Monday, May 31, 2010


From Romereports:

VATICAN CITY, 31 MAY 2010 (VIS) - This morning the Holy See Press Office released the following English-language communique concerning the apostolic visitation of Ireland as announced in the Holy Father's 19 March Letter to the Catholics of Ireland:

"Following the Holy Father's Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the apostolic visitation of certain Irish dioceses, seminaries and religious congregations will begin in autumn of this year.

"Through this visitation, the Holy See intends to offer assistance to the bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors. It is also intended to contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.

"The apostolic visitors will set out to explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims; they will monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse, taking as their points of reference the Pontifical 'Motu Proprio' 'Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela' and the norms contained in 'Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland', commissioned and produced by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

"The visitation will begin in the four metropolitan archdioceses of Ireland (Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam) and will then be extended to some other dioceses.

"The visitors named by the Holy Father for the dioceses are: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster, England, for the archdiocese of Armagh; Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston, U.S.A., for the archdiocese of Dublin; Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins of Toronto, Canada, for the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, and Archbishop Terrence Thomas Prendergast S.J. of Ottawa, Canada, for the archdiocese of Tuam.

"In its desire to accompany the process of renewal of houses of formation for the future priests of the Church in Ireland, the Congregation for Catholic Education will co-ordinate the visitation of the Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. While special attention will be given to the matters that occasioned the apostolic visitation, in the case of the seminaries it will cover all aspects of priestly formation. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, U.S.A., has been named apostolic visitor.

"For its part, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will organise the visitation of religious houses in two phases. Firstly it will conduct an enquiry by means of a questionnaire to be sent to all the superiors of religious institutes present in Ireland, with a view to providing an accurate picture of the current situation and formulating plans for the observance and improvement of the norms contained in the 'guidelines'. In the second phase, the apostolic visitors will be: Fr. Joseph Tobin C.Ss.R. and Fr. Gero McLaughlin S.J. for institutes of men; Sr. Sharon Holland I.H.M. and Sr. Mairin McDonagh R.J.M. for institutes of women. They will carry out a careful study, evaluating the results obtained from the questionnaire and the possible steps to be taken in the future in order to usher in a season of spiritual rebirth for religious life on the Island.

"His Holiness invites all the members of the Irish Catholic community to support this fraternal initiative with their prayers. He invokes God's blessings upon the visitors, and upon all the bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful of Ireland, that the visitation may be for them an occasion of renewed fervour in the Christian life, and that it may deepen their faith and strengthen their hope in Christ our Saviour".

From the Vatican Information Service.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010


Sandro Magister writes:

Benedict XVI will soon create a new "pontifical council" expressly dedicated to the "new evangelization." Not for mission countries where the congregation "de propaganda fide" is already at work. But for the countries of ancient Christian tradition that are today in danger of losing the faith.

Pope Joseph Ratzinger wants to link his pontificate to this initiative. And this was the main topic that he discussed one morning in the spring of 2009, at Castel Gandolfo, with four prominent cardinals he had called for consultation: Camillo Ruini, Angelo Bagnasco, Christoph Schönborn, and Angelo Scola, the last being the most resolute in promoting the institution of the new office.

Meanwhile, one great ally has already united with the pope from outside of the Catholic Church, in this enterprise of a new evangelization.

This great ally is the Russian Orthodox Church.
Continue the article here.

This greater cooperation and mutual respect can only be a blessing. It is a work of the Holy Spirit and with the grace of God will lead to the re-evangelization of Europe. Please pray for this.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We have our triennial chapter in the Summer and the last one had the theme 'Duc in Altum - Launch out into the Deep'. This article has just been published in our internal Bulletin and I offer it here for more general reading. It took some time to finish and still feels and reads, to me, as unfinished. Still perhaps it will spark good thoughts and actions in others. The picture above is from the Florae Seraphicae.

Duc in altum or ‘launch out into the deep’ was the message over the last few years. We were exhorted not to be afraid but to forge ahead, try new things, and to persevere and, of course, if we do not go out no one will come in. But sailors as a rule do not launch their ships without being fully stocked and with not only a very definite destination in mind but a clear route as well. They do not wander over the deep aimlessly and when they explore they go slowly and well-prepared, mindful that shallow water is more dangerous than the open sea. As Seneca somewhere says “The man who goes to sea without a port in mind will find no wind favourable”.

