THERE WERE many indications “that the Church in Ireland has lost its way”, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
The abuse scandals had opened people’s eyes “to a much deeper crisis”, he said. Religious practice had “dropped at times in staggering proportions. There is disillusionment . . . Many have opted for or drifted into a more secularised vision of their life. Many have become indifferent and live as if God did not exist,” he said.
Speaking at a Mass in the Pro Cathedral on Saturday to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Legion of Mary founder Frank Duff, he said what had emerged about the church in recent years indicated “a certain sense of arrogance and power-seeking which has alienated many from the very message that such a presence in society was supposed to represent”.
There was a real crisis of vocations. The previous Saturday, he said: “I remembered at Mass 20 priests who had ministered in the archdiocese and who had died in the previous 12 months. A further dozen or so priests retired from active ministry in the same period. And yet in the past year I ordained just one new priest for the diocese.”
But the crisis was deeper, he said. “It is about faith in the God revealed in Jesus Christ and about the fundamental question: who is Jesus Christ?” However, he said, reform would not come from outside. “Historically it must be recognised that the recent shattering revelations about abuse would probably never have come to full light without outside intervention.
“Renewal and reform of the Church, however, will only come from within the Church, from within a community of men and women who listen to the word of God, who come together to pray, who celebrate the Eucharist and are called to share in the very life of Christ himself,” he said.
Renewal was “not about media strategies or structural reform”.
And, on that path of renewal, he asked, “can we be happy to celebrate First Communion services which put people into debt for thousands of euro for empty external expenses, while neither the children nor their parents have been led to a true understanding of the Eucharist and . . . the Church? Can we be satisfied when Confirmation is looked on by many as a graduation out of Church life?”