Thursday, 11 January 2018

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater or the state of Irish Catholicism

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater or the state of Irish Catholicism

One of the things that made me feel at home when we moved to Ireland, was the local Catholic Church and the fact that many more people shared the same faith than the general English population. Fr Sean Coyle, a friend and Columban Missionary who served for many years in the Philippines mentions that a Filipino lady felt at home one Christmas in Ireland. Read more here. Surely that is one of the wonderful things about Catholicism.

We recently published my dad’s little memoir and we can read throughout the stories the depth of faith throughout the life of his and many older Catholics. Interestingly, it was the fact that my dad was the tenth living child in his family that inspired me to my own large family of ten. I also became attracted to the depth of faith and many pious practices such as the rosary and novenas etc. In terms of passing on to the next generation, I’m not so sure I have been successful, since I hear that my mother thought one of my daughters was saying a novena for her, but it was in fact, that she was doing “Davina”.

I digress. Back to Ireland.

Andrew and I noticed that many of the Masses were well attended, even on a weekday. There still seems to be a love for the Church by many. It is fair to say though that there is a palpable hurt amongst many of the population. There were many people in institutions that suffered terrible abuse.  The Church undeniably held and wielded too much power. Many who should have been Christ like were anything but and it is no surprise that some people have walked far away from any contact with the Church.

We are at an interesting time in the Catholic Church “politically” in that we have a Pope emeritus and a Pope. There was a lot of excitement in traditional quarters during Pope Benedict’s pontificate, when many got a bit carried away. I put myself in that category, in the sense of believing that a return to things such as the “old Mass” or EF as it is referred to by some today, would save the faith. Then along came Pope Francis who appears to have turned this on its head.

How does this have any relevance for Ireland? It seems clear that the dogmas of the Church will never change, nor its view on marriage, abortion etc.  It would be a shame today though for people to see the Catholic Church as a rule book, the breaking of which will land you in hell. This attitude in the past was unsuccessful and rather than promoting a love for the Church filled many with fear and loathing.

Ireland may now be “mission territory”. In the same way that she sent many good people around the world spreading the Gospel, maybe those who heard and responded to the Good news will return, bringing a humbler, purified, gentler faith to Ireland.

Ireland has become dechristianised to a large extent, leaving room for the growth of other faiths and none. Islam is the fastest growing presently.
It is a terrible shame if the enormous good done by many of the clergy and the nuns in many cases is unrecognised.

One thing for sure is that the days of “forcing” religion are long gone. It is usually the case that a person has a “spiritual experience” or becomes evangelised by a personal encounter. Often we meet “Jesus” for the first time through encounter with a person.


If the Church is declining or decaying then it’s because we as a people are. If we are not vibrant, joyful and holy but rather depressed, bitter, whining, groaning for an old, authoritarian, judgemental church, then no wonder our children have walked right out the door.

Copyright @ Jackie Parkes

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