The zealous and impressive Mr. Voris of RealCatholicTV is in Ireland these days and he had this video on YouTube:
Working in a secondary school I was not surprised except by the number who actually admitted to going to Mass. What was surprising were the reactions on the net. People referred to Ireland's faithful past and missionary efforts, to her contribution to the Church. We Irish tend to forget that. Still there seemed more than a little romanticism about Ireland. Ireland has no Leprechauns. It is a modern country embedded in Western Civilization with all the problems that go along with that.
There are two major temptations that face Irish Catholics trying to live their faith and contribute to our society. First there is the temptation to embrace all that the secular world proposes as good, to abandon or modify our faith and our tradition so as to fit in and not stand out. The second is to retreat into an idealized past where we all believed the same and the country was full of 'saints and scholars' (a complement paid to the nation as it was over 1000 years ago). There are real dangers to us: the pressure to legalize abortion, gay marriage and adoptions, the decline of the Liturgy and the widening gap between the spirituality (or 'spiritualities') of the average Christian and their experience, knowledge and understanding of the teaching of the Church.
Someone asked me on Fr. Z's comment's box what I thought role moralism played in modern Ireland. I don't know. Moralism, I think, is the reduction of faith to action and of action to the following and implementation of rules. When one's worldview is of 'rules' to be implemented, balanced and 'dodged' at times and one believes these to be of Divine origin it is world shaking to have that dismantled practically over night. For Centuries the Church seemed to tell the people 'these are the rules - follow them and you'll be alright'. Then after Vatican II they simply seemed to dump the whole lot. That's the impression the people (and much of the Clergy) got. "All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born." (Yeats, Easter 1916) and indeed it was presented as revolutionary to and by some even as the majority were told that nothing had really changed at all.
I remember my surprise at hearing from my Father how he liked the old Mass and that it's removal had left him without a sense of encountering God. What is amazing is not that the Irish are abandoning their faith but that they held onto it for so long after the Council. This was not the Council's fault but those who implemented it, who interpreted it, who sold one version of the Council that has no roots in the actual Council itself.
Quite simply, as has been done it seems throughout the Western Church, those who dissented from the Faith, teaching and Tradition of the Church have been allowed to do so with impunity. Programs for the faith-formation of the young that are woefully ineffective and probably harmful were implemented and continue to this day without effective Episcopal oversight. The clergy and people of the Church are largely ignorant of the Faith and its discipline. We have allowed belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to wane (surely communion in the hand while standing has had a part to play in this?) until He is received as if He were only a biscuit. I have heard from lay people of the Blessed Sacrament picked up from the ground outside the Church where it has dropped or spat. This should have alarm bells ringing throughout the Church in Ireland but it seems not.
Perhaps the International Eucharistic Conference will stimulate something but I am not hopeful. I have no faith in big meetings. I can misquote St. Gregory Nazianzen himself that nothing good every came from a meeting of bishops and he was talking of an Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II. see his Epistle 130 - To Procopium). I am being cynical. The real change will be made on the ground, in the hearts of individuals through adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Virgin. as Our Lady said at Fatima: "In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph."