Rite&Reason: Do not go gently, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Rite&Reason: A call for next archbishop of Dublin to be both prophet and shepherd

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: Thanks for a powerful legacy, for never shirking your responsibility in the media and for your obvious empathy with those who have suffered. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: Thanks for a powerful legacy, for never shirking your responsibility in the media and for your obvious empathy with those who have suffered. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Dear Archbishop.

We here in the faith community of St Matthew’s in Ballyfermot have been talking about you. There has been similar discussion within the Roncalli Community, which was formed last October for the reform and renewal of the church. (No schism here, rather love for, and loyalty to, the church, but not without gutsy rage!) Yes given your roots, and love for “Ballyer” we decided to put pen to paper.

Your time with us as archbishop may be getting short and so we offer you some thoughts from the wider parish community, some from Roncalli and a few from my own reflection.

The first word we wish to offer you is “thanks”.

Thanks for a powerful legacy most especially in the area of safeguarding. In this you have given courageous leadership, never shirking your responsibility in the media and thanks for your obvious empathy with those who have suffered. Thanks for your energy. Thanks for your smile.

We are in a crisis and it’s not new and it’s deepening

Another word is “prayer”. As part of our debt of gratitude to you we promise to pray for you. We will of course pray in thanksgiving for you. We will also pray for your health in its widest context. We pray that the Lord will protect you from all sickness, all suffering, all anxiety and all darkness. We ask the Lord to bless you abundantly in the next chapter in your life. We pray not only for length of life for you, but also that you be blessed with joy and fulfilment.

Serious trouble

Perhaps a word on the Irish church today is appropriate. Of course there are lovely things happening. There are many people in the diocese who are committed and dedicated to their faith. However, that said, we are in serious trouble. We are in a crisis and it’s not new and it’s deepening. Let’s name it:

* We are, to many of today’s Irish citizens, largely irrelevant, especially when it comes to morality.

* We continue to cheapen the sacred and the sacramental. We continue to ignore the sacramental conveyor belt as the gap between faith and practice widens.

* Our seminaries are empty. We have failed to attract suitable candidates for priesthood and we stubbornly cling to a tired old model of formation that has not been fit for purpose for a long time.

* The shades of faith found in our Catholic schools vary hugely from the spiritually vibrant to the spiritually comatose. ( These are just a few examples of many in the overall malaise in the Irish church).

Splurge of creativity

Our hope archbishop is that you will not go gently but go with flourish and panache. Yes we would love to see you dance off in the Holy Spirit. We hope you will not wind down but rather give a resounding splurge of creativity! A crescendo! Could it be that there will be no farewell whimper but a resounding roar? Could you bring some spiritual muscle into the Episcopal Conference before you go? Might you leave us here in Ballyfermot, your home patch, with something new and fresh as part of your enduring legacy?

We hope you will not wind down but rather give a resounding splurge of creativity

Finally archbishop, forgive the impertinence of mentioning your successor, but given the continuous haemorrhage of the life blood of our church we must speak.

While we understand that you do not pick your successor, we believe your opinion will matter. It should. If you know of someone who has his tongue out for the job we implore you, please rule him out. Please archbishop, for our sake, trip him up. In God’s name, sabotage his application.

While we are not anti-intellectual, please do not leave us in the hands of a pastorally inept academic. We ask you, for us here in Ballyfermot, for the Dublin diocese and for the sake of the Irish church at this crucial juncture, do everything in your power to see that the next archbishop of Dublin is both prophet and shepherd.

We will continue to hold you in prayerful affection in our hearts and we remain yours, the faith community of St Matthew and the Roncalli community.

Fr Joe McDonald is parish priest of St Matthew’s in Ballyfermot and founder of Roncalli

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