Irish Catholic Church must avoid ‘autocratic ways of past’

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin says Pope Francis told Irish bishops not to repeat past clericalism

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


There is no place for arrogance or triumphalism in the Christian life, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

Archbishop Martin was speaking at a Mass on Tuesday in St Patrick’s College Maynooth for those involved with the Irish Episcopal Conference and in the World Meeting of Families. It took place on the second day of the Catholic Bishops Autumn meeting.

“One of the strongest words used by Pope Francis during his visit in August to the World Meeting of Families in Ireland was that phrase addressed to the Irish bishops warning them not to repeat ‘the attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church’,” he recalled.

‘Call to bishops’

It was “a call to us bishops – but also to the entire Church in Ireland – to be an authentic Church in the new and changing religious culture in Ireland. For some, change causes uncertainty and even anxiety.

“There is always a danger in such a situation that some close in on themselves, and develop a siege mentality and rush for comfort to what is familiar, avoiding risk and perhaps failing to allow the newness of Jesus to enter into and challenge our hearts.”

“The Church must resist any temptation to be arrogant and triumphalistic. The Church must be, and appear to all to be, the place where the weak, where sinners, where those who are struggling feel not just welcome but rather become an integral part of a loving community that supports, sustains and carries them,” he said.

“Our message is not just an intellectual message. It is one that must reach out and change men and women into people who reflect, however imperfectly, the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ. The language and the activity of the Church must always be marked by a style that reflects that love,” he said.

However “sadly, in the Church today, one encounters a language of polarisation that can be bitter and personalised. It is a polarisation that excludes and divides people and smothers true prophecy. The truth of Jesus Christ can only be spoken in charity.

“Many feel that the Church should be more vigorous in responding to the challenges that spring from a changed culture. Certainly, the Church must defend itself from unjust attack. The truth however does not need polemics,” he said.

What was needed was “coherence between our way of life and the message of Jesus Christ,” he said.