Many Catholics 'do not believe' church teachings

THE MAJORITY of Catholics in Ireland do not attend Mass regularly and significant numbers do not believe in key tenets of the…

THE MAJORITY of Catholics in Ireland do not attend Mass regularly and significant numbers do not believe in key tenets of the church’s teaching, according to an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The poll results, which come as Ireland hosts the 50th Eucharistic Congress of the Catholic Church this week, show belief in the church is strongest in rural areas but falls off significantly in urban areas.

Despite the fallout from clerical sex abuse scandals, a significant proportion of the country – including non-Catholics – believe the church has had a broadly positive influence on Ireland.

The national survey was undertaken last month among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over.


A total of 89 per cent of respondents were Catholic. The remainder were either not religious (6 per cent), Protestant (3 per cent) or from other faiths.

Fianna Fáil supporters were most likely to be Catholic (95 per cent), followed by Sinn Féin (89 per cent), Fine Gael (88 per cent), Labour (85 per cent) and Greens (58 per cent). Overall, just under a third (31 per cent) of Catholics said they attended Mass at least once a week.

More than two-thirds attended services far less frequently. Some 39 per cent said they either never or very occasionally went to Mass. A further 20 per cent said they attended every two to three months, while 8 per cent went once a fortnight.

Those who attend Mass regularly are twice as likely to live in rural rather than urban areas. They are also more likely to be older and support Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

When it comes to the church’s teachings, many Catholics do not subscribe to key tenets such as transubstantiation. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) believe the blessing of bread and wine during Mass only represents the body and blood of Christ.

Just over a quarter believe it is transformed (26 per cent).

There is division on the issue of the church’s role in education, although Labour supporters are more likely to support Government moves to loosen the church’s control of primary schools.

Also, most Catholics (59 per cent) said they are aware of the Eucharistic Congress, due to take place this week, but a very small minority (4 per cent) planned to attend.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent