16Nov The Church in Dublin: where will it be in ten years?

http://www.dublindiocese.ie/the-church-in-dublin-in-10-years-time/

 

Patrick Finn Lecture Series

THE CHURCH IN DUBLIN: WHERE WILL IT BE IN TEN YEARS TIME

 

Speaking notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin

Archbishop of Dublin

Saint Mary’s Haddington Road, 16th November 2017

 

Where will the Church in Dublin be in ten years time?  The first thing that I must say is that I am neither a fortune-teller nor an inspired prophet and my reflections will therefore have a substantial margin of error risk.   The only absolutely secure thing I can say about the Church in Dublin in 2027 is that it will have a different Archbishop.  I will reach the retirement age of seventy-five in a little over two years time.

What do the statistics tell us?  Let me say from the outset that I have consistently stressed two aspects of the current situation.  I have collected and collated statistics over the years and published them without any attempt at window dressing.  The figures vary.  There are parishes with two percent Mass attendance.  There are others with twenty or thirty percent.  They vary.  But I have also consistently said that there are parishes in the diocese which are today more vibrant than at any time in their history.

Numbers alone do not tell the whole story.  I celebrated Mass on Saturday last to remember fifteen priests who had died in the past year, while on Tuesday last I ordained two new priests for the diocese of Dublin.  Some will immediately cry “crisis”: fifteen dead and only two new priests.  Certainly, we need new priests, but what is important is the quality of faith in people hearts and the level of witness that priests give.  This will involve new forms of priestly presence within faith communities in the changing future of Ireland.

Again, I have consistently said that if there is any category of people in Ireland that would consistently be among the most trusted in Irish society it would be “our priest”.  People not only respect but also have a very high affection for their local priests, but less enthusiasm and affection for the institutional aspects of the Church.  This is the view of priests themselves and it applies to Irish society in general.

There is a very high level of respect for figures like Brother Kevin, Father McVerry and Sister Stan. I have an impression that their status comes not just from the work they do, but also from the fact that they are Church figures who reflect something that people would expect or hope for from the Church to which they belong.

Where will the Catholic Church be in 2027?  I would like to reflect on where it will be in numbers, how it can be a more effectively witness, and what will its place be in Irish society?

Numbers are important but must be interpreted. Demography is a mathematical science, but it is a mathematical science about people’s choices.  Its results must be tested and verified.  Some years ago, the diocesan Council of Priests sponsored a survey by an independent firm of actuaries, based on current statistical information, that looked at numbers of priests and at indications about the size of future congregations as we move towards the year 2030.

The members of the Priests Council in Dublin accepted the findings “as a strong indicator of where we seem to be heading although the Council does not, however, see the projections as a fait accompli.”

What were the findings?  The best-case scenario predicted a decline in priest numbers of 61 percent, from 369 priests down to 144 in 2030, provided religious orders maintain their current level of commitment in parishes in the diocese

However, if religious orders were to relinquish the parishes they currently serve, due to the age profile of their own priests, the drop by 2030 would be 70 percent leaving just 111 priests carrying out parish ministry across Dublin’s 199 parishes.   57 percent of the current priests serving in Dublin are over 60 years of age and this is projected to increase to 75 percent by 2030 and the findings predict that just one new priest under the age of 40 will join the priesthood in Dublin every year up to 2030.   Other research findings include a predicted drop in Mass attendances by 33 percent by 2030.  Mass attendance is sadly lowest in poorer parishes and strongest in middle class parishes.

It should be noted that even among the younger adults who do not participate regularly at Mass, there are many who are still interested in initiating their young people into the church through baptism, confirmation and First Communion.  Many priests and laypeople are looking for ways to build on this, responding to pastoral opportunities as they arise, supporting parents in taking their responsibilities personally, and seeking to ensure there is a welcome when people return.

The then Chair of the Council of Priests summed up his reaction to the survey.  He stressed that the follow up reflection should be  focused on “how we as a faith community in the Diocese can work together to revitalise local Church communities, reawakening parishioners to the gift and call of baptism, reflecting on what it means to be ‘intentional disciples’ of Jesus, and developing within the community again the desire for priestly vocations”. This is a programme for real participation of entire faith communities in the mission of the Church tomorrow.

If things keep going as they are, one cannot reject the conclusions of the survey.  But if demography is a science which reflects people choices, the future will not be about lamenting the negative, or feeling that all is not so bad, but will inevitably be looking at ways in which people choices will be influenced and changed.  How do we reach out in a new way to people where they are and create a desire among them to deepen their understanding of Christian message?  What will the parish of the future look like if it is to realise that task?

