Irish Catholic Dioceses and Missing Young People in 2022

Jun 10, 2022 | 13 comments

‘Who will replace us ageing people when we are gone?’ 

A compilation of references to ‘young people’ from the diocesan synodal synthesis reports of 2022. With all diocesan reports accessible by June 13th, 2022, the pattern became clear and inescapable.

Achonry

  • “Concern was expressed about the lack of involvement by young people – teenagers and young parents.” (‘Celebration’)
  • “Young people have to be involved more actively, by way of invitation, in the life of the parish, for example, as readers, offering the bidding prayers, choir members, Eucharistic ministers, decorating the church building or other activities.” (‘Conclusion’)

Ardagh and Clonmacnois

  • “Fear of permanent decline in numbers – there is a widespread concern that many people who stopped going to church services during the lockdown, especially from younger families, will not return.” (‘Covid experience of the local churches’)
  • “Outreach to young families – there is a huge concern about the increased disconnection of young families from church…” (Discernment on Priorities)

Armagh

  • “Young people felt that there was little done to make them feel part of the faith community.” (‘The Journeying Companions’)
  • “It is noteworthy that the many young people who took part in the consultation have deep faith, and have a connection with God, scripture, and prayer. Despite this they still do not feel, for the most part, a close connection to the Church.” (‘Forming Ourselves in Synodality’)

Cashel and Emly

  • “Parishioners are concerned for young adults, young people and families. …  A group of young adults who are committed to their faith said they cannot see a way of involving young people in Sunday Eucharist other than the choir. Their peers see the Faith Community as irrelevant.” (‘Outreach’)
  • “Young adults say ‘Older people don’t listen to us young people so much. Older people are judging us.'” (Acceptance)
  • “Yet young people of Confirmation age speak of being happy if the Mass focuses on their stage in life and they can be involved in organising it and have a booklet with songs they sing. ‘It needs to be made real for my generation.’ (‘Connecting Faith Celebrations with Life experience’)

Clogher

  • “The absence in many of our parishes of activities or liturgies specifically for teenagers and those in their 20s was also a concern. So too is the absence of young people from the sacramental life of many parishes. Engagement with young people noted they find it difficult to identify with or to find a role/place within the Church/Parish life.” (‘Youth Involvement’)

Cloyne

  • The absence of young people and young adults was also mentioned on a significant number of occasions.” (‘Who is missing and Why?’)
  • “Lots of young people and especially LGBTQ people are absolutely not welcomed or valued. This makes me mad.” (‘Examples of Youth Quotations’)

Cork and Ross

  • When asked to identify who is missing from our church, fifty nine percent of respondents identified young people and young adults as the number one missing group. … It was commented on that young people don’t want to be identified as church-going because of the risk of being criticised by their peers for taking part in church activities.” (‘Participation’)

Derry

  • There is a disconnect between faith being learned in school but not practised or discussed at home or in the parish. Older people are worried about having lost the young people in the Church; they miss having young people there … Separately, young people shared their sense of disconnect and exclusion from gathering with older people and of being misread.” (‘Communion’)
  • “There is a real concern for those in the 20 – 45 years bracket who can appear indifferent or disconnected.” (‘Conclusion’)

Down and Connor

  • A new approach to ministry was called for that would break away from sporadic sacramental moments whereby Confirmation is seen as a mass exodus of young people from the Church rather than them becoming full members of the Church. It was also felt that if the Church could demonstrate its ability to live out Catholic social teaching we would have more credibility and standing with young people.” (‘Mission’)

Dromore

  • “What is being offered to Youth is not relevant.” (‘Youth’)
  • “The Church needs to have women in more important roles not necessarily as priests. Today’s young people will not accept the position as it is. Already we see the Church forgotten about after the Sacraments. There is a lot of competition for the attention of the young – we need their help to keep the Church alive and relevant.” (‘Greater Involvement of Women in the Church’)

