Archbishop urges radical rethink on religious formation

In a two-part documentary broadcast recently on RTÉ Television, the Primate of Ireland warned that it is not possible, “to be a mature Catholic in today’s world on the basis of what you have learnt in primary or secondary school.”  He acknowledged that the Church is currently not offering formation to people in the way they need it and he blamed past generations of the Church for Irish Catholics’ deficient grasp of the Scriptures.

The two-part Would You Believe series examined the issue of whether Irish Catholicism is more about belonging than believing and the future of the Church.  Archbishop Martin said he believed that the change taking place in Irish religious culture at the moment is the “greatest since Catholic Emancipation” and that what is disintegrating slowly is not the Church, but the social infrastructures in which the Church is lived in Ireland.

“For a long time we felt that our strength was in our numbers.  Irish religious culture dominated or was omnipresent in Irish society.  That is changing,” the Archbishop said.

In the programme, Archbishop Martin urged those who no longer believed in God not to “hang on to the vestiges of faith.” 

However, Fr John Hassett, Moderator of St Patrick’s Church in Lucan, a young Dublin parish of 40,000 Catholics of whom thirty per cent are practising, countered, “To try to make it a pure church where everybody is doing everything right all of the time is not true to human life and what Catholicism is.”

Fr Hassett told ciNews, “The traditional order and discipline of the past may not always be the experience of those who regard themselves as catholic but only manage to do the best they can in the circumstances in which they find themselves.  A parish either has something positive to say to such people or nothing to say.”

Archbishop Martin admitted, “There is an alienation, particularly among women, in the Church.”

According to Jesuit theologian, Fr Gerry O’Hanlon, SJ, “It has become too difficult to call yourself a Catholic anymore.”

The programme highlighted the role of women at parish level and spoke to laywoman, Alice Crotty, who leads a service of the Word with Communion at her parish in Porterstown one day a week when the local parish priest is not available. 

Asked about the need for women priests, Fr John Hassett, told ciNews, “When church leadership opens itself in trust to non-clerics at the table, where key decisions that impact on the very life blood of the church are made, then other ministry questions will be answered.”

Fr Michael Drumm, Director of the Catholic School Partnership, who ministers in St Patrick’s, Lucan, said the Irish Church needed to look at introducing “an opt-in mechanism” for Catholics seeking the sacraments for their children.

“There is a clash of vision when it comes to the future of the Church in Ireland,” Fr Drumm said and whatever vision won out would determine the Church’s path for the next century.

The two programmes can be viewed on the RTÉ Player.  Would You Believe December 4 and Would You Believe December 11

by Sarah Mac Donald





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