People choices are determined by negative and positive impressions.  What are the factors that alienate people from the Church structures of today?  Probably the most significant negative factor that influences attitudes to the Church in today’s Ireland is the place of women in the Church.  Next would be the ongoing effect of the scandals of child sexual abuse.  I feel that there are some who feel that the scandal has been addressed and should no longer be talked about.  In effect number of accusations have significantly dropped.  But the disillusionment continues and it is deep. I believe in particular that people have underestimated the effect of the scandals on young people.  Young people have not been prolific in writing letters to the papers about the scandals but their disgust at what happened is deep-rooted.

The response of a parish will involve a different form of ministry.  I have called it “Working Together for Mission”.   It involves integrating the respective roles of priests, deacons, religious, full time lay ministries and the establishment of communities that involve wider activity of all.  By all, I also include young people.  This is perhaps the most challenging aspect.  A survey of young people’s attitude to parish was carried out in the Dublin diocese as part of the preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis.  The report was one of the most disappointing documents that I read since becoming Archbishop.  Young people felt unwelcome in parishes. I quote, without any comment and leave judgement to yourselves:  “A number of young people noted that it was people in parishes (priests and parishioners) who were the greatest obstacles for young people getting involved”.

This reflects on our system of faith education which is overly school-centred and which does not bring young people into better communication with the parish. If young people have no bond with a believing faith community then their faith will be weaker.

Ministry must be integrated and our understanding of discipleship must be an integrated one, where theology and prayer, witness and care of the poor belong together and can influence the world around us and make society more loving.

Our faith must influence the society around us.  But that influence on society will be sterile without faith.  Archbishop Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in a recent article: “we should not be surprised if we become hazy about our doctrine… when we are less clear about our priorities as a community, or if we become less passionate about service, forgiveness and peace when we have stopped thinking clearly about God”.    Working for community and justice and deepening our faith in God belong together.  Where one is missing, an integrated faith is missing.

Faith involves a different way of living within any culture.  What is involved is not a negative reaction or simple rejection of a changing world.  What is involved is forming a believing community that sees beyond superficial confines and recognizes God’s presence and purpose in all persons and things.

The Christian life is not easy.  The Christian life is not about blindly following a pre-established rulebook or imposing rules on others. In the past the Church and the Irish Church in   particular was a highly moralizing Church.  Jesus did not write an arid rulebook as an inspiration for his followers.  Jesus did not think that belief in him could be attained through imposition. Faith in Jesus is no ideology.  It is about a faith which enables each individual to attain gospel wisdom, a  freedom to renounce prosperity and security for ourselves in order to live for others as Jesus did and then finding joy and fulfilment in living the Gospel.

The Church’s teaching on human sexuality, for example, must not be the imposition of rules but a process of discernment and reflection on the teaching of Christ that enables people to fathom in its depth the call of Jesus Christ to discipleship and put it into practice.  Too often in the past, we were presented first with the rulebook and only later – if ever – with the challenging message of Jesus.

Let me come to my second question:  how will the Church more effectively witness to Jesus in the years to come?   Faith cannot be imposed.  Faith cannot be measured simply by the criteria of surveys.  Faith is not just intellectual ability to parse the details of the Church’s teaching.   The story, for example, of Matt Talbot, is striking in that not only did his simple faith enable him to see beyond the attitudes of his drinker friends, but led him to develop a deep mysticism and communion with God.

Ministry in the Church in the years to come will have much less to do with management and structures.  It will be about men and women who have the ability to speak the language of faith authentically in a world where that language may be alien and to speak in a way that attracts.  I must add that this applies in a special way to Bishops in the manner in which they lead a faith community and in the way that they engage with wider society.

Speaking the language of faith in a world where that language is alien is a challenge.  A language that has no sense of faith can only inadequately analyse the realities of faith.  The Christian has to learn the special art of Jesus who could speak the truth clearly in the face of opposition and intolerance, but who never resorts in reply to belligerence or intolerance.,

I find it interesting to go back to the opening of the Second Vatican Council, back in 1962, and re-read the homily of Pope John XXIII on that occasion.   They are words that could easily be penned by Pope Francis today. Pope John stressed that: “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another”

Pope John never denied that there were errors in doctrine within the Church nor did he deny that clashes with certain elements of modern culture could indeed lead to confusion about doctrine.  The approach of the Council, however, Pope John proclaimed, should not be one just of condemnation and correction. “Nowadays the spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity”.

