|I think in our time, many are turning their back on Jesus self proclaimed churches precisely in order to follow Him.|
The Irish clerical group, Association of Catholic Priests, commissioned a study on the attitudes of Irish Catholics to a slew of Catholic teachings and recent hierarchical changes. None of the results are particularly surprising, but they certainly draw a concise picture of a laity out of sync with both current Catholic teaching and it's hierarchy. The following article is taken from the Irish Times.
Church teachings around sexuality 'irrelevant to 75%'
PATSY MCGARRY - Irish Times - 4/12/2012
The Church's teachings on sexuality have “no relevance” to 75 per cent of Irish Catholics or their families, a new survey has found.
The Amárach survey also found weekly Mass attendance in Ireland, at 35 per cent, is one of the highest in Europe.
Commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), the Contemporary Catholic Perspectives survey was carried out among 1,000 Catholics throughout the island of Ireland over a two-week period in February.
Where the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was concerned, 46 per cent “disagree strongly”, while five per cent “agree strongly”. It found 61 per cent disagree with the Church on the issue while 18 per cent consider homosexuality immoral.
Where divorced and/or separated people in a second stable relationship are concerned, 87 per cent believe they should be allowed to take communion. Just five per cent say they should not.
Five times as many Irish Catholics believe the Church is subservient to Rome compared to those who believe it is independent, with more than one in four (or 28 per cent) believing it to be "completely subservient".
A small majority (55 per cent) believe that Bishops should serve for a fixed term while the remainder are divided between those who believe a bishop should serve until age 75, or for as long as the bishop likes.
Forty five per cent of priests and 63 per cent of lay people believe there should be more involvement of laity and priests in choosing a bishop. Just five per cent of lay people and 10 per cent of priests believe there should be less involvement.
A clear majority agree with the Church speaking out on issues while four out of five believe it should do so on social issues.
Clustering of parishes as a way of dealing with a shortage of priests is favoured by 60 per cent of those surveyed.
Where wording in the new missal is concerned half of those who are aware of it prefer the older wording, while 33 per cent find the new Missal more difficult to understand.
On the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, 56 per cent of respondents believe there is a value in it being held in Ireland. However, just one in 10 believe lay people in their parish were involved in preparations for the Congress.
Fr Sean McDonagh, of the ACP leadership team, said the findings showed the number of people attending Mass in Ireland was “higher than in most European countries.”
He said “recent remarks by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on the CBS 60 Minutes porgramme that only two per cent attend Mass in some parishes, if taken out of context, might lead people to believe that Mass attendance in Ireland has completely collapsed. The survey shows that this is not the case.”
Fr Bobby Gilmore said the survey showed Irish Catholics wanted “compassion and tolerance rather than the defence of absolute positions”.
He said they wanted local input rather than central control, “a people’s Church rather than a clerical Church”.
Fr Gilmore added that “finding out where we are is always a first step in finding where we want to go”.
The survey findings are expected to be discussed at the ACP-sponsored conference Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church which takes place on May 7th at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.
In an article in the Irish Independent, columnist David Quinn asks a couple of pertinent questions. First, does this survey suggest the Church should change some of it's teachings, or does this suggest the Church has done a lousy job of justifying certain teachings? The second question is probably much harder for progressives to answer, and that is if whether these changes will actually have any impact on the exodus out of the pews. Quinn cites all the protestant churches who have made these changes but who have not seen an influx into pews or really stopped the bleeding. This leads to a third question: are institutional religions past their sell date except for perhaps a quarter of western people. Is it no longer possible to make cosmetic changes and hold the interest of contemporary laity?
I think Fr. Bobby Gilmore who stated Irish Catholics wanted "compassion and tolerance rather than the defence of absolute positions" and that they wanted "a people's Church rather than a clerical Church", is on to some truth. It's a truth well beyond any cosmetic changes to the static priesthood or the reworking of specific absolutist teachings. This is a truth that contains with in it a different world view of man, of God, of religion and the spiritual truths religions contain. It's about mankind evolving and changing and with that, a change in world view about themselves and their world and the kind of God that new world view implies.
A little compassion and tolerance and a lot less clericalism might provide the exact kind of atmosphere to seriously address the future of Catholicism. The last two papacies have decided that the future of Catholicism lies in adhering to the current clerical system and defending 'absolute' truths as determined by that clerical system. The Irish survey corresponds with such surveys in most Western cultures. This kind of religious authority and absolutism appeals to approximately 1/4th of the current population, and far less of the younger component. The progressive denominations aren't faring much better, which leaves a little over 50% of the west unchurched and many of those describing themselves as spiritual but not religious.
That population is intriguing to me and I would be very interested in knowing why they consider themselves spiritual and at the same time not interested in religion. Religious denominations of all stripes might find some useful information from dialogue with this group of people because they would find many of their own former adherents in this group. They might not like the answers, but never the less, the information would be priceless.