With nearly half of the 312 priests in Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese now 70 or older, and just two students preparing for priesthood, Dublin archdiocese faces a personnel crisis in the short term – with so many priests set to retire by 2026.
This stark challenge is posed frankly in ‘Building Hope‘ – the report of a ‘Task Group’ set up by Archbishop Dermot Farrell in the spring of 2021
Moreover, according to the report, “The severe impact of Covid restrictions on attendance at Mass and on the associated collections impacted on the finances of every parish and damaged the financial sustainability of the archdiocese”.
It follows that “many hard decisions cannot be avoided” and that “the archdiocese in Dublin is at a time of great change”.
Despite this stern warning of the need for change – and for ‘co-responsibility’ of lay people and clergy – ‘Building Hope‘ lacks transparency on the initial consultation process that the Task Force began in April 2021. On its first page the report acknowledges that “some issues raised in the consultation are beyond the scope of this Task Force” and therefore of the strategy outlined for meeting the challenges outlined – but these issues are nowhere listed in the report.
It is left for readers to guess what they might be – by reading the report to see if their own concerns are reflected there.
Not mentioned are the known canonical obstacles to ‘co-responsibility’ that have discouraged generations of Irish Catholic lay people from the volunteerism the report calls for. As ever the principle of clerical control is left to vie with, and defeat, the purported aim of co-responsibility.
Also lacking close attention in the report is the widely experienced ineffectiveness of the Irish church’s school-reliant faith formation system in ‘handing on the faith’ – posing a critical problem of faith continuity that coincides with the church’s personnel and financial crisis.
Advancement of the role of women in the church gets a mention, but without detail on how this is to happen.
To read the complete report, click here.