17 February 2010

Pray for the Church in Ireland

Today's Irish newspapers carry much critical comment on the one-and-a-half day meeting of the bishops of Ireland with Pope Benedict and senior Vatican officials. I found it rather bizarre reading before the meeting that it would end at noon on Tuesday because some of the bishops had to get back to their dioceses for Ash Wednesday. Today some were wondering why Archbishop Diarmuid Martin left as soon as the meeting ended.

Some of the bishops indicated that Pope Benedict would meet with some victims of abuse from clerics and religious but this seemed to be more an expression of hope than a statement of fact. I think it it essential for the Pope to meet with a representative group of victims and to listen to their stories. He could visit Ireland for that reason alone. If something like this doesn't happen there'll be a continuing running sore, sapping not only the faith of those who have been abused - some of them have given up on the Church - but of those who are struggling to come to terms with everything that has emerged. One comment on a Christmas card from a fervent Catholic woman in Dublin who is just a little older than myself summed this up for me: 'It's awful'.

Part of the Vatican press release disturbed some people: The Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors.

As one who goes home to Ireland every few years I can see clearly the serious decline not only in church-going but a growing explicit rejection of the Christian faith by many. Some of the priests mentioned in the Dublin Report were ordained as recently as the 1990s and were engaged in the abuse of minors while on pastoral work as seminarians. I ask myself if they had any faith and if their ordination was valid. How could they get through at a time when there was widespread awareness of the reality of the abuse of children by Catholic priests?

Coincidentally, yesterday's Irish papers carried a horrific story of a father found guilty of raping his son over a period of years. The son, in turn, raped his sisters. Maybe this will help the people of Ireland to reflect more on the reality of 96 percent of the abuse of children having nothing to do with clerics or religious but taking place throughout Irish society.

The February issue of Intercom, a publication of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, has an article by Ian Elliott, the Presbyterian appointed by the Irish bishops as CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in which he factually points out what is actually happening. The Catholic Church in Ireland has been and is acting to safeguard children according to the best advice available at this time and in full compliance with the laws of the Irish Republis and of Northern Ireland. I think it would be impossible now for any cover-up to take place.

Please pray for the Irish Church.

I'll be away for the next few days at the national board meeting of Worldwide Marriage Encounter in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, Philippines, and won't be blogging. 


shane said...

It must be very hard for priests in Ireland. I see elderly nuns strolling the streets and its clear they have to take the rap. Fr Benedict Groeschel has travelled all over Europe and the only place he was ever verbally abused for his habit was in Ireland. There was a call to the Joe Duffy show a few years ago by an Anglican minister at St Patricks or Christchurch complaining that people often mistook him for a priest and that he constantly suffered verbal slurs from Dublin's 'concerned citizens'. 'Irish Catholic' used to be worn as a badge of pride, not it's seen as something to ashamed of. The Church was slipping before the scandals, but the Revisionist historical movement and the revelations of Bishop Casey had the effect of tarnishing a once venerated institution, and making Catholics feel 'guilty' for all their past.

Given that you do not live in Ireland, and come home intermittently, you'd be better positioned to observe the decline in Irish Catholicism than I am. I'm curious so, if I may ask you, how different do you find modern Ireland from the Ireland of your childhood? Do you like the New Ireland? How is it substantially different? How is it observedly more secular and are you hopeful that the faith will be revitalized in Ireland? If so, how can church leaders advance it? Do you discern a lack of morale among your fellow clergy? Thanks.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Shane, I've been away from the net for a few days. I'll try to respond to your questions in my next post. Thanks for your substantial comment.