Vatican criticised for 'slowness' on church renewal

Fri, Jun 3, 2011, 01:00

THE VATICAN has been criticised by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin for its tardiness in responding to reports from apostolic visitation teams to Ireland, submitted last April.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin emphasised he was not criticising Pope Benedict, but was encouraging a sense of urgency on the part of the Pope’s “collaborators”.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, he said the pace of change in Irish religious culture was such that “the longer the delay in advancing the fruits of the apostolic visitation, the greater the danger of false expectations, and the greater the encouragement to those who prefer immobilism to reform, and the greater the threat to the effectiveness of this immense gift of the Holy Father to the Irish Church”.

He was “impatient to learn about the path that the apostolic visitation will set out for renewal for the Irish Church so that our renewal will move forward decisively. At the same time, I am also becoming increasingly impatient at the slowness in the process, which began over a year ago. This is not a criticism of the Holy Father. It is an appeal to his collaborators.”

Seven apostolic visitation teams were in Ireland to investigate the church over the recent winter and spring months. They were in the four Catholic archdioceses, the Irish seminaries, and met male and female religious congregations before reporting to Rome by Easter.

Archbishop Martin was speaking at All Hallows College, Dublin, to delegates from almost 70 countries attending a conference held in anticipation of the 2012 Eucharistic Congress.

He said Ireland was “undergoing a revolution of its religious culture”. In some Dublin parishes “the presence at Sunday Mass is some 5 per cent of the Catholic population and, in cases, even below 2 per cent. On any particular Sunday about 18 per cent of the Catholic population in the Archdiocese of Dublin attends Mass,” he said.

For the second time since he became Archbishop “there will be no ordination to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Dublin, and the coming years indicate only a tiny trickle of new vocations”.

He believed “the secularisation of Irish culture is very advanced”.

His “greatest concern” was “the rift which is growing between the church and young people”.

“We have bright, intelligent, generous and idealistic young people. Most will have been educated . . . in Catholic schools. However, from a relatively early age, they drift away from any regular contact with the church and especially from Sunday Mass.”

He said that “too often the renewal agenda of Irish Catholics is driven by an inward-looking agenda of reform of church structures. Such an agenda will have very little appeal to those who have really lost contact with the church and regard such reform as interesting but of little relevance to their lives – indeed it might lead them only to further alienation.”

There were “those who feel that my evaluation of the current situation is too negative, and gloomier than that of others. I do not think so. I believe, however, that my evaluation is realistic.”

He described as “painful” the “failure in passing on the faith to the coming generation”. A reason for this was “a failure of believers to witness their faith in coherent forms of service relevant to the current cultural situation”.