Since so many people get it wrong, I rejoice in the rare occasions when one can use the word “literally” correctly. When I say that the Catholic Church in Ireland is literally dying, it really is. The Church is the people, and unlike most columnists who comment on Catholicism, I go to Mass and see the empty seats where my neighbors used to sit.
For some, the death of the Church is a triumph. But for me it’s sad to see the people who knew me as a child die, one by one.
I go to Mass for many reasons, but one is to keep company with those who are left in this unstoppable process.
Another reason is that while I disagree with the teaching, many do. And they are mostly old, sick and bereaved. Our wonderful priest who never stops working brings them comfort and comfort. If I help him, he can help you. And when my parents die, he will bury them. It’s not fair to expect him to show up if I haven’t shown up.
So for me there is no victory in the death of the Church. It’s the death of those I love.
This month the church is holding a synod – meetings of the congregation. You will be asked how to stop this process. What can the church do to save itself?
I put on my corporate strategy hat: First, the hierarchy – those in power – have to decide whether they want to pursue a niche or a mass market policy. Up to now it was the McDonald’s that sold it: children fetch and their parents come with them.
But they’re a fickle bunch. They’re in for the First Communion service, and you don’t see them until Christmas Day, when they rock out to moody Christmas carols in anticipation of a warm, decorated church. Who do you think pays the electricity bill all year round?
Would it be better to take a more exclusive approach?
Only those who believe that everything means something should be there. And if that means ending the First Communion circus and having a few dozen people arrive Sunday morning with tea and buns, wouldn’t that be a truer, more honest church?
You never know, it could end up like England where the upper middle class converts. You have the Blairs (she was always there, but I’d say he feels bad about his war).
This tension between those who believe and those who just want to belong should be resolved.
Speaking of the Blairs, there’s a third way.
Churches are emptying for several reasons. Many people can never forgive the sins of the past.
Who can blame them when it’s still very present? When adults walk around still discovering family secrets about origins and abuse. Secrets and shame, all generated by malevolent dogma. It will take another generation for the pain to grow out of us.
But the official dogma is still harsh. Pope Francis is a good man who has urged priests to treat everyone with compassion. What he is really saying is, “Everyone deserves the sacraments regardless of their circumstances.”
No matter how good he is, he cannot change the rules alone and faces a great challenge in the fight against the fundamentalists.
The Irish have shown in referendum after referendum that they have an overwhelming understanding of those who have abortions, divorce and same-sex relationships. But the dogma stands and hurts the marginalized. No wonder they don’t show up.
The rules are dumb and dumb in content because only a tiny butt cares. Why not change the rules?
But the Catholic Church is universal, including Africa and South America. It can only move at the speed of its most conservative parts. For example, I’m sure many Irish Catholics would welcome female priests, but you would never bring the conservative cardinals with you.
So why not break with Rome?
If the cardinals hold back reform, walk away from them. What actual difference would it make to our parish and ministry in the community?
If Irish Catholics would marry the divorced but Rome didn’t, then drop Rome. The alternative is to accept Rome and with it the empty church.
In speaking to others at our local synod and afterwards, a different view came out strongly.
Focus less on bringing people to church. Instead, the church should go out to the people.
If Christianity means anything, it means fighting for social justice. Sacraments are something, but not enough. Where’s the activism?
For example, I have not the slightest concern that practice at the proposed maternity hospital in St. Vincent could be restricted by the nuns’ ownership of the property. However, if the same nuns, the Religious Sisters of Charity, rededicated adjacent land for housing, it would be worth 50 million euros.
What would you do with the money? You should remember some elderly nuns, but the only Christian act would be to donate the money to the poor and vulnerable. For example, you could build shelters for the mentally ill.
Keeping the money would be grotesque.
Jesus got angry and turned over the tables in the temple. If the church wants people back, it has to turn the tables. Give away the wealth it doesn’t need or the empty temples will literally collapse.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/like-jesus-in-the-temple-the-church-must-turn-over-some-tables-and-fight-for-social-justice-if-it-is-to-save-itself-41463738.html Like Jesus in the temple, the church must turn some tables and fight for social justice if it is to save itself