Church teachings 'irrelevant' to most


The Church's teachings on sexuality have “no relevance” to 75 per cent of Irish Catholics or their families, a new survey has found.

It has also established that 87 per cent of Irish Catholics believe priests should be allowed marry, 77 per cent believe there should be women priests while 72 per cent believe older, married, men should be allowed become priests.

The Amárach survey also found weekly Mass attendance in Ireland, at 35 per cent, is one of the highest in Europe.

Commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), the Contemporary Catholic Perspectives survey was carried out among 1,000 Catholics throughout the island of Ireland over a two-week period in February.

Where the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was concerned, 46 per cent “disagree strongly”, while five per cent “agree strongly”. 

It found 61 per cent disagree with the Church on the issue while 18 per cent consider homosexuality immoral.

Where divorced and/or separated people in a second stable relationship are concerned, 87 per cent believe they should be allowed to take communion. 

Just five per cent say they should not. 

Five times as many Irish Catholics believe the Church is subservient to Rome compared to those who believe it is independent, with more than one in four (or 28 per cent) believing it to be "completely subservient".

A small majority (55 per cent) believe that Bishops should serve for a fixed term while the remainder are divided between those who believe a bishop should serve until age 75, or for as long as the bishop likes.

Forty five per cent of priests and 63 per cent of lay people believe there should be more involvement of laity and priests in choosing a bishop. Just five per cent of lay people and 10 per cent of priests believe there should be less involvement. 

A clear majority agree with the Church speaking out on issues while four out of five believe it should do so on social issues. 

Clustering of parishes as a way of dealing with a shortage of priests is favoured by 60 per cent of those surveyed.

Where wording in the new missal is concerned half of those who are aware of it prefer the older wording, while 33 per cent find the new Missal more difficult to understand.

On the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, 56 per cent of respondents believe there is a value in it being held in Ireland. 

However, just one in 10 believe lay people in their parish were involved in preparations for the Congress.

Fr Sean McDonagh, of the ACP leadership team, said the findings showed the number of people attending Mass in Ireland was “higher than in most European countries.”

He said “recent remarks by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on the CBS 60 Minutes porgramme that only two per cent attend Mass in some parishes, if taken out of context, might lead people to believe that Mass attendance in Ireland has completely collapsed. The survey shows that this is not the case.”

Fr Bobby Gilmore said the survey showed Irish Catholics wanted “compassion and tolerance rather than the defence of absolute positions”.

He said they wanted local input rather than central control, “a people’s Church rather than a clerical Church”.

Fr Gilmore added that “finding out where we are is always a first step in finding where we want to go”.

The survey findings are expected to be discussed at the ACP-sponsored conference Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church which takes place on May 7th at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.