Saturday, April 14, 2012

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.

It has also established that 87 per cent of Irish Catholics believe priests should be allowed marry, 77 per cent believe there should be women priests while 72 per cent believe older, married, men should be allowed become priests.

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.


  1. This is an excellent article. It would be good if the Irish church leaders would read this and take a lesson. The Church needs to change and the people want and need it.


    1. Mark, I just don't see any change at all coming under Pope Benedict, and I actually do give him credit for trying to change some things. He has expressed his ideas about protecting the earth's ecosphere and has truly been something of a green Pope. As for anything else, I think real global change in Catholic thinking was buried along with JPI.

  2. Colleen, I think that religions are myths, not that they are untrue. They may be true and false at the same time. I think what we see is a turn away from dogmatism by an informed populace. As we become more educated, particularly in science, we begin to see that the more we know, the more there is to know and we are indeed much smaller than any power that created the Universe. When Steven Hawkings was asked, where is the God in his science. He responded, "The Big Bang."

    There were days when I was taught in my religion classes of the wonders and mystery of the Church. That seems to have changed to the dogmatic beliefs of the Church that the "magisterium" wants us to teach our children. Most the kids as they become young adults are not buying it. We will find more faith and belief when we teach of the mystery, wonders and prophesy.

    Joseph Campbell when asked what of modern mythology and he answered that these types of truths are not part of dogmatic and unloving churches, and the myth that has replaced religion for many is "Star Wars." (and Star Trek) You see those are worlds where good and evil can be present in the same person at the same time. I think of Darth Vader's saving action to not let his son LUke Skywalker be killed by the Emperor. I think of the young frightened and confused Anakin Skywalker. The Chruch by becoming authoritarian and firmly believing that it has THE TRUTH and knows all that is good is fooling itself. The hierarchy with all there misbehavior in both the sexual and monitory crises of the day have lost respect. Yet they continue to not see that they are without clothing or any cover at all.

    It is tough bringing up children in a world so confusing that our religious leaders have lost all respect. This becomes the challenge of the challenge of the laity. Where will the new myths that we live by come from. Certainly not from authoritarian old ideas and leaders without any respect. The RCC is headed to be a small church of the Ghetto (Hans Kung). What about the Protestants? They, too, must search for the new mythic truths that we can live by and most are not doing it but have become part of Old Religious Doctrine that does not ring true in a Universe of un imaginable size.

    How about starting by respecting scientists and their findings and creating jobs from a new Third Industrial Revolution that will be built on an internet architecture of power grids and will give up all sources of nuclear and carbon energy. Read, " The Third Industrial Revolution" by Jeremy Rifkin.

    If we fail in creating new ideas, we will indeed kill the planet and there will be no need to discuss birth control, giving women equality or treating gays equally. dennis

  3. Dennis, I'll have a larger response to your comment tomorrow, but you are so right about the myths which fuel the imaginations and morality of today's people coming from Science Fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek, and also from fantasy series like Harry Potter and the Twilight stories.

    In all these books, the driving force is mystery and wonder and prophecy. The official Church has lost the capacity, (or has no desire) to put much effort into the mystery and wonder. It's gotten too defensive and absolutist. There is no mystery left when one already has all the Truth.

  4. The article featured in this blog post, though also aspects of the comments following it, are sure signs that neglect of proper catechesis in schools is a foundation cause of the difficulties, dissent, and confusion felt by so many laity (and some clergy) today.

    Thank God, the tide seems to be turning there..

  5. Invictus I don't understand this routine explanation for all the dissent that it's a lack of proper catechesis. I think that's a very facile cop out that misses a great deal of truth.

    In my own personal case it was not lack of proper catechesis. It was the more education I received the less the catechesis made any sense. This was especially true for all the psychology, theology, and biology I took. The axiom bad theology makes for bad psychology makes for screwed up people was proven time again in therapy sessions.

    1. It's sad, but I'm not surprised colkoch. There's been so much confused theology taught over the past century or so, and - sadly - a lot of it very well intentionedly, with good heart, goodwill.

      This is why it's not enough for embattled souls like me to bash people over the head with orthodoxy, with true doctrine; we need the full spectrum of responses, and - more than anything - that sort of response which I struggle so much with. A simple, loving, free-spirited expression of our true orthodox faith, so that not merely are its bones and superstructure made discernible to others, but so that the life-giving purpose of it is allowed to overflow wherever we go.

      Every well-intentioned liberal expressing erroneous or confused theology and crying out for flawed reforms is a missed opportunity for the development of a free, loving, faithful saint.

      This is why catechisis is important. Not because then "you" will agree with "me", but because through it we can stand all on the same rock, confident in our own souls, through the Church that Jesus bequeathed us.

    2. Here's a sort of secret I've been taught, when one relates through love and compassion, stops being judgmental, provides a safe environment, people will listen and people will change.

      But you can't change people by demanding conformance, by acting from power relationships, especially power relationships where holding the power of an office and pounding on a book of catechism or scripture is supposed authenticate everything one says regardless of what one actually does.

      That kind of thing doesn't fly anymore because the Church no longer has state power enforcing that kind of thing. In this age, leadership is going to have to walk it's talk--just like Jesus.

    3. By the way Invictus, I get a kick out of sparring with you. It reminds me of the battles my brothers and I would get in. They were very bright but very emotional conservatives and I was the flaming bleeding heart liberal. I always knew when I won because I had them sputtering in their beer and turning red. I also got the really crappy tractor the next day.

    4. If you love someone, you will point out a clifftop that they may not have seen. You will take time to teach them how to fill out their tax returns if they are struggling. You will help a child to tie their shoelaces and find the safe route from home to the shop and back.

