rightly or wrongly, by the wayward Welshman.
Happy St. Patricks Day!