My third question should be the place of the Irish Church into the culture of Ireland in 2027.  Irish culture is changing and Irish religious culture is changing.  Looking at the recent Census, the fastest growing cohort in the Irish population today is people who claim to have “no religion”. They are also among our youngest.  Their number, including atheists and agnostics, increased by more than 70 per cent per cent between 2011 and 2016, and now number 481,388. They are now the second largest category in the State, at 10.1 per cent of the population, with an average age of 34, or 3.4 years younger than the average for our population overall.   That age group accounts for 28 per cent of the general population, but 45 per cent of those with no religion fall into this age bracket.  It is also the age group with which the Church has the weakest links.

I was struck at the fact that there are more members of the current cabinet under forty-five than there are of priests of that age in the diocese.  The same applies to leadership cadres in many other sector of society.  The challenge is not just about numbers but also about a generational separation. It is about a separation in which leadership in the formation of many aspects of our culture belongs to one generation and leadership and the mainstream membership of the Church belongs to another.  How do you bridge that gap?

Firstly, let me say that I am happy that there is a generational change in Ireland.  It is a sign of vitality and commitment.  I am happy to see a new generation of young politicians who are inspired by a politics of changing Irish society for the good rather than just fixing problems.

Now immediately people will say that the Archbishop of Dublin says he is happy to see politicians who support same sex unions or wider access to abortion.  Let me be very clear.  The Church will never change its teaching on marriage and on the right to life. The Church will never compromise in its teaching on marriage and the right to life. It is not a matter of simple acceptance of contemporary culture.  The Church will always live, to use again the words Archbishop Rowan Williams “at an angle to the mainstream”.

That may mean that being a Christian involves being open to hostility and even to martyrdom as happens in parts of today’s world.  But the fate of the Christian is more likely to be that of marginalization rather than martyrdom.  Marginalization should not lead however to flight from reality into a comfort zone and to the felt safety of the likeminded.  The message of Jesus Christ is relevant in today’s society even in those societies where people are less and less attracted to the demanding teaching of Christ.

One of the problems is that the more Irish society loses its direct rootedness in Christianity, the more the space in which public debate takes place is one where it is increasingly alien to understanding and recognizing religious language.

The answer is not in giving in but in reinforcing the place of faith in our own lives and in living a faith which has a real sense of reaching out and having an impact in society. It is not enough to analyse how the place of God has been reduced in Irish society.  We need to stress how we can restore the place of God.  Even in the face of hostility and misunderstanding, we ought also to remember those words of Pope John XXIII that we should resort to “the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity”

That said, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that there is a form of pluralism that is selective and finds itself unable to accept the differences and the legitimate and deeply held views of believers in matters of public morality.  Pluralism is not mono-culturalism.   Pluralism is about fostering active citizenship open to all.

One friend said to me recently that we are moving in Ireland from an unhealthy situation in which the Church dominated social policy, not just into one where religious values are relegated entirely to the private sphere, but into one in which publicly presenting oneself with a religious conviction is like wearing a fur coat, something almost objectionable.

In all of this, I am still an optimist.  Pope Francis has set out an example.  It is an example which inspires some and which upsets others and leaves them insecure.   Curiously, the inspired can be among non-believers and the upset even among Cardinals.

Pope Francis is above all a free man, who can live in a world where faith is marginal and yet manages to touch hearts and challenge them to reflect on and discern those fundamental values that change hearts.  Pope Francis is not someone who is out to change the teaching of the Church.  What he does is to find ways in which he can win hearts for what the Church’s teaching involves, not through imposing and judging, but through winning and attracting.

There are those in the Church who fail to understand such a vision.  There are those in secular society who absolutize individual comments of the Pope and there are those within the Church who feel that unless he daily reaffirms in every detail of all the teaching of the Church that he is somehow rejecting that teaching.

Why am I still optimistic?  Irish society is still permeated with elements of faith.  Residual faith, however, is probably more fragile in an indifferent world than in a world of hostility.   There are deeper elements of goodness and idealism and generosity among young people but despite years of Catholic education, they do not seem to have been truly touched by the knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ.   I am optimistic also when I reflect on the lives and ministry of those fifteen priests who died over the past year and of the genuine enthusiasm and joy of the two new priests that I ordained.    Numbers may be disproportionate, but there is a continuity of goodness and priestly prayerfulness that remind us that the Lord provides.  I am optimistic also as I watch the active faith life of parishes such as your and as we remember the untiring and infectious priestly enthusiasm of Monsignor Patrick Finn whom we honour here this evening.

