Irish Times series ‘Catholicism Now’ attracts mixed reviews
The Irish Times has a series on Catholicism Now, starting Sat. June 2 and ending June 8:
Sat: Healing a Broken Church
Mon: Role of the modern priest
Tues: How Catholic are you? Results of a survey.
Wed: Wealth & power of the church.
Thur: Movers and shakers in the church.
Fri: What will the Irish church be like in 20 years?
Saturday 2 June:
Kathy Sheridan wrote: “German newspapers dissect the Easter and Christmas homilies of bishops and priests anxious to have something relevant and intellectually interesting to say. … In Ireland, the reporting of homilies is mainly limited to any content on clerical child abuse.” Quality of homilies is one thing; just as relevant are the decisions the media make about what to report, and how. The Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church in Ireland has a wide range of documents and statements which receive little attention from reporters. On media reporting, see http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2012/05/media-reporting-of-abuse-affects-outcomes/.
Diarmuid Ferriter, writing on the 1932 Dublin Eucharistic Congress, starts with the healing aspect of the Congress in the wake of the Civil War. He ends by writing of Northern Ireland, and says, “The Congress seemed to indicate that the Free State was a Catholic State for a Catholic people”. In that context, it is surprising that he omits any mention of the extent to which Northern Ireland was a Protestant State for a Protestant people. In the 1930s, 93.5% of the Free State were Catholic, and yet the first president was Douglas Hyde, a Protestant; also Erskine Childers 1973-1974. No Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has been Catholic. No UK head of state has been Catholic since Queen Mary in 1558.
Monday 4 June:
Features Fr Shane Crombie, who says: “I wouldn’t be part of ACP.” No problem. Catholic is by definition a broad church. But later there’s an implication that ACP wants to change the teachings and dogmas of the church. As Brendan Hoban says, that’s not what ACP is about.
Tuesday 5 June:
Opinion Poll. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2012/0605/1224317296492.html?via=mr, and other articles in that issue.
Some interpretations of the poll results are open to question. To mention a few:
On a five-point test of what it means to be Catholic, Joe Humphreys wrote: “The textbooks will tell you that you are Catholic if … Your belief in the ‘Virgin Birth’ is coupled with a deep adoration for Mary as the mother of God.” I don’t know what textbooks Mr Humphreys consulted, but to hold this would put a person outside the Catholic faith. Adoration is reserved strictly for God. We venerate Mary and the saints on a quite different level.
On the question of the resurrection, he wrote: “the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has spoken of the necessity, from the Christian viewpoint, for the resurrection to be a fact. If the resurrection never happened and is rather just a beautiful imaginative creation that offers inspiration, or merely a nice way of saying the message of Jesus lives on then, he admits, Richard Dawkins is right and Christianity is a sham.” As if Rowan Williams were conceding a point, rather than stating what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19.
Kathy Sheridan wrote about transubstantiation: “– the belief that bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ during Mass – is a core tenet of the Catholic faith”. On this, Ms Sheridan wrote, “just a quarter of Irish Catholics believe what they recite in the Creed”. There is no mention of the Eucharist or transubstantiation in the Creed we recite.
The term “transubstantiation” itself is not obligatory. Trent just says “the catholic Church very fittingly calls it transubstantiation” (catholica Ecclesia aptissime transubstantionem appellat).
Noting that 50% don’t believe in hell, Ms Sheridan writes: “Penitential sites such as Croagh Patrick and Lough Derg remain almost unique to Ireland, yet some might ask, what is the point of them if everyone is going to heaven?” She seems to presume that it’s all about the hereafter, forgetting the importance of Christian living today.
Respondents were asked to choose between “Transforms into body and blood” and “Only represents body and blood”. This suggests there are only two possibilities. The “core tenet” is not that the body and blood of Jesus Christ are physically present as he was 2000 years ago – that would imply that receiving the Eucharist is cannibalism. On the other hand, to say that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is “merely symbolic” is minimal. Is a handshake or a hug “merely symbolic”? The “Real Presence” of a person can have many modes, and would need more space than available here. In what sense am I present to a person who is asleep? In what sense are people really present, who are crowded into a train, but ignoring one another? Are they really present when looking at photograph, or when conversing via computer with voice and live pictures?
It is likely many Catholics are vague about the Eucharist. For Corpus Christi and the start of the Eucharistic Congress, a homily on the Eucharist and Real Presence might be useful; including the other modes of liturgical Real Presence in the assembly and in the Word.
Carl O’Brien wrote: “most Catholics (59 per cent) said they are aware of the Eucharistic Congress, due to take place this week, but a very small minority (4 per cent) planned to attend.” The 2011 census gives the Catholic population as 3,861,335. 4% of that is 154,453 – nearly twice Croke Park. If the poll is representative of the population, that 4% is still significant.
Patsy McGarry wrote that the opinion poll “found 47 per cent of Irish Catholics had an unfavourable view of the church, while 46 per cent agreed Catholic teachings were of benefit to Irish society. Just 9 per cent of respondents to the poll said they believed Ireland would be a better place without the Catholic Church. Some 38 per cent said Ireland would be a worse place to live without the Catholic Church.” The 47% unfavourable is not shown in any of the poll results published, and seems contradicted by the 9%. Rather, answers to Q18 of the poll show that 38% say Ireland would be worse without the Catholic church, and 46% say it would make no difference either way. This gives a total of 84% who can not be said to have an unfavourable view.