“If the Catholic Church is going to survive on the island of Ireland in a relatively robust form it needs to start doing it through the parish rather than relying on schools.”
This is the conclusion of Belfast sociology professor Gladys Ganiel, following the 2022 Irish census – which shows that the percentage of self-identified Catholics in the Irish Republic has fallen to 69%, a ten percent drop since 2016. She was interviewed for the Irish Times by Joe Humphreys. (‘Why do almost 70% of the Irish population still identify as Catholic? – June 8, 2023.)
Professor Ganiel observed that Mass attendance continues at a higher rate in northern Ireland than in the Irish Republic, where greater alienation from a controlling church presence and dependence upon schools for faith formation has led to many parents becoming detached from parish activities, including worship.
She said that “in the Catholic Church in the US, there is not a big apparatus where most people who identify as Catholic go to a Catholic school. So at parish level in the US the Church has to work harder because it’s the parish that has to do the confirmations and the baptisms and so on. It’s not necessarily been funnelled through this whole state system which facilitates the ‘bouncy castle Catholics’, or whatever you want to call them.”
Commenting on the Irish Catholic Church’s tendency to continue to rely on schools for faith formation, Professor Ganiel said that US research indicated that schools were less effective in forming faith than the involvement of families in parish activities and the interest shown in the home in discussion of matters of faith.
For those with access the complete Irish Times article can be read by clicking here.