Scully's Corner

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Will the Catholic Church survive in Ireland? (And other points)

I could end this blogpost quickly by giving a quick yes or no answer to the question posed (and in my opinion it would be a yes). And i suppose if your not the greatest fan of reading, thats enough so, so long : )

I'm not going to pretend that i'm an expert on my faith, I suppose i'm not much different to many others who declare on their census forms that they are Roman Catholic, many of whom are 'Catholics' in name only and really know precious little about their faith. Neither would i describe myself as a religious person. I wouldn't find a discussion on religion all that interesting, though maybe with age that might change. However i am a practicing Catholic, and once i enter the Church on a Sunday morning, i show the greatest respect and reverence for the sacred place i've just walked into. The most important aspect of my faith is the Mass, in particular the holy Eucharist. As a Catholic i do in fact believe in transubstanciation, in laymens terms i believe in the actual presence of of Our Lord Jesus Christ, simply that the bread and wine  becomes the body and blood of Christ. Neither would i describe myself as a traditional Catholic. I question and even completely disagree with some Church teachings, one example being contraception. If i'd have voiced my opinions during the period of the Inquisition, i'd be seen as a heretic, and maybe even burnt at the stake!. But the fact remains that after all that has happened to the Catholic Church over it's short History, my home remains with the Church.

What has occurred within the Church in Ireland especially over the course of the twentieth century, in particular in relation to child abuse, has sickened me to the core. No words could best describe my contempt for those disgusting priests who violated the innocence of mere children, nor those who knew what was happening and did nothing at all,  or those who transferred priests who committed these awful crimes to other parishes in which they could then reoffend. It has become abundantly clear to me that first of all the Catholic Church in Ireland especially after we gained independence, had far too much power. I very much doubt had it not been for such power it would not have led to such widespread abuse of children by many clergymen.  The relationship between the Church and State was also troubling, the links too close, to the detriment in my opinion of both. The majority of priest in this country have been tarnished by a minority who simply abused their authority in the most evil ways imaginable. We must always remember that 97%+ of priests are good decent men, who on a daily basis work to breaking point in the service of their parishioners. (An uncle of mine is a priest, and a mighty good one might i add, who puts in superhuman work)

With the notable exceptions of Diarmaid Martin, and a number of others, most of our bishops should consider their positions. The Cloyne report would seem to make Bishop Magee's position untenable, and in my opinion he should resign. I would tend to agree with Fr Vincent Twomey's opinion that all bishops instated prior to 2003 should be removed. We need bishops who are not tainted in any way by the child sex abuse scandal, and maybe  they should be replaced by spiritual men, possibly even from abroad. Now is the time for bishops who are passionate about their faith and are capable of expressing that with vigor to the flock. For too long Irish bishops have utterly failed to coordinate between themselves, that needs to change in the future. The future outlook of the Catholic Church in Ireland, need not be as bleak as some people believe it will be. Reforms need to be made, the Church needs to learn from it's mistakes so they are never repeated, if it does not, it will never recover. One thing is for certain the Church's  influence is far weaker in society then it used to be, the simple fact is Ireland is at least a quasi-Secular country, and those of us who remain Catholic will need to adapt to that reality. While the Church is aging, there are enough young people engaged with it, that will not die out. The numbers of faithful Catholics might have fallen, but whose to say our Church won't recover albeit with a smaller flock. It's the quality of Catholics that is more important, not the quantity.  A more humble Church is what we need.


  1. "Possibly, we stand before a new epoch of Church history with quite different conditions, in which Christianity will stand under the sign of the mustard seed, in small and apparently insignificant groups, which nonetheless oppose evil intensively and bring the Good into the world." (Pope Benedict XVI)

  2. "The relationship between the Church and State was also troubling, the links too close, to the detriment in my opinion of both."

    But to what extent was this a product of the fact that the "State" i.e. the legislative and executive branches, basically the Dáil, the Civil Service and the people (leaving aside the judiciary and its different role) was overwhelmingly Catholic and therefore shared the views of the Hierarchy? Was it in fact mostly consensus? I actually think it was, rather than the totally overdone caricature of the "oppressed" people groaning under this foreign Roman yoke. After all if the Irish people felt oppressed about something, well, they had a pretty good track record of rising up against it!

    I think also that in many cases (I'm no expert, mind you) the "State" actually went quite some distance towards taking all viewpoints into account. The administration was, after all, scrupulously fair. In my view one has to contrast Ireland with the situation in overwhelmingly Catholic states like pre-war Poland or Austria, and Ireland comes off very well in comparison.

    That said, there are of course instances where Church power did lead to arrogant bullying, and craven yielding by those in power who should have known better. Nevertheless I think overall that the kind of State we had in Ireland up to quite recently actually reflected what we wanted as a people. In a way, that brings up a point you touch on at the end of your piece: "It's the quality of Catholics that is more important, not the quantity." I agree totally. We had the numbers back then and that led to a huge degree of complacency and "cruising through", with people (clergy and lay) not being equipped well enough in the basics to cope for the difficult times which have now come.

    Congratulations on your blog! I got the link from Shane's Lux Occulta. Do we just call you "Scully"? :) Certainly will keep an eye on it and best wishes for the future.

  3. I believe there was an atmosphere where questions were just not asked, i think a lot of that had to do with the position the Church had in society, unequaled. Possibly what they wanted but they knew no other way, we were an insular country. We weren't privy to ideas which would have competed with those of the Church. Maybe it's the case that many wanted that, but that doesn't mean the cosy relationship between Church and State was healthy, or a good thing for our country.

    Scully is fine yes, and thank you!

  4. Luke I disagree with you that Ireland in the 40s/50s was an insular country. Certainly not by international standards at the time. In fact I think most people were better informed about foreign affairs then than now.


  5. Well i'd have to disagree with you Shane. How were they better informed in terms of foreign affairs? De Valera was a promoter of self sufficiency, with the intention not to rely on outside help, their neutral stance during WW2 (one which i agreed with by the way) made them less aware of what was going in internationally in my estimation then many other European countries, especially.