 

11 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    I’ve just been talking to a young Shinto priest, who is off to their seminary to give an address to the students there, in a sort of think-in where they’ll share their feelings freely. He said he’ll be very busy in the New Year period when the Shinto shrines spring into full active mode. It sounds like a happy, well-functioning religion, which has held its ground for 2000 years or more. What gives it this staying power is its attunement to the creative dynamism of Nature and its sense of the presence of divinity (kami). Irish Catholicism could be a happy and flourishing religion again if it renewed contact with its best traditions.

  2. Roy Donovan

    Archbishop Diarmaid Martin states that the low standing of women in the Church is the greatest cause of alienation and he also puts out the reality that priests are quickly dying off and those left are getting older and not being replaced. It is sad that the sole solution given to us by the Bishops is the male diaconate or to bring in priests from abroad.

    It is beyond comprehension that men at the top table can’t find other solutions; can’t say ‘we would love with women to go forward together’. Why men wouldn’t want to share this with others is beyond comprehension. Why are men not willing to share the priesthood? Men who have been reared and educated by women, inspired by sisters and nieces why would we not want to share the joy of the priesthood? Why do men believe women are not worthy of this?
    Miriam Duignan, recently, states in Conscience Magazine, that we have to “dismantle the toxic teaching that God cannot work through a female body, and that there­fore women cannot say Mass, preach the Gospel, give last rites to the sick or administer any other sacraments”.

    We look around us. The people have no priests. We have spent 6/7 more years preparing and many more years is this ministry. We know the joy it brings. Why not allow women to share the great joy the priesthood brings, accompany each other and go forward together?

    Whether we like it or not, in regard to issues effecting women and men we have chosen, as a Church to exclude ex-priests, gay people and divorced couples. We are saying the same thing to women. ‘You don’t fit the acceptable criteria’. We are like children sitting with fingers in our ears – ‘nay, nay’ so that we don’t have to be impacted by the realities confronting us!

    Our reality is that there are few priests to continue this Church that has been started by Jesus. This is a priesthood we proclaim to love so deeply. When you love something, you want to share it as in 1 Corinthians 13 – love is…. Or have we lost our ability to love? Or is it we don’t experience love, feel love and experience love as sharing? Have we closed our hearts and minds? Is that why we can’t include divorced, ex-priests, gay people or women?

    One could compare the Church’s present stance of refusing women at the top table to that of a famine. The grain-stores are full of food but locked away behind ‘guarded’ doors while the people outside starve. We have the solutions. The grain is there but the people are not fed. What I mean is that we are starving people of the richness and nourishment that women can bring. We prefer an exclusive priesthood which is dying out, for lack of numbers. Women will not harm the Church and yet we are unwilling to let them in.

    I have not intended my statement to be argumentative, like ‘a gong booming or a symbol of clashing symbols’ (1 Corinthians 13) but rather of genuine concern out of love for the Church. We need to go forward in the Church, with women at the top table. This is something I fundamentally and whole heartedly believe. In Baptism, we are all equal, not distinguished by our sexuality, gender or by our mistakes. In the Gospel, as Pope Francis tells us repeatedly, Christ showed great compassion and mercy.
    As a Church, we have constantly broke with the Gospel of Christ, by our exclusion of women, ex-priests, gay people and divorced couples.

    (I take a little encouragement from the GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA WILL REINSTATE ORDER OF WOMEN DEACONS (26TH OCT 2017, THE TABLET)

  3. Kevin Walters

    “There are deeper elements of goodness and idealism and generosity among young people but despite years of Catholic education, they do not seem to have been truly touched by the knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ”….

    Idealism – the act or practice of envisioning; is natural in youth. “Why have they not been truly touched by the knowledge of Jesus Christ” It could be said that they have, as many recognize the ‘Truth’ of the living reality of the hypocrisy within the institutional church.

    “Young people have not been prolific in writing letters to the papers about the scandals but their disgust at what happened is deep-rooted”…

    Only in an act of true humility can credibility restored, the Church has been given the means to do this by God, but that involves holding the bright lamp of Truth, above the leadership of the Church, apparently they will not buy into the adage “Goodness has its own reward”

    I am old now but my heart is still young I envision a church where truth emanates from its leadership, in humility before God, anything less represent a smudge on the face of Jesus Christ. We all flawed, we do not love perfectly, but we can ‘all’ in equality serve the Truth, even if we have only ‘one talent’ but this requires humility, the open acceptance of oneself before God’s Sanctifying Grace.

