There was a lively programme on RTÉ 1 last week about the late John Walsh, photographer of Dublin's Liberties from the 1940s to the 1990s.
One of his most memorable snaps showed John Charles McQuaid visiting the area, treated like a monarch among subjects.
McQuaid reigned as Dublin's archbishop from 1940 to 1972, when the Irish Catholic Church had immense political and social power. He wielded it unapologetically.
Appointed as the new archbishop of Dublin last week, Dermot Farrell (born 1954) recalled that, as a teenager, he spent summer holidays with his aunt and uncle who lived and worked in the Liberties. They "introduced me to the history and rich cultural life of the city".
Like McQuaid, who was from Cavan, Farrell is not a Dubliner. Unlike McQuaid, he represents a hierarchy that no longer rules the roost. This is a problem and an opportunity for Farrell.
His predecessor, Diarmuid Martin, sometimes had to struggle for high standards of transparency and accountability even in an area as clearly requiring them as child abuse. Some other Irish bishops, whose Maynooth ethos Martin did not share, resented him for personal and organisational reasons. They have shown too little appetite for change, let alone radical reform. Big numbers of Irish people, particularly in and around Dublin, no longer care about church politics or church pronouncements.
Farrell's appointment last week will scarcely register with them. The Irish hierarchy's chances of enticing large congregations back to church regularly seem minimal.
Faithful priests in parishes that struggle to function are on their last legs. Men long past what is regarded in other jobs as retirement age, bravely soldier on.
They provide the rituals of baptism, marriage and death that are a sort of service industry for communities that otherwise ignore church-going and even religion.
Such priests are a link to an earlier era when the spirituality of Irish Catholics was expressed in the symbol of the Sacred Heart in most homes, and when mass was a major communal event.
Today the practice of parents strategically "having" children baptised to ensure their education at particular local schools, not mainly because these are "religious" but because they are convenient, sustains the number of nominal Catholics. But the way in which the hierarchy clings to such vestiges of power in education and health seems more like a signal of despair than of faith.
How likely is it that the new archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, will break new ground?
Will he be more radical than Diarmuid Martin when it comes to matters of belief, creating models of religious practice that might deeply inspire lay people and involve them in forms of ritual suitable for a century in which the Covid pandemic is a harbinger of greater global problems to come due to overpopulation and global warming?
Aged 66, Farrell is more than a decade younger than the new president of the United States.
But the material and financial challenges alone that face his Dublin archdiocese might tie up the time and energy of half a dozen men his age.
What can he do about fewer young priests, expensive overheads, an architectural heritage that requires constant attention?
And how can he reform spiritual practices when these are tied up in dogmas that are deadwood, ranging from contraception and papal infallibility through to arcane but divisive transubstantiation and the 19th-century notion of the immaculate conception?
He said last week that we must "hear" the voices of women, but these will not be "heard" in any real way until women who wish to speak as Catholic priests do so.
In his recent book Biomedical Controversies in Catholic Ireland, Don O'Leary charts in depth the "lifestyle" controversies that have dogged the Catholic Church and its relationship with Irish people in recent decades.
It is not just in Ireland that Catholic authorities have lost perspective.
US bishops have seemed at times to favour the patently opportunistic Donald Trump over Joe Biden, largely because Biden would not agree with them on abortion law.
This is despite the fact that Biden will be only the second Catholic US president ever, and perhaps the first seriously practising one.
Farrell, a former president of the national seminary and college at Maynooth, is an experienced administrator. But it remains to be seen if he has a vision that can capture the imagination of new generations.
Is he the type of bishop content to be flattered by politically, theologically and socially conservative lay members of their flocks, subverting by inaction the spirit of the second Vatican Council and the ambition of Pope Francis? Farrell said last week: "The relationship between the gospel and the culture in which it is proclaimed is always tensive."
If this is a self-pitying way of deflecting widespread criticism of the obfuscating failure of the Irish hierarchy to deal not just with child abuse but with change generally then we can expect little new from this archbishop.
But if it is a promise of radical renewal for an educated adult population, of new challenges to power, of leadership in respect to combating inequality, climate change and political narrowness, then Farrell's appointment will have been a good one.
Colum Kenny is a journalist, barrister and historian. He is Emeritus Professor at Dublin City University