That said I have long been listening to young people saying ‘Mass is boring’ and I have come to the conclusion that from their perspective they are right. Yes one needs to put something ‘in’ – one’s faith-filled participation but I have also heard older people complain that the mystery is gone and that rites and rituals they loved and that provided a sense of encounter with God have been taken away from them. We might tell them the modern Church and her Liturgy is better and more ‘inclusive’, more accessible but their experience tells a different tale. For some it seems that all the liturgical renewal has achieved is the triumph of the ‘low Mass’ and an even lower theology. I am sure we could all cite examples of abuses or instances of shocking ignorance of the faith and irreverence towards the Blessed Sacrament. It is also commonly believed that contrary to expectations the years since the Council have been, over all, years of crisis and decline. So I have been reading material related to the state of the Church worldwide and especially the state of the Liturgy and the various efforts being made to remedy the situation.

For the first time in history anyone, anywhere can access the Church’s texts and its accompanying music in Latin, or in English, in Gregorian or modern notation, as new or traditional musical compositions, for nothing- all via the internet. You can even listen to it for free! This is the most revolutionary event in the history of music since the invention of notation.

Much of this worldwide activity is in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In fine what the Holy Father has said is that the Missal of 1962 was never abrogated and is still licit to use; that any priest, who knows how to, may do so in private without any need for permissions; that laity may attend those Masses and pastors who receive a request from any ‘stable body’ of people for such a Mass must meet that request. The Mass, as of 1962, is henceforward to be called the Extraordinary Form (but some call it the Gregorian Mass, some the Mass of St. Pius V, some the usus antiquor and some the Traditional Latin Mass) while the Novus Ordo, or Mass of Paul VI, is called the Ordinary Form. Thus the Roman Rite now has two forms, following different calendars (e.g. the Ascension is on a Thursday) and disciplines (e.g. communion is only on the tongue while kneeling). This is not without problems as you can imagine and the Holy Father is quite well aware of this. Still, as he signalled, while still a Cardinal, in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, he is committed to Liturgical reform, a ‘reform of the reform’ as it has been called, which he sees as reinforcing the connection of the OF to the Church’s 2000 year tradition of worship. This ‘reform of the reform’ has given birth to a new Liturgical Movement. The Pope seems to believe that the Liturgy of the Church must be organically connected to its origins and, contrary to those who have read the Council as a rupture, he insists that the Council must be read in continuity with the Church’s traditional teaching and practice. He actually called for a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’, that is, reading the Council as a continuation of, and in the light of, the Church’s tradition and not as a rupture or break with that tradition. To this end he has allowed the free celebration of the Extraordinary Form with the hope that the two forms will mutually enrich one another as a step on the road to fulfilling what the Second Vatican Council asked for but did not entirely get.

This is why we have new translations and the re-introduction of old forms. The Council in its first document Sacrosanctum Concilium famously declared the Liturgy to be the source and summit of the Church’s life and ministry. As any ecologist will tell you, if the source of a river is polluted or impeded then everything down river from the source is affected, usually detrimentally. The Holy Father, among others, has noted that what the Council mandated was exceeded by the designers of the Ordinary Form and even, some claim, subverted. The subsequent years have seen abuses, divisions and the decline of Catholic life in general despite some areas of growth.

What is envisaged by this reform of the reform? Essentially that depends on to whom one talks. While Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the future Pope called the Ordinary Form a "hybrid mass," and said that

"I believe, though, that in the long term the Roman Church must have again a single Roman rite. The existence of two official rites is for bishops and priests difficult to “manage” in practice. The Roman rite of the future should be a single rite, celebrated in Latin or in the vernacular, but standing completely in the tradition of the rite that has been handed down. It could take up some new elements which have proven themselves, like new feasts, some new prefaces in the Mass, an expanded lectionary - more choice than earlier, but not too much, - an “oratio fidelium”, i.e., a fixed litany of intercessions following the Oremus before the offertory where it had its place earlier."

From a Letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to Dr. Heinz-Lothar Barth, dated 23 June 2003.

The Pope, in union with the Council and his predecessors, has also called for a real effort to bring back the Church’s heritage in music i.e. Gregorian chant and polyphony. This is because the Church does not need new forms of music for her Liturgy - she already has her own! (Since the copyright to these texts was let lapse in the 60’s they are now being reprinted without copyright or distributed on the net for free) The Dominican Master of Theology Aidan Nichols OP has suggested that the most effective reform and perhaps the most radical is a return to ad orientem prayer. That’s ‘turning your back to the people’ for the unreconstructed liberals, or turning towards the Liturgical East which has always represented heaven and God. This orientation in prayer is ancient, universal (the Orthodox do it) and symbolically better than our versus populem. The latter was never sanctioned by the Council nor even envisaged by them, was never part of any tradition (outside of some forms of Protestantism) and is always in danger of turning the priest into a performer on a stage.