    Can the leadership of the church confront the reality of itself before mankind, as it is not enough to say ‘we are all sinners’ or ‘I am a sinner’ and then continue on our merry/dry/chaff ‘Way’. This is an easy/evil option, as the action of the Truth holds a lamp over the reality of any improper situation and then separates the wheat from the chaff and as it does so, it enlivens/moistens the heart of the faithful (wheat).

    Mercy that does not incorporate transparent Humility before our Fathers Inviolate Will is not His spiritual mercy. As faith (Justified by faith)professed without the serving/action of the Truth is worthless (chaff) as it delivers a grace/light not from God but one that dries out the heart in self-satisfaction/complacence.

    The serving of the Truth will attract young and old hearts as those who ‘hear’ His voice of Truth will be attracted to Him.

    “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”

    Can the leadership of the church serve the Truth and embrace God’s Sanctifying Grace and then be led along the ‘Way’ in humility by The Holy Spirit and in doing so teach (Walk) His ‘Way’ and while doing so, give glory to our Father before mankind.

    If not what evil force is stopping them from doing this?

    This is a fundamental question and it needs to be answered, because it confronts the reality of intent within the hearts of the leadership of the Church; it is fair to say the church is in free-fall.

    We the laity and especially the young need to be led by example and this can only be done by seeing those who serve giving a full (Honest) account to those they serve. We need to see our Shepherds holding the bright lamp of Truth high giving hope to all of mankind in seeing the Truth of the gospels actually working.

    With so many on-going serious life threatening scenarios taking place now within the world it is fair to say we are in an ‘almost’ unstoppable end time situation. I say ‘almost’ because

    “Hope spring’s eternal”

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  4. Colm Holmes

    Diarmuid Martin acknowledges that the most significant negative factor towards the Church is the position of women, which is less than 3rd class. And he also sees the need for new forms of priestly presence within faith communities in the changing future of Ireland. So the opening up of all ministries to women is the obvious solution.

    But sadly our archbishop seems to have run out of energy to lead. He has less than 2 years to go to retirement. The WMoF in 2018 if the main focus. At the Ad Limina meeting with Pope Francis earlier this year the Irish bishops did not put forward a suggestion for married priests, though Pope Francis has time and again called for brave suggestions from his bishops – which other bishops conferences have taken up.

    Change is not easy. Archbishop Desmond Connell announced in 2001 that a Synod would be held – but it never happened. Would Diarmuid Martin call a synod with full involvement of all the people of God? Surely that would be a positive response to Pope Francis who is 80 years old?

  5. Mary Vallely

    Roy Donovan @2 if you are the same Fr Roy Donovan then God love you for your courage and your honesty! That is a brave statement and one with which many a priest will nod his head in agreement to but sadly, will lack the courage to say so publicly. Yes, when we love something we want to share it and that, ‘ have we lost our ability to love?’ is a profound and challenging question – a real thump in the solar plexus.
    AB Diarmuid Martin states that people ‘do not seem to have been truly touched by the knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ.’ He can spout words of wisdom and truth at times but I do wonder what he is actually going to DO about this. Maybe he and his episcopal confrères could examine their own behaviour and attitudes and ask themselves what they are doing themselves to prove that they are following the person of Jesus Christ. LISTEN to the people and priests for a start without trotting out rehearsed, safe statements or platitudes which mean nothing.
    I pray, Roy, that you will feel the love and support needed to help you continue to be the prophet that you show yourself to be. It is surely time for some of those 1000 priestly supporters of the ACP to show some of the same courage and to back you up.
    I totally agree with you that the exclusion of the most marginalised groups, women, gay people, priests who left to get married and the divorced is not in keeping with the compassionate loving nature of Jesus. Roy, I admire and respect your bravery. Rath Dé ort.

  6. Paddy Ferry

    I absolutely agree with Mary in her admiration for Roy’s honesty and courage. I have shared this discussion with many friends and like-minded acquaintances tonight mainly to direct them to Roy’s comment as I believe our attitude to women is the ultimate issue which discredits our Church.

    And, Kevin, well said;
    “Only in an act of true humility can credibility be restored,…”
    This is why I so object to those who try and defend the indefensible.

  7. Phil Greene

    “Young people felt unwelcome in parishes. I quote, without any comment and leave judgement to yourselves: “A number of young people noted that it was people in parishes (priests and parishioners) who were the greatest obstacles for young people getting involved”.
    “But I have also consistently said that there are parishes in the diocese which are today more vibrant than at any time in their history.”

