In 1932 the Lord Mayor of Dublin welcomed Cardinal Lauri, the Pope's envoy to the Eucharistic Congress, by kneeling before him and kissing the Cardinal's ring.
It was quite clear from the the Dublin City Council's address of homage which he presented to the Pope, during a visit to the Vatican in 1933, that the Lord Mayor considered he was speaking for all the citizens of Dublin, regardless of religious faith or denomination.
"Impelled by filial love, we, the members of the Dublin City Council, humbly prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, tender, through our Lord Mayor, the homage and the unalterable fidelity of the Citizens of Dublin to the Apostolic See."
Now, fast-forward to 1998, when President McAleese is visiting Boston.
Cardinal Bernard Law had no problem telling her he was "sorry for Catholic Ireland to have you as President" and went on to insult a junior minister who was accompanying the then president.
The President, a Roman Catholic in high standing, was not slow to point out to the Cardinal that she was the "President of Ireland and not just of Catholic Ireland".
The point at issue here was that, prior to becoming President, she had spoken in favour of the ordination of women to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
The Cardinal's arrogant attack was certainly in the mainstream Vatican tradition. But the President's response indicated how far we had come since 1932.
Then, the Lord Mayor, taking it upon himself to represent all the citizens of Dublin, was delivering the loyalty of non Roman Catholic citizens to the Pope.
Now, representing all the people of Ireland, the President was invoking her office in defence not only of non-Roman Catholics, but of those within the Roman Catholic church who might not go along with the increasingly regressive teaching of the Vatican.
Mary McAleese's Presidency ended on a high note with a visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II. She has just published a book on collegiality in Canon Law, a topic the Pope and the Curia neatly subverted after the Council itself.
Cardinal Law exited Boston in disgrace over his part in covering up clerical child sex-abuse. He was subsequently fixed up with a job in the Vatican.