What the Pope is NOT looking for is complete abandonment of the Ordinary Form and a return to the Extraordinary Form. He is not looking to take the Church back to 1962. What he is asking for now builds on what John Paul II, and all the Popes, repeatedly asked for: faithfulness to the Liturgical tradition of the Church. The Pope seems to believe that if we get the worship right the Church will be more truly herself and eventually the Church’s spiritual and moral life will improve and she will be more effective in her mission of evangelization.

What is not proposed is a return to the ‘one hundred and twenty mortal sins’ approach to Liturgy and treating rubrics not just as canon law but moral law as well. The Liturgy is more than rubrics but without rubrics the Liturgy becomes distorted and its effectiveness blunted. Consider any sport or dance, or indeed any discipline. There are rules and it is by following these rules and making them one’s own that the performer can produce a work of skill, of art even. The same is true for Liturgy. When the rubrics are followed with reverence and love the Liturgy emerges in its beauty and grace, and the people will not mind how long it takes but rather they will want more. Yet the people need to be educated about the true meaning, nature and purpose of the Liturgy too. It is not and never was about us. It is always about the prayer of the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

What then of the Capuchins? As Franciscans we are responsible for the universality of the Roman Missal. Francis asked the Pope for permission to use the Rite of the Papal Court and his friars took that Rite all over Europe and beyond. In the process they began to shape what we know as the Roman Missal and the Roman Breviary as well. We pride ourselves on our long closeness to the Church, her people, and above all loyalty to the Holy Father. We even promise that loyalty in the Rule. How is that loyalty visible today?

To renew our opening nautical metaphor the Holy Father has offered us a destination for our voyage, a way to contribute to the future of the Church. We are not asked to launch out blindly into the deep but to steer a course towards a renewed Church. That course is the effort and work to renew the Liturgy. There are dangers: to starboard are the traditionalists who want nothing but the Extraordinary Form and effectively a return to 1962 while to port there are the liberals who want us to continue in the shallow waters of banal innovation and the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ without following the letter of the documents or having faithfulness to the Council’s intentions. Ahead there is the barque of Peter and he is aiming for renewal through faithfulness to Tradition.

What will this mean for us? If we are serious about launching out into the deep then we must be consistent. One side cannot be running out the sails if the other side is dropping anchor. If we are truly sons of St. Francis then we should follow the Pope and the place to begin is by reading his writings, especially those on the Liturgy. Further we could, as individuals and communities, read and study the new translation of the Mass (available online at the USCCB website) especially as these have a different rhythm to the one we presently use. We can study the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), especially the new edition, and ask ourselves the questions: ‘what should the celebrant do?’ and ‘what should the people do?’ In a nutshell ‘say the black and do the red’. Learn to follow not just the rubrics but the symbolism of the Liturgy. Do it by the book and explain to the people WHY. After all it is not our Liturgy – it belongs to God and is His gift to us. Our objective must be to reveal how beautiful is Christ and His Kingdom through the beauty of the Liturgy.

We can work to help the people really achieve the active or ‘actual’ participation the Council spoke of, but keep in mind that it understood ‘active participation’ by the laity primarily as a spiritual action expressed through the song of the Church. The Liturgy of the Mass is not the sung form of an originally spoken action (the Last Supper). The Liturgies of the Church were always sung and we have reduced their poetry to prose. This song of the Church as the people of God is above all expressed in the ancient Propers of the Mass (those parts that change such as the entrance and communion antiphons) and also the unchanging parts proper to the people (e.g. the Sanctus). As the Liturgy of the Mass is first and foremost a participation in the saving work of Christ through an act of worship that is properly sung so we could invest thought, time, effort and cash (there’s always a cost!) into training and developing scholas and choirs that can sing Gregorian chant and teach the people to do likewise. The hymn singing and guitar bashing of the last forty years just doesn’t cut the mustard. The good news is that it is often easier to get a choir and the people singing this music than to get a group of musicians to play well together and it’s cheaper! (So some American church music experts assert). In Ireland it might even get the people to sing since there is no similarity in chant to Protestant hymn-singing.

