I won’t bother unpacking the casual and time-honoured code that makes an Irish joke, by inference, a Catholic joke. There’s no point, since Enright has been quite forthright in his dislike of the Church, going back before the 1997 Globe and Mail article where he called it “the greatest criminal organization outside the mafia.” There’s probably some tortured back story here, as Enright went to the same private Catholic boys’ school I attended, but that’s also besides the point.
What is important is that there were thirteen million Catholics in Canada when Enright made his comment. One of the fondest refrains of the defenders of the CBC is that the national broadcaster “unites the country.” It’s a phrase used by Elizabeth May and the Green Party and by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, the interest group whose prime function is to refute attacks on the CBC in the public arena. It’s a strange institution that can “unite” a country by attacking the faith of over a third of its citizens.