Pope to be told church here 'on edge of collapse'
By John Cooney Religion Correspondent
Monday February 14 2011
THE Pope will be officially told the Irish Catholic Church is "on the edge" of national collapse and has only five to 10 years to make a radical recovery by giving laymen and women a greater say in decision-making.
This warning will be submitted in the coming months in a confidential report to Pope Benedict XVI by an international investigator examining the state of the Irish church in the wake of the Murphy and Ryan reports into clerical child abuse.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, gave this commitment at a private meeting with members of the recently formed Catholic Priests' Association, Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery revealed at the weekend.
Addressing the annual meeting of The People of God, a lay reform group, Fr Flannery, who met Cardinal O'Malley, revealed that the US prelate engaged in "serious discussion" with the association.
Fr Flannery said Cardinal O'Malley told the association that the Irish church had a decade, at most, to avoid falling over the edge and "becoming like other European countries" where religion is marginal to society.
Previously sceptical about the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland ordered by Pope Benedict, Fr Flannery said that in the light of Cardinal O'Malley's undertaking, "there may be some gleam of hope".
But he also revealed that at a separate meeting with the papal investigator into the Archdiocese of Tuam, Canadian Archbishop Terrence Prendergast told the association that conservative lay groups in the west had expressed support for the Irish bishops despite their record of cover-ups of paedophile clerics.
Fr Flannery said that while the Association of Catholic Priests was ready to campaign for radical change, it was apprehensive that it would be viewed as "a new clericalism".
The association's preference was for lay groups, such as Pobal, to come forward and give voice to the aspirations of the majority of Catholics for change, Fr Flannery added. "
- John Cooney Religion Correspondent
Bridget Mary's Response:
I am Irish born as most of you know and return often to my homeland. My young cousins no longer attend weekly liturgy. They show up for special events only. I agree with the assessment that the Irish Church is 'on the edge of collapse". It was evident during my visit with the women's ordination advocates in Ireland that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is on the precipice. Most people whom I spoke with were in utter disgust with the pedophilia cover-up that points to major involvement of the Vatican, the lack of pastoral concern for victims of clerical sex abuse, and the clericalism that has been part and parcel of Irish Catholicism for decades. My father and many others tell hair-raising stories about Canons walking the town with a cane to herd people to missions!
Unless there is structural change and a more open, people-empowered church in Ireland and a renewed priestly ministry which will include women priests and married priests in a community of equals, the institutional church will collapse in Ireland- just as it is has on the continent. Let's hope vibrant communities will call forth both women and men to serve as leaders in a people-empowered, renewed church! The problem is Pope Benedict is on record stating that he wants a smaller, more loyal, "orthdox" RC Church, so if that is accurate as reported, then it is up to the grassroots Catholic communities who love their faith to come forward and renew the church from below, not from above! May it be so in our lifetime! Our Celtic spiritual heritage is worth keeping and spreading. ( See my book Praying with Celtic Holy Women, on amazon.com)
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP