Ireland’s church shows sign of renewal after loss of credibility
While a recent survey by the Association of Catholic Priests found that weekly Mass attendance throughout the country is one of the highest in Europe at 35 percent, the capital — where Mass attendance in some parishes is 2 percent — has been hit by a combination of religious apathy, secularism and disenchantment as a result of clergy sex abuse scandals.
David Quinn of The Iona Institute, a think-tank that aims to highlight the benefits of religion for society, believes it is wrong to present all of the church’s challenges as being linked to clerical abuse scandals. The shift in public opinion, he said, is “driven primarily by the secularizing trends that would have overtaken the rest of Europe over the last century, and only secondly actually by the scandals, because the downward trends were in place before the scandals ever came to light.”
“Church bashing has replaced ‘Brit bashing’ in the national psyche,” he said.
“If you go back to the days when nationalism of a certain type, a one-eyed type of nationalism, was very strong in Ireland, if you did not go along with most vitriolic criticisms of Britain you were a ‘West Brit.’
“We have psychologically replaced this with a very unthinking one-eyed critique of Catholicism,” he said.
But Divine Word Father Vincent Twomey, a moral theologian, thinks the church has to look inward to find the root of its current difficulties.
“Our real problem today is not caused by society or the current government’s policies, which are quite clearly anti-church, anti-Catholic,” he said.
“The church itself has contributed to the secularization of society by failing to grasp the imagination of people, by failing to feed their intellectual thirst for the truth,” he said.
It’s not just theologians who are saying the church has to reshape itself to meet modern challenges. [More]