‘Fundamentalist Catholics’?

Sir, – Fr Joe McVeigh offers some ideas as to how the Catholic Church might address the problems of falling church attendance and an ageing population of priests ("Fundamentalist Catholics are turning people off church in Ireland", Rite & Reason, November 29th).

Seeing Ireland as a "mission country", he suggests that the church here could be energised by a Latin American-style missionary strategy.

This would be driven by lay people trained to lead small groups of parishioners in Bible reading and reflection.

The lay leadership teams would be expected to have “an understanding and appreciation of the Gospel of the poor and oppressed”


Few would deny the potential benefits of a missionary strategy focused on the poor and distressed. The framework for it is already present in the Irish Catholic Church, notably in the support given by parishes to the work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Crosscare and Brother Kevin’s Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, not to mention the many other similar examples across the other dioceses.

The work done by these agencies is not acknowledged by Fr McVeigh. Instead he chooses rather bizarrely to demonise Catholics who place “too much emphasis on the sacraments” or “get carried away with some of the eccentric religious practices of fundamentalist Catholics active in many parishes today”.

Fr McVeigh, it may be assumed, is aware that Catholics believe that the seven sacraments were instituted by Christ himself.

Given this it is rather puzzling that a Catholic priest can accuse some Catholics of placing too much emphasis on them. Exactly how much emphasis does the reverend gentleman believe Catholics should place on the sacraments? What exactly are the eccentric religious practices to which he refers? Who are the fundamentalist Catholics and in which parishes are they to be found?

The task of energising the ailing Catholic Church in Ireland is enormous.

It will not be achieved by a strategy which from its very outset seeks to sow the seeds of disunity among the faithful. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fr McVeigh’s solution for re-energising the Catholic Church in Ireland calls for lay missionaries particularly trained in scripture studies, with special emphasis on the social gospel.

He is more confident in “a liturgy of the word” replacing “morning Mass” as a means of “sowing the seeds of a new church”, in contrast to an emphasis “on the sacraments and fulfilling duties”.

That to him would be preferable to, what he calls “the eccentric religious practices of fundamentalist Catholics active in many parishes today”.

By that does he mean things like the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, novenas, or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

One can not help but suspect Fr McVeigh has been influenced less by what he saw in Latin America than by an unadmitted identification on his part with the religious approach of some of his non-Catholic neighbours in Northern Ireland, even though he has not been particularly appreciative of their political position. – Yours, etc,


Professor Emeritus,

Fordham University,

New York.