The Hecatomb and the Church’s Silence?
The total failure of the potato resulted in death on a massive scale through hunger, disease, and exposure during the winter of 1847. Although by the standards of the time, there had been a major outlay of public money, the relief schemes were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. The soup kitchens, Russell’s tardy but most effective measure, were not in operation until the end of March or later. During that long and bitter winter, hundreds of thousands of peasants died. A world was disappearing as a whole class of people perished or emigrated, and what was once one of the most densely populated areas in Europe saw farms, hamlets, and villages abandoned. An important reason why the bishops took no collective action was that they were themselves disunited. Their annual meetings, long a source of unity and strength, had become the occasion for enervating wrangling.
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