Even if we do not go as far as ad orientem worship we could at least consider adopting the Holy Father’s proposal of the Benedictine arrangement for the Mass: a large crucifix with six (for Sundays) accompanying candles on the altar between celebrant and people so that the true meaning and focus of the Mass (Christ) is clearer. Perhaps we might even move on to experiment with ad orientem celebration. We could consider the reintroduction of some Latin (sanctus, agnus dei etc.) – it was what the Council wanted kept but the permission for the partial use of the vernacular was expanded to push it out. The Holy Father definitely wants to re-introduce communion on the tongue while kneeling (it’s still the norm it’s just that we all follow the exception) to restore reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. We must be consistent though. Nothing scandalises the people more regarding the Liturgy than unexplained inconsistency and disparity of practice. I put it to you that whatever we do we could seek nothing better that to remain in concord with the Holy Father so that we can make a Capuchin Franciscan contribution to the renewal of the Church as our brothers did in the past.

“We need to foster worship which stuns, which leaves the newcomer, long-time practicing Catholic, above all the fallen-away simply thunder stuck. Worship must at some point leave people speechless in awe. We need language and music and gesture which in its beauty floods the mind with light even while it swells the heart to bursting. The more people encounter mystery through liturgy, the more hollow will clang the false or incomplete messages of those who have strayed from the good path, either to the left or to the right. Our goal must be that which is good and beautiful because it is true, that which reflects what is of God, not man’s image merely. Give us mystery, not fabrications smacking of the world, fallen and transitory.” Fr. John Zuhlsdorf on his weblog What Does The Prayer Really Say?.

Suggested reading:

The Spirit of the Liturgy (Benedict XVI)

A Song for the Lord (Benedict XVI)

The Heresy of Formlessness (Martin Mosebach)

The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward (Jonathan Robinson)

The Organic Development of the Liturgy (Alcuin Reid OSB)

The Bugnini Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform. (László Dobszay) (free on-line at )

Sing like a Catholic (Jeffrey Tucker) (also available at

Websites: (Church Music Association of America) (On-line database of public domain music)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THE FUTURE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN IRELAND: Address by Archbishop Martin to the Knights of Columbanus

Speaking Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland

Ely Place, Dublin 10th May 2010

What do I say about the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland? The sociological data send us mixed signals. Public opinion varies from those who would like the Catholic Church slowly, through its own implosion, to fade into the social irrelevance of private individual choice, to those who would like reform on their own terms, to those who would blindly stay with things as they are, to those who call for renewal through repentance. And there are many other viewpoints.

The Church is a reality of faith. As a person of faith I know that the future of the Church in Ireland is not in my hands, but that its future will be guided by the Lord, who is with his Church at all times. Yesterday’s Gospel reminded us that the Father would send the Spirit who, at each moment in the history of the Church, would teach us all things in Jesus name. In that sense I cannot be pessimistic about the future of the Church in Ireland.

On the other hand, as one entrusted with the responsibility of pastoral leadership I have the mission to guide that portion of the Church entrusted to my care along a path of renewal and conversion which ensures that what grows and matures into the future truly is the Church of Jesus Christ and not something of our own creation.

On a purely personal level, as Diarmuid Martin, I have never since becoming Archbishop of Dublin felt so disheartened and discouraged about the level of willingness to really begin what is going to be a painful path of renewal and of what is involved in that renewal.

How do I reconcile these differing trends in my reflection on the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland? On a personal level, I have no choice but to lay aside personal discouragement and continue day-by-day the search for personal conversion and renewal and to re-discover for my own life the essentials of the message of Jesus Christ.

The future of the Catholic Church in Ireland will see a very different Catholic Church in Ireland. I sometimes worry when I hear those with institutional responsibility stress the role of the institution and others then in reaction saying that “we are the Church”. Perhaps on both sides there may be an underlying feeling that “I am the Church”, that the Church must be modelled on my way of thinking or on my position. Renewal is never our own creation. Renewal will only come through returning to the Church which we have received from the Lord.

Why am I discouraged? The most obvious reason is the drip-by-drip never-ending revelation about child sexual abuse and the disastrous way it was handled. There are still strong forces which would prefer that the truth did not emerge. The truth will make us free, even when that truth is uncomfortable. There are signs of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland and how it was covered up. There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required.

As regards the Archdiocese of Dublin for which I have pastoral responsibility I have constantly warned against any slippage in our vigilance. I appeal once again this evening publicly to all parishes in the Archdiocese to ensure that all child protection measures are in place and in operation and that there is no let-back on the level of vigilance. Questions about child safeguarding should be on the agenda of every meeting of every Parish Pastoral Council and if there are any concerns that are not being addressed then let people contact me directly.

Why such discouragement? The second and deeper root of my discouragement is that I do not believe that people have a true sense of the crisis of faith that exists in Ireland. We have invested in structures of religious education which despite enormous goodwill are not producing the results that they set out to do. Our young people are among the most catechised in Europe but among the least evangelised. I am a strong proponent of Catholic education; Catholic education has a solid track record. I see an important future for Catholic education alongside and in dialogue with other vibrant forms of education, including that of minority Churches, in our schools.

