‘Continuously Searching’: Tom Inglis

Nov 26, 2021 | 0 comments


I am continuously searching for a God I am not sure exists,’ Tom Inglis told an ACI Zoom gathering on Thursday Nov 25, 2021.

Identifying as some kind of Catholic because no other identity quite fits, the retired sociologist explored the mystery of religious identity in a changing and often confusing Ireland that is now facing – with the rest of the world – a deep environmental crisis.

Tom vividly described his current retirement in rural Ireland, re-reading the works of John McGahern while living in one of the buildings that the novelist himself once occupied – and ‘dissolving’ in his walks into the mystery of that same rural environment.

‘Religion is a universal human interest’ he averred, attributing that perception to another sociologist, Max Weber.

“It is too early to say if the environmental crisis will lead to a religious and moral revolution,’ he said towards the end – but his manner of saying that suggested that he had not lost hope of that.

Outlining in the course of his talk the phases of change through which ‘Catholic Ireland’ has gone since the 1960s, the sociologist offered a categorisation of the different manifestations of ‘Catholic’ he saw as emerging from that:

  • ‘Orthodox traditional Catholics’ holding on to the same faith in e.g. saints and relics, and resisting change;
  • ‘Cultural Catholics’ for whom Catholicism is an ‘overcoat’ to be worn to sacramental events, but without deep involvement;
  • ‘Disenchanted Catholics’ who have ‘let go’ but do not seem to be searching for an alternative;
  • ‘Creative Catholics’ who are searching and interested in other religious traditions as well as less travelled areas of historical Christianity.

Looking forward to Sean McDonagh’s promised presentation to ACI in January 2022, Tom took time to praise the Columban ecologist – as a ‘saint’ who had been saying before Laudato Si’ many of the things that Pope Francis said in that encyclical of 2015.

Asked if he would participate in the Irish ‘Synodal Pathway’ now promised Tom was non-committal. One reading of this event on Thursday November 25th, 2021 is that by so honestly describing his own location on the ‘margins’ he has already become ‘synodal’ – by helping us Catholics to make sense of the confusing Irish landscape of faith and non-faith that we are all now looking at.

A recording of Tom’s complete talk will be available here soon.

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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The report of the Dublin archdiocesan 'Task Force' on the imminent crisis in the diocese offers no encouragement to believe that Ireland's 'Synodal Pathway' - announced with fanfare in March 2021 - will address this crisis.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' advocated in the Dublin Task Force report has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents who educated Catholic Bishops on the paramountcy of the obligation of safeguarding  children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.

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