Posted by: meditati0n509 | May 22, 2018

5 Years To Save The Irish Church


Last Saturday (May 19) I was privileged to attend a Conference entitled “5 Years to Save The Irish Church”. In fact, I was doubly blessed in that I had left it too late to book on line and was allowed in, a little later than the start, because  my name was on a waiting list; but mainly I was blesed because of the array of speakers who all feel passionately about the Church and about its future.  These included, Fr Brian D’Arcy, Fr Joe McDonald. Sr Stanislaus Kennedy. Former President Mary McAleese (the keynote speaker), and Benedictine monk form Glenstal abbey, Fr Mark Patrick Hedderman.   This conference, which took place in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, was sponsored by Columba Books.

Here are some of my thoughts on the Conference but since I have not yet listened to the recordings of the talks or read over all my notes, there is stilll much wisdom to be gleaned from the whole day.

Many of the speakers outlined in detail how the IRISH Church has got to this place of near demise.  Then their passion and hope for the future kicked in and they gave us many suggestions for how we might bring about a resurrection of Catholicism in today’s Ireland.

The suggestions ranged over a wide range of topics which included: –

  • Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Restoring Trust – for example “the institutional church was given a higher value than that of the life of an abused child.” (Fr. Brian D’Arcy)
  • A new spiritual revolution is needed. Broken trust requires a new relationship and not a patched-up version of the old relationship.  “we cannot always wait for permission before acting because people are already working out their own relationship with God.” (Fr. Brian D’Arcy)
  • Non-judgemental listening to the people by the hierarchy. “Healing only comes with hearing.” (Fr. Brian D’Arcy)
  • Embrace the Joy of the Gospel (Fr Brian D’Arcy on Pope Francis)
  • Starting to build small communities of men and women, (mainly lay people) dedicated to reform and renewal in the Irish Church.
  • Developing the prayer life of the church outside the sacramental and the devotional.
  • Confronting the problems with the sacraments, most especially holy communion and confirmation.
  • Acknowledging the role of the local priest in the faith community and his call to serve.
  • Reform of the clergy and of priestly formation
  • Reaching out to support the poor, the homeless, the lonely, and to people who have either left the Church or who have been hurt by the Church; and also  to our priests who themselves may be either unhappy or struggling in other ways.
  • We need to educate people to develop a healthy relationship with their own sexuality. Since all our relationships involve our being who we are, whether male or female. We are all a mixture, in any case, and so we need to be aware of and integrate the masculine and feminine principles in ourselves.
  • Good Liturgy.
  • Women’s ordination to the priesthood.
  • Ministry to our Youth.

Forming a New Community

I quote from “Why the Irish Church Deserves to Die” by Fr Joe McDonald (pp84-85): –

“I am hoping to form a new community dedicated to reform and renewal in the Irish church.  It would have a core membership of six-to-eight women and men: lay, religious and cleric. This community would live and pray together.  It would be a place of hospitality, with an element of parish or pastoral outreach. It would especially be a place of welcome for those hurt by the institutional church. . .

. . . Those who live in this new community would be characterised by simplicity, prayerfulness, gospel service and passion for Jesus.  They will be imbued with a love for the church while not being blind to its ailments.”

Small Groups Taking Action

Sr. Stan encourages small groups to get active in their parishes and if necessary to seek permission (or forgiveness) afterwards!  She says it is essential to reach out to the poor, the homeless and the underprivileged.  We need to recognise, she says, the sinful structures that exist internationally and within our own country and then challenge these.  She adds that Society has the responsibility to eradicate poverty.

Her vision is of ‘a network of Light’, of people living the values of joy, love and compassion and adds that this is the work pf the Holy Spirit. She asks: –

  • What do we want?
  • How are we going to achieve it? and
  • What can we put in place now?

Concerning the sacraments the consensus was that First Communions should be integrated within the Parish Masses and  should be requested by the parents once the child is ready, and that Confirmation preparation might be offered in Transition year so that our young adults can freely apply to be confirmed once they feel a desire to become committed to Jesus in their own lives and, also be actively involved in the life of the church.

The other issues concerning the sacraments are the availability of the Eucharist to people in second relationships and to people from other Christian churches.

Good Liturgy, the Sacraments and Sexuality

Again, quoting form Fr. Joe McDonald’s book: –

 “So what is good liturgy?  When we come away from liturgy we should be conscious that we have been in the presence of God. This will lead to change in us. This change is likely to be small and gradual. The change is also likely to be evident in how we treat each other. This is the Eucharist working in and through us.   Good liturgy should assist us in our conversion and provide us with soul food. This is the work of the Lord and it is good for us to remember that.” (ibid p72).

Concerning the priesthood, none of the theological reasons given are sufficiently valid reasons for not ordaining women as priests. Also, that celibacy might be a choice for priests and not compulsory.

“I believe when celibacy is not lived healthily it will lead to unhappiness, lack of freedom and a deadening of joy.  On the other hand, when celibacy is lived healthily, something I believe is not possible outside a rich prayer life, then it frees, empowers and fulfils. “(ibid p46).

About sexuality in general: – “It seems to me in much of our approach to the God-given gift of sexuality there is both a lack of understanding and a lack of respect for what is actually involved in living our sexuality in a healthy way.” (ibid p45)

If the new way of presenting the Sacraments is adopted, we will have a corps of engaged youth coming forward for confirmation and enriching the life of the church.  Concerning our Youth, Mark Patrick Hedderman says that each generation is a ‘new country’.  That the old structures and old ways will not work for today’s youth.  They will find their own structures and own ways.  That we need not worry about their finding God because God will find them!

About Baptism, since most baptisms are performed on us as uninformed babies we need to allow young adults the choice of whether to formally embrace the church or not.  At Baptism we are offered Salvation and when we accept Baptism we accept Salvation.  However, this contract is made by the parents on behalf of the child, but we need to honour the freedom of the individual to choose.  (Mary McAleese).

She says there is a clash between Canon Law and International Human Rights Law which gives freedom of expression in thought/opinion, conscience and religion. All people thus have a right to change their religion if they choose to do so.  Being Catholic must be a free choice.

Mark Patrick Hedderman also said that we need to uncouple the Irish church from the ‘carriages’ of Irish nationalism and Rome.

These are just some of my thoughts since last Satuday.  My hope is that veryone who attended the Conference will take home the Vision of Love and be motivated in thier own locale to take action.  These are challenging yet exciting times to be Catholic in Ireland and I trust the action of the Holy Spirit in us as we implement some of these ideas.





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