I am not sure however that we all really have an understanding of what Catholic education entails. Many people send their children to what is today a Catholic school not primarily because it is a Catholic school but because it is a good school. I am not sure that parents would change their children from that school if it were to become simply a national school. The level of parents’ interest in Catholic education will only be objectively measurable when they have real choice.

We are also deluding ourselves if we think that what is in fact presented as a curriculum for religious education and formation in faith is actually being applied everywhere. There are clear indications that in the face of so many other curriculum pressures and extracurricular activities religious education is in fact being shifted to the margins of school life in many Catholic schools. We have great teachers; teachers committed to Catholic education. But the system is also such that teachers who do not share the Catholic faith find themselves teaching something of which they are not convinced. Catholic schools have contributed greatly to integration in Irish society. Catholic identity is more than vague ethos; it is also about witness.

There are fundamental fault-lines within the current structure for Catholic schools that are not being addressed and unattended fault-lines inevitably generate destructive energies. Our system of religious education – especially at secondary level but also at primary level in urban areas - more and more bypasses our parishes, which should together with the family be the primary focal points for faith formation and membership of a worshipping community. I am not attacking Catholic teachers and Catholic schools; they do tremendous work. What is needed is renewal of the vision of parish. Many of our parishes offer very little in terms of outreach to young people.

There are further challenges to be addressed regarding Church teaching. Within the Church and outside of it discussion focuses around challenges in the area of sexual morality where the Church’s teaching is either not understood or is simply rejected as out of tune with contemporary culture. There is on the other hand very little critical examination of some of the roots of that contemporary culture and its compatibility with the teaching of Jesus. The moral teaching of the Church cannot simply be a blessing for, a toleration of, or an adaptation to the cultural climate of the day. The manner in which the moral teaching of the Church is presented to believers is far too often not adequately situated within the overall context of the teaching of Jesus, which is both compassionate and demanding. Christian moral rules and norms belong within a broader vision of the teaching of Jesus Christ.

This immediately brings us to the deeper question about the level of understanding of the message of Jesus Christ which exists in our Catholic Church and in our society in Ireland today. What do we really know of the message of Jesus? The Irish Catholic tradition has greatly neglected the place of the scriptures. Catholics do not know the scriptures. They do not know how to use the scriptures. We do not take the time to encounter Jesus in the scriptures.

One of the initiatives in which I place much trust in the pastoral programme of the Archdiocese of Dublin is the distribution this year of the Gospel of Saint Luke throughout the Archdiocese. I have said that I should really have charged one cent for each copy and then I would have been able to say that the Gospel had been sold and it might, therefore be at the top of the bestsellers list in Ireland this year. We have distributed 250,000 copies of the Gospel and we are backing the distribution up with e-mail support material month by month. It is one of the most widely circulated publications in Ireland this year. Even if only one in ten copies were read, it would still be on the best sellers list.

I believe that the encounter with the Jesus of the Gospel of Saint Luke could an important answer in the process of healing which is needed by people who in the past encountered the Church as an insensitive, arrogant and dominating institution. I would appeal especially to those who say that they are disillusioned by the Catholic Church in Ireland as an institution but say also they still wish to share the message of Jesus, to take up the scriptures. They will not find the authentic message of Jesus simply on the talk shows. Faith requires nourishment. You cannot allow it simply to drift.

At the same time it would be arrogant on my part not to stress that so many priests, religious and lay persons have a real understanding of the God of love who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ and who not only transmit that message of love to others, but live that message of love in their own daily exemplary lives. There is great goodness and faith to be encountered within an institutional framework which is often frail. We have great priests and we need great priests for the future.

The use of modern media mechanisms to support the distribution of the Gospel is something important and innovative. In this context, we are very fortunate to have a group of scripture scholars who put their knowledge and personal perception of the scriptures at the service of parishes and bible study groups. This material is accessible to any individual who would wish to avail of it on the website The modern communications media provide great opportunities for adult catechesis, especially those media which are interactive and can be used not just to transmit information to individuals, but also to contribute to the construction of faith communities. Parishes have however still much to learn about using these media. Parishes must radically re-orientate themselves to become educational communities in the faith and understanding of modern communications is an essential part of that re-orientation.

The modern communications media provide great opportunities but there is no way that the renewal of the Church will be achieved just by slick media gestures and sound-bytes. The message of Jesus is too deep to be encapsulated into sound bytes. Indeed a priority of the process of proclaiming the Gospel is that of taking people beyond the sound-byte culture.