      It's not about conformity, it's about health. You might notice that sick people are very diverse; some hobble on crutches, other have wheelchairs, some have the merest limp, some have lost their healthy complexion, others have lost their hair and eyebrows. You might notice that healthy people all walk upright and freely. Do they do this because they have a limiting sense of conformity? No, they do not. They do it because it is their nature, and because they are free and able to live that.

      The fullness of Christian love makes us free, it makes us healthy, it draws us together in our brilliant individualities, and in doing so it unites and brings us together into a coherent entity we call the Church.

      It's not about being non-judgemental, about 'respecting' other's vices and mistakes, it's definitely not about self-identifying at a "flaming bleeding heart liberal" against "conservatives", it's about inspiring people to go the full distance of their human capabilities. It's about Christ, not our politics.

    5. Well written Invictus. I agree completely that "The fullness of Christian love makes us free, it makes us healthy, it draws us together in our brilliant individualities, and in doing so it unites and brings us together into a coherent entity we call the Church"

      But it is also about being non judgmental and interacting with people where they are at, not where I might think they need to be. If I can develop an honest relationship they might just see that I have some thoughts worth reflecting on and who knows where they go from there. I leave that up to God.

      By the way, my brothers defined me as the 'flaming bleeding heart liberal'. I actually didn't think of them as conservatives. I thought of them as brainless rednecks...and yes, judgment was certainly intended on all our parts. :)

  6. I've found that 'proper' catechism is little more than exercises in logic with precious little in the way of starting axioms. You can follow the apology and the connect-the-dots and the logic diagrams all you want, but in the end the 'proper' religion all too easily reduces each person to fitting themselves as a cog in the human gear train. No joy, no mystery, no hope and no love. When the Church is presented as some totally authoritarian structure - as the hierarchy does - and my individual experience in life and in prayer runs counter to that catechism something has to give.

    This is why I apply the term 'spiritual' to me and not the term 'religious'. 'Religious' at best is going through the motions and the outer trappings. At its worst, 'religious' seeks to corrode the spiritual. 'Spiritual' is my efforts at developing in my life some sort of relationship to God and guiding my life by the light of that relationship. When I started to sense that the religious part as imposed by the hierarchy was trying to override my spirituality, that's when I had to make a choice. I don't think I am alone in this.

    1. "When I started to sense that the religious part as imposed by the hierarchy was trying to override my spirituality, that's when I had to make a choice."

      This is a very succinct and powerfully insightful line. You are far from alone in this choice.

      Spirituality is about the internal forum, and religion about the external forum. When the external conflicts with, or doesn't promote growth in the internal forum, one does have to make a choice.

    2. Veronica and Coleen,

      I very much agree. catechesis relies totally on deductive reasoning. I think that 12 years of studying the Baltimore catechism is more than enough for anyone. Those who look more into their religions should be ready for theology that goes far beyond catechesis. There is no room for observation and inductive reasoning in catechesis.

      Any person that is growing and developing needs to use both types of reasoning. Seems Invictus has no mind for observation. Deductive reasoning is what we see in typical RCC apologetic debates. It went completely out the window for those with good minds when Galileo used the Scientific method. The best philosophers always used observation and now only the better theologians use it. Yes canon law like civil law is full of only deductive reasoning, but they, of course, are man made instructions. This is the instruction that Opus Dei and people such as Invictus use. They seem to have to have little capacity to employ needed observation and inductive processes.

      The use of merely deductive reasoning is simply a defensive approach to the world. Established leaders who use it alone are fearful of loss of power and position. Their fear is very real because those who would follow the Way of Christ know that they must lovingly use observation and inductive reasoning to understand the myths of this world. It takes a spiritual person to wonder in the mystery of The Other.

    3. It does take a capacity to use inductive reasoning, or maybe living in the intuitive mind, to really connect with the mystery of The Other. And it's true one wonders in the mystery because one can't ever define it, parcel it down, or control it. That's why it's mystery. :)

    4. Part of how the catechesis fails is when it gets to the Mystery part, the Mystery is treated as 'Here there be Dragons' which we are simply not allowed to wonder at, let alone question. All too often I've seen this method employed: Shutting down the questions in a class when resorting to mere authority doesn't work. As in 'don't worry your fallible human head about that as it is beyond your comprehension'. 'Mystery' becomes a catch-all for anything the catechist just doesn't want to talk about. Now I'd be the first to admit I won't understand much of the Mystery of God until I am reunited with my Creator, if then. But the constant belittling of serious questions by the catechists is lazy on their part and corrosive to spirituality.

    5. T'Pel it's just not in the realm of usual mystery questions you get the 'here be dragons' but also in the mystical part. The whole concept of devils attacking mystics for being mystical is an interesting development given that Jesus was recorded to have been tempted by Satan. But this was recorded in the Jewish concept of Satan which is the 'adversary'. The adversary is an important concept because the adversary takes on the aspect of ego gratification. The way the Church has traditionally developed this concept the devil is not an adversary but an active attacker. There for they mystical side of things really does have a patina of 'here be dragons'. I've often wondered where the Church would be now if it hadn't conditioned people to be afraid of mysticism and it's 'attackers'.

    6. Catechesis doesn't "fail", and it's not "too logical".

      You just got bad catachesis, like so many Catholics educated in the 20th century.

      It is tragic, but the tide seems to be turning, so hopefully those currently joining the Church will be less vulnerable to confusion.

    7. Catechesis can certainly fail. Ask any American Catholic who had the Baltimore Catechism inflicted on them.

    8. I've never heard of it, being - as I am - foreign.

      But that catechesis 'can' fail is obvious here, one only needs to read the blog and its comments to see that.

      What posters here were saying is that "catechesis fails". This is clearly not true.