    AB Martin no doubt speaks the truth , the facts are there for all of us. What strikes me is that we are being told what we should do, he is showing support for Pope Francis ..it is all talk and it is repetition and indeed it is telling us some truths that the lay population have been telling the clergy for a long time… patronising!

    Where is the help in all this..where is change management coming from … it must come from the top and be cascaded as needed.. it is truly an art to help people embrace change.. some people would not even know that they are ignoring the young people , they might see it that young people think they are irrelevant …priests might need to network more to ensure that they can use each others strengths to bring about real change.. vibrant parishes that are seeing an increase in the faith community , through authentic faith hopefully, could be observed and standard practises introduced to parishes.. but it must be led by the hierarchy as we know.. we can talk all we like here and suggest solutions but if the only feedback laypeople (and clergy?) can expect is a one-way communication via a homily then really why should we listen…

    Totally agree with all very relevant points and issues raised above in your comments. Feeling the frustration too as i think he is a good man who wants to do right by the church.

  8. Soline Humbert

    Like Mary @5 and Paddy @6 I am grateful to Roy@2 for his generous and courageous public support for women’s ordination.I have,however,a small reservation concerning the use of the metaphor “top table”.Personally I believe that there is only one table around which God gathers us.We serve each others at this one table according to our gifts and callings.

  9. Ned Quinn

    Who could not be moved by Roy’s heartfelt comments.

    Some time ago, Tony Flannery asked the members of the ACP if they would be willing to publicly support the ordination of women. Only twelve responded. Is it time to ask the question again.
    Tempus fugit!

  10. Con Devree

    Not having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, having no competence in pastoral matters, not knowing what it is to be a priest, any effort at my giving advice to priests or bishops on pastoral matters would be akin to my advising blind bats on navigation. (No, priests and bishops are not blind bats).

    One is also mindful of G.K.Chesterton’s answer to the question “What is wrong with the world?” His reply was “I am.” This applies also to the Church. The individual branches impact on the tree. Hence the Archbishop’s reference to Matt Talbot.

    The Archbishop wisely focusses on desired behaviours of Catholics necessary for creating the Irish Catholicism of 2027. He speaks of “reawakening parishioners to the gift and call of baptism,” deepening the desire for priestly vocations,” “deepening our faith in God,” “attaining “gospel wisdom.” Where do these come from?

    Can one assume that everything good will be done either by God or people if the necessary “ministries” among laity and priests are created and, as the Archbishop hopes, integrated, perhaps in 10-year-type plans in vogue elsewhere.

    And what concept of the human person should inform the activities of the actors? Should the concept be in line with the Thomist concept that held that the natural end of the person’s intellect is truth? In turn, the natural end of the person’s will is the choice of those actions that bring one into conformity with the truth. The highest end of personal intellect is knowledge of God. Therefore, the highest end of free will is the choice of those behaviours that make possible the attainment of knowledge of God.

    Or is the concept one of regarding some people as incapable of such behaviours; that they can invoke in advance a claim of inculpability for grave sin by virtue of a supposed inability to do what God asks them to do.

    Does God really need a Church or priests or the sacraments to convey His will to the people, even to the extent of criticizing or guiding secular authority either by comment or by the influence of lay Catholics? At present many baptized Catholics go along with powerful secular forces in the culture to pass legislation contrary to Church teaching. Recent history shows that each instance of such legislation fosters an environment that strengthens the ability of these secular forces to discredit the Church and remove her as a cultural factor.

    This trend will have progressed further by 2027, continuing with the removal of the Eight Amendment. Things will move fast in the culture. The cultivation of the behaviours desired by the Archbishop are grounded in the Holy Mass as sacrifice, rather than in banalised liturgies amounting to simple gatherings at fraternal meals.
    The Archbishop anticipates a Catholic community in Ireland in 2027. The geographical shape is indeterminate. His attitude regarding the then of 2027, of the intervening period, and that of the now, despite possible increasing marginalisation, seems to be that of Psalm 95:

    Come, ring out our joy to the Lord;
    hail the rock who saves us.
    Let us come before him, giving thanks,
    with songs let us hail the Lord.
    A mighty God is the Lord,

  11. Darlene Starrs

    A few days ago, I was reflecting on the state of the Church…yes, once again, well before I read this article. I had decided that the Deposit of Faith has become the Pearl of Great Price!

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