The spiritual equivalent of the approaching demographic winter in Europe and the world has surely taken a firm hold in Ireland. A recent report (April 03 2018) in the Irish Examiner on the state of the Catholic Church in Ireland paints a very grim picture of the future for the Faithful in this country. Contrast this with the visit of the last (and first) papal visit in 1979. Thirty eight years of continuing secularisation has brought about a huge change of attitudes in Ireland towards the Church and the Faith and coupled with an abandonment of the traditional catechism has resulted in a largely clueless laity who are antagonistic towards the Catholic Faith.
“On the ground, a survey of archdioceses and dioceses around the country shows an ageing priesthood, with human resources stretched. It has meant parishes relying more on the laity, particularly the volunteering parish councils, while a small but growing number of serving priests are from overseas. Senior figures within the Catholic Church are warning that the ageing profile of priests and the lack of new ordinations could mean a further reduction in its footprint around the country.
A survey of archdioceses and dioceses highlights the changing face of the Catholic Church in Ireland. It found that human resources are being stretched, that a small but growing number of parishes are without a resident priest, and that there is an increased role for deacons and for priests coming to serve from overseas. At least half of the 25 archdioceses and dioceses around the country have seen an aggregate fall in the number of priests serving within them in the past five years, while almost half have parishes which have had to reduce the number of Mass services they can offer. A handful of dioceses and archdioceses have parishes which do not have a resident priest or share a priest with another parish — with warnings that this could increase unless there is a rise in the number of people who can serve.”
The various dioceses are struggling and there are a few notable attempts to combat the incontrovertible decline. None of these however would appear to be particularly Catholic. For instance the report states that the Archdiocese of Armagh established a seminary in 2012, based in Dundalk, Co Louth — The Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary. The 17 seminarians who are studying there are part of Neocatechumenal Way communities throughout the world and will be ordained as priests of the Archdiocese of Armagh. The Neocatechumenal way is a pseudo Catholic organisation which teaches Lutheran doctrines and has closed liturgies which have split parishes around the world. Indeed they have been ejected from many dioceses internationally because of their cult like behaviour and heterodox teaching. This cuckoo in the nest is seen as a good thing by the preeminent See in the country!
The diocese of Limerick has taken another direction. In 2016 it held a Synod. “The Synod was a three-day gathering of 400 delegates — 300 lay and 60% female — in Limerick after an 18-month listening process that engaged with over 5,000 people across the diocese. Some 97 proposals across six themes that covered the biggest issues for the Church were agreed.” A synod historically has been held from time to time in various dioceses in order to correct abuses or organise the diocese more efficiently. It involves the clergy and Bishop and few lay people. This was thus a far cry from a true synod and the results (see the pastoral plan here http://www.synod2016.com/sy/assets/File/2016/LimerickDiocesePastoralPlan2016.pdf) were predictable. The calls for lay leadership in liturgical and other areas, the reduction of parishes to social outlets for community organisers and the pushing of ‘green’ and other fashionable issues are to the fore. Under the heading “Liturgy and Life” the plan calls for training to be provided for lay volunteers to lead liturgies when priests are absent. I cannot see how all of this will not end up with the balkanisation of the diocese and its further distancing from the Catholic Faith.
As regards clergy from other countries serving in Irish dioceses are concerned a recent incident comes to mind. During the so called ‘Same sex marriage referendum’ a priest of Nigerian nationality, Fr. Joseph Okere, while serving as curate in St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, preached a homily in which he stated that the Marriage referendum was the Devil’s work. It made the newspapers and was swiftly apologised for by Fr. Okere’s superior…Bishop Francis Duffy! As one member of his diocese wrote in a letter to him,
“The priest didn’t say anything that was untrue (if the report was accurate) and he was speaking in the Cathedral of the diocese. So why did you feel the need to apologise? You would appear to have internalised the commands of the Church’s oppressors.
The report states that one person walked out because he did not like what was being preached, “I am a Catholic and gay and I have never felt unwanted, but this was like something you would have heard 30 years ago. The Church just has to stop this – enough is enough.” I’m assuming that this individual (who didn’t mind being named) means by “gay” that he is a practicing homosexual. He was given the truth by a genuinely charitable priest and you apologise for that charity. I can understand why the Independent and the Longford LGBT “community” wants the Church to succumb to the secular zeitgeist but why are you doing it’s bidding?”
The report paints a picture all too familiar to most traditional Catholics but the large mass of the country’s baptised seem to be blithely unaware of the broad road they are travelling and its inevitable end. Perhaps they simply don’t care?