Church faces credibility deficit, says archbishop


THE CHURCH starts out with a "credibility deficit'' when it speaks these days, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said. "Being a bishop in these times can be very frustrating.'' He was speaking in Dublin at a discussion organised by the Communion and Liberation lay Catholic movement.

"There are many challenges to face in the church in Ireland today, above all that of proclaiming the Gospel in such a way as to help and accompany young people on a path of faith. We have to face that challenge of renewal today within church structures which find themselves with a trust deficit,'' he said.

"As we have seen in these days, we have to face scandals, or better said we have to face the scandal of the suffering of people whose trust in the church was abused and then not recognised.

"When I was younger, if you did your Leaving Certificate examination through the medium of Irish you got a bonus on your mark - I think it was either a 10 per cent or 15 per cent - just for that fact.

"Today for the church to make a credible statement on many aspects of public life or simply to talk about faith you start out with the opposite. You start out with a substantial percentage of credibility deficit,'' he said.

He wondered "how does one really begin to speak about faith? How does one attempt to reach out and lead young people on a journey of faith, when they in many ways have lost trust in a church which many young people find no longer just 'irrelevant' but ... in which many young people say they have very little confidence.

"How does one begin to speak with young people about a faith which seems to demand from them that they row against the tide of many of the dominant cultural trends of their peers and when at the same time many young people have become sceptical of the results of what the church is asking of them. These are the everyday challenges which not just bishops, but above all parents face.''

He added: "Perhaps I should stop here in case I give the impression that a commentator on a book about hope, and an archbishop at that, might seem to be losing hope himself in the face of the pastoral challenges that have to be faced. And many might be happy to say to me that I have many good reasons for losing hope.''

He was referring to the book Beyond Optimism - Hope, by the late Msgr Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation.

"It is hard to hope when times are not optimistic. Don Giussani reminds us that it might well be even harder to hope in times when society is registering uncritical optimism. I am not saying this to repeat the sort of cliché being bandied about... that a little bit of depression and recession will do us all good and we will repent our superficiality and get back to living more serious, sober and more spiritual lives. It does not work out that way," he said.