There are those who claim that the media strategy of the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin following the publication of the Murphy Report was “catastrophic”. My answer is that what the Murphy report narrated was catastrophic and that the only honest reaction of the Church was to publicly admit that the manner in which that catastrophe was addressed was spectacularly wrong; spectacularly wrong “full stop”; not spectacularly wrong, “but…” You cannot sound-byte your way out of a catastrophe.

Some will reply that sexual abuse by priests constitutes only a small percentage of the sexual abuse of children in our society in general. That is a fact. But that important fact should never appear in any way as an attempt to down play the gravity of what took place in the Church of Christ. The Church is different; the Church is a place where children should be the subject of special protection and care. The Gospel presents children in a special light and reserves some of its most severe language for those who disregard or scandalise children in any way.

In analysing the past, it is important to remember that times may have been different and society and other professions may not have looked on the sexual abuse of children as they do today. It is hard however to understand why, in the management by Church authorities of cases of the sexual abuse of children, the children themselves were for many years rarely even taken into the equation. Yes, in the culture of the day children were to be seen and not heard, but different from other professions Church leaders should have been more aware of the Gospel imperative to avoid harm to children, whose innocence was indicated by the Lord a sign of the kingdom of God.

The sexual abuse of children is indeed more widespread than sex abuse by clerics. I would hope that for the tenth anniversary of the SAVI report which first addressed the question of the sexual abuse of children in Ireland in an objective and overall manner, it might be possible for a wide coalition of those concerned about child safeguarding in Ireland today to draw-up an up-to-date map of the phenomenon as its exists today and verify what should be the most opportune strategy to that changed and changing landscape.

The world around us and the culture of Irish life have changed. Yet the Church still continues in many ways to live in a way which fails to recognise that culture has indeed changed so much. Irish culture has drifted from being the culture of an enlarged faith community into a heavily secularised culture. For many, faith no longer plays a major role in their lives and they feel that this in no way compromises their ability to be good, honest and caring people. Believers, albeit unknowingly to themselves, often view the reality of faith through a secularised lens.

The information collected on the ground in parishes in the Archdiocese of Dublin indicates that regular Church attendance has dropped, in some cases dramatically. Certainly Mass attendance is not the only criterion for measuring the faith of individuals and their belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church is not however just a collection of individuals. The proclamation of the Gospel cannot adequately be carried out by correspondence course among people who never meet. The early Church was marked by the gathering of believers, who shared in the prayers and in their understating of the Word of God, who shared what they had and who together broke the bread. The Church is not a collection of individuals whose worship when they feel the need; the Church is fundamentally a worshipping community, founded in and nourished by the Eucharist.

We live in a systems culture. Throughout its history, however, the institutional dimension of the Church has never been renewed just by new structures of organization. Renewal began with individual renewal and witness flourishing into strong and witnessing faith communities. There are those who think that in today’s culture what we need is a sort of efficient “Catholic Church in Ireland Incorporated”, with its own CEO and with management structures administered efficiently from the top right down to the lowest level (and I am not sure who would be consigned to that place). The Church can benefit from appropriate management structures, but renewal will always be the work of prophets rather than management consultants. The message of Jesus Christ is lived in localised faith communities not in national bureaucracies.

Renewal of the Church requires participation and responsible participation. I have spoken about the need for accountability regarding the scandal of sexual abuse. I am struck by the level of disassociation by people from any sense of responsibility. While people rightly question the concept of collective responsibility, this does not mean that one is not responsible for one’s personal share in the decisions of the collective structures to which one was part.

I am surprised at the manner in which Church academics and Church publicists can today calmly act as pundits on the roots of the sexual abuse scandals in the Church as if they were totally extraneous to the scandal. Where did responsibility lie for a culture of seminary institutions which produced both those who abused and those who mismanaged the abuse? Where were the pundit-publicists while a Church culture failed to recognise what was happening?

We need to take a radical new look at the formation of future priests. I am working on plans to ensure that for the future in Dublin our seminarians, our prospective deacons and our trainee lay pastoral workers in the Archdiocese of Dublin will share some sections of their studies together, in order to create a better culture of collaborative ministry. The narrow culture of clericalism has to be eliminated. It did not come out of nowhere and so we have to address its roots in seminary training. We also have to ensure that lay pastoral workers understand that all mission in the Church is calling and requires a self-understanding which is theological in essence. .

