The low standing of women in the Catholic Church is the most significant reason for the feeling of alienation towards it in Ireland today, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
“Next would be the ongoing effect of the scandals of child sexual abuse,” he said in an address on Thursday.
“I believe, in particular, that people have underestimated the effect of the scandals on young people.”
He added that young people’s “disgust at what happened is deep-rooted”.
Dr Martin said one of the most disappointing documents that he had read since becoming archbishop concerned a recent survey of young people in Dublin, conducted in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on Young People in Rome next year.
“Young people felt unwelcome in parishes,” he said of the survey’s results.
This reflected “on our system of faith education, which is overly school-centred” and “does not bring young people into better communication with the parish”.
Looking at the current Government, he said he was struck by “the fact that there are more members of the current Cabinet under 45 than there are of priests of that age in the [Dublin] diocese. The same applies to leadership cadres in many other sectors of society”.
He said 57 per cent of priests in the Dublin archdiocese were aged over 60 and this was projected to rise to 75 per cent by 2030.
He said that leadership in “many aspects of our culture belongs to one generation and leadership and the mainstream membership of the church belongs to another”.
“How do you bridge that gap?” he asked.
Dr Martin said he was “happy to see a new generation of young politicians who are inspired by a politics of changing Irish society for the good rather than just fixing problems”.
However, the archbishop said some people might interpret what he was saying as that he was “happy to see politicians who support same-sex unions or wider access to abortion”.
“Let me be very clear. The church will never change its teaching on marriage and on the right to life.”
The archbishop was speaking on Thursday in a talk titled "The church in Dublin: where will it be in 10 years' time?" at St Mary's Church, Haddington Road, as part of its Patrick Finn lecture series.