Why am I discouraged? Probably my greatest discouragement comes from the failure of interaction between the Church and young people. I visit parishes where I encounter no young people. I enquire what is being done to attract young people to parish life and the answers are vague. Everyone knows that there is a missing generation and perhaps more than one, yet there are very few pastoral initiatives to reach out to young people. I would pay tribute here to the Chaplain in our second level schools who have acquired experience on which we should be drawing.

Parishes offers very little outreach to young people and I feel that an increasing number of young people find parishes a little like alien territory. A form of religious education which is separated from the parish will inevitably collapse for most the day that school ends. Sacramental formation belongs within the Christian community which welcomes and supports each of us on our journey. We need a more demanding catechesis, within a parish framework, for those who wish to come forward for admission to the sacraments. Admission to the sacraments is not something which is automatically acquired when one reaches a certain class in school.

The curious demography and history of the Irish Church meant that the Church developed and pioneered all sorts of valuable service within the community. This was often done at no expense to the State. As Irish society became wealthier, it was rightfully claimed that such services deserved appropriate support from public authorities because of the social benefit they provided. As years went by, many of these services then lost something of the Christian concept of gratuitousness and became little different to any other professional service. A Church which looses that sense of gratuitousness looses something of the essential dimensions of its witness to Jesus. I believe that it is no coincidence that the consistent generosity people show towards the Saint Vincent de Paul Society comes precisely because of the gratuity of its witness

The Church will continue to provide services for the poor and recognises the need for professionalism in its services. Hopefully the Church has learned the lesson that it should not allow itself to be involved in providing poor quality services for the poor. But when Church services become simply ancillary to State then they run the risk of loosing their ecclesial originality and will one day end up being incorporated into the public service structure and subordinated to its goals. Already the structures of some Catholic services are being altered to respond to financial policies of the State.

The Catholic Church in Ireland in the future will have to find its place in a very different, much more secularised culture, at times even in a hostile culture. The Catholic Church has to look again at the dominant role it assumed in Irish society, while at the same time not renouncing its prophetic role in society and in the formation of consciences through opening to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

This will involve a much greater degree of parish-based catechesis and evangelisation within our parishes. There is no way that this will take place without a very extensive programme of training for volunteer catechists, as is the case in most European countries. Parishes must become real centre of on-going faith formation. A more Parish centred church life does not however mean retreat into the sacristy.

I have perhaps raised more questions than provided answers to the theme about which you asked me to speak this evening: the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland. In our pastoral planning we have to start out from hard facts, which are inevitably today troubling facts. Already in the Archdiocese of Dublin we have ten times more priests over 70 than under 40. There is no way we can put off decisions regarding the future.

The Catholic Church in Ireland is coming out of one of its most difficult moments in its history and the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long way off. The Catholic Church in Ireland will have to live with the grief of its past, which can and should never be forgotten or overlooked. There is no simple way of wiping the slate of the past clean, just to ease our feelings. Yet the Catholic Church in Ireland cannot be imprisoned in its past. The work of evangelization must if anything take on a totally new vibrancy.

I would not however like what I say to be in any way interpreted as turning our back on the survivors of sexual abuse. They had their childhood stolen and the words of Jesus about his special care for children will apply to them until that day, whenever and if ever that will be, when their hurt will be healed. In my years as Archbishop I have learned enormously from survivors as they allowed me to know something of their pain and of their hopes and also of the spiritual void which many experience as a result of betrayal by their Church. I use the term spiritual void because it is an expression which some survivors have used to express how they feel in their lives. In my encounters with survivors, however, I have found their spiritual fragility somehow has given them in fact a deep spiritual strength, from which I have profited. For that I thank them.

Perhaps the future of the Church in Ireland will be one where we truly learn from the arrogance of our past and find anew a fragility which will allow the mercy and the compassion of Jesus to give us a change of heart and allow others through a very different Church to encounter something of that compassion and faith for their lives.

The Catholic Church in Ireland, as I said, will have to find its place in a very different, much more secularised culture, at times even in a hostile culture. It will have to find that place by being authentic and faithful to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. The agenda for change in the Church must be one that comes from its message and not from pressure from outside and from people who do not have the true good of the Church at heart. We all have reasons to be discouraged and to be angry. There is a sense, however, in which true reform of the Church will spring only from those who love the Church, with a love like that of Jesus which is prepared also to suffer for the Church and to give oneself for the Church.

Thank God there are many who love their Church: lay persons, religious and clergy. We love the Church because the Church is our home, the pace where we encounter the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and where we gather in love to break bread in his memory. ENDS

I'm glad he gave credit to school chaplains! Our Archbishop seems to have his finger on the pulse of the diocese. I was educated almost exclusively in Dublin, in two different Church institutions of Higher education and I have two primary degrees (one in philosophy and one in theology). I can honestly say that as someone who consciously seeks to be loyal to the Papacy and the Church, while facing the challenges of Ireland today, I always experienced myself as one of a minority. Dissent is the norm. Even among some otherwise orthodox clergy there is innovation and the dismissal of Tradition. There's a culture gap emerging between many of the young Catholics and clergy and the generations that have matured since the Council. I would say then that unless attention is paid to the quality and orthodoxy of theological education in the diocese, not just for the priests and catechists but for anyone who would minister here, then we could end up sowing seeds of future trouble. Some of our problems, as the Pope pointed out in his letter, stem from a failure of understanding of the roles of the priesthood and the laity but there are also problems with liturgical practice and Eucharistic theology, with understandings of the nature of the Church and of Tradition. Good formation practice (training together is a good idea) is needed but even an excellent sower is useless if the sower is sowing weeds. The whole complex needs attention.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


From the Vatican News Service:

VATICAN CITY, 5 MAY 2010 (VIS) - In today's general audience, which was celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on the priest's mission to sanctify humankind.

"Sanctifying a person means putting that person in contact with God", said the Pope, noting how "an essential part of a priest's grace is his gift, his task to establish such contact. This comes about through the announcement of the Word of God, ... and particularly intensely in the Sacraments".

"Over recent decades", he went on, "various schools of thought have tried to make the aspect of announcement prevail in the priest's mission and identity, separating it from sanctification. It has often been affirmed that there is a need to go beyond merely sacramental pastoral care".

"Ordained ministers", the Pope explained, "represent Christ, God's envoy, they ... continue His mission through the 'Word' and the 'Sacrament', which are the two main pillars of priestly service". In this context he identified the need "to reflect whether, in certain cases, having undervalued the faithful exercise of 'munus sanctificandi' has not perhaps led to a weakening of faith in the salvific effectiveness of the Sacraments and, in the final analysis, in the real action of Christ and His Spirit, through the Church, in the world".

"It is, therefore, important to promote appropriate catechesis in order to help the faithful understand the value of the Sacraments. But it is equally necessary, following the example of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', to be willing, generous and attentive in giving the faithful the treasures of grace that God has placed in our hands, treasures of which we are not masters but custodians and administrators. Especially in our own time - in which on the one hand, the faith seems to be weakening and, on the other, there is a profound need and widespread search for spirituality - it is necessary for each priest to remember that ... missionary announcement and worship are never separate, and that he must promote a healthy sacramental pastoral care in order to form the People of God and help them to fully experience the liturgy ... and the Sacraments as gratuitous gifts of God, free and effective aspects of His action of salvation".

The Pope went on to highlight how "each priest knows he is a tool necessary for God's salvific action, but nonetheless just a tool. This awareness must make him humble and generous in administering the Sacraments, respecting the canonical norms but also profoundly convinced that his mission is to ensure that mankind, united to Christ, can offer itself to God as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Him".

Addressing himself directly to priests the Holy Father encouraged them "to practice liturgy and worship with joy and love". He also renewed his call "to return to the confessional, as a place in which to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also as a place in which 'to dwell' more frequently, that the faithful may find mercy, counsel and comfort, feel themselves to be loved and understood by God, and experience the presence of Divine Mercy alongside the real presence in the Eucharist".

"I would also like to invite each priest to celebrate and to live the Eucharist intensely", said Benedict XVI. Priests "are called to be ministers of this great Mystery, in the Sacrament and in life".

Likewise, "it is indispensable to strive after the moral perfection which must dwell in each authentically priestly heart", because "there is an example of faith and a witness of sanctity that the People of God expect from their pastors".

Pope Benedict concluded by calling on the faithful "to be aware of the great gift that priests represent for the Church and the world. Through their ministry the Lord continues to save mankind, to make Himself present, to sanctify. Give thanks to God and above all remain close to your priests with prayer and support, especially in moments of difficulty, that they may increasingly become pastors in keeping with God's heart".
AG/ VIS 20100505 (680)
Pubblished by VIS - Holy See Press Office - Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I especially liked the bit about being custodians and administrators of the Sacraments. So many abuses have their root in the idea that the priest is a master rather than a servant and that he knows better than the Church or the lay Christian how to meet the needs of the people. So you get DIY liturgies and celebrations of the Sacraments. We clergy need to recover a true sense of ourselves as servants sent to proclaim and sanctify, to be the presence of Christ in the Church so that the people of God can be the presence of Christ in the world.


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