Dublin

  • “It may well be that the young people ‘out there’ know nothing about the church experience except the scandals… The church is a cold place for young people.” (‘Concerns, Difficulties or Challenges Raised’)
  • Every parish mentioned sustainability in relation to the felt absence of the young.” (Trends)
  • Whole generations are falling away from faith because of poor faith formation of young people and adults.” (‘Concerns, Difficulties or Challenges’)

Elphin

  • “It is clear that the vast majority of younger parents no longer regularly attend Mass or Confession, nevertheless, they continue, in large numbers, to initiate their children in the Sacraments of Baptism, First Confession, First Communion and Confirmation. … Young people and young families are experiencing time poverty and finding it difficult to prioritise faith.” (‘A More Secular World’)
  • “Seventy percent of young people who participated in the listening process said that they don’t think that they have a role to play in the life of the Church or their parish community…. Many young people see the Church as being outdated/intolerant… Teenagers and young adults have expressed the absence of their peers as one of the main hindrances to their participation in Church.” (‘Young People’)
  • “There was a consistent expression of concern at the failure of the present generation of Catholics to transmit the faith to the next generation.” (‘Transmission of the Faith’)
  • “Participants, of all age groups, in the process, have expressed concern about the alienation of young people from the life of the Church.” (‘Conclusion’)

Ferns

  • “Furthermore, it was felt that social media profiles did not do justice to the deeper lives of young people and that their positive contributions to society and community aspirations were ignored by the institutional Church. Some young people also stated that they would be ‘slagged off’ for attending Mass. … Young people also felt the absence of a vibrant faith community and a disconnect between their individual faith and that expressed in the wider culture.”

Galway

  • Some survey respondents believed the isolation of the sacraments to mere events was a result of poor formation, some commented that little is done to support young people to grow in faith after they receive the sacraments. It was viewed that schools alone were left with the responsibility of faith formation for young people. This over-reliance on schools means that for many young people their only experience of Catholic community is through their school rather than the Church.” (‘Faith as a Lived Experience’)
  • “I’m not sure that the hierarchy generally have a real sense of how indifferent the younger generation are to the Church.” (Quoted in ‘Faith as a Lived Experience’)

Kerry

  • “Passing on the faith was proposed as a key priority for the Church, with young people seen as being forgotten about or left behind by the local parish community.”

Killala

  • [Killala diocese had embarked upon its own intensive consultation process years before Ireland’s ‘Synodal Pathway’ was initiated by The Irish Conference of Bishops in 2021. In responses to a 2018 diocesan survey asking ‘what do we need to do now’ top priority was given to ‘Appeal to / Encourage / Include Youth’ by 26 percent of respondees, a higher proportion than for any other priority. In 2020, before the covid pandemic hit, the diocese had opted to prioritise the establishment of parish pastoral councils and the regular celebration of a children’s mass in all parishes. (This data has been gleaned from the document ‘Placing Hope in Faith – Final Report’, published June 13th 2022.)]

Kildare and Leighlin

  • “The absence of young people and the loss of their particular gifts and life experience to the Church was stated repeatedly across all responses. … A huge difficulty for them is the lack of peer accompaniment on their faith journey. If and when they come to Church, they see people who are either a lot younger or older but rarely their own age.” (‘Young People in the Church’)

Killaloe

  • “…few [young people] now participate in Church and with exceptions, most belong to families who no longer participate. The young people view the Church as out of touch with their reality. … Indeed, engaging with young people was emphasised as a priority by a majority of participants. Many expressed sadness about the absence of young people from parish liturgies.” (‘Re-energise Outreach to Young People’)

Kilmore

  • “There is a strong sense that young people across the Diocese are calling for change within the Church. .. A lot of hurt and anger is still with young people and when asked about their own faith, church scandals and abuse is stopping them from exploring their own relationship with God.” (‘Voice of Youth’)

Limerick

  • “The current focus of many respondents relates to mass attendance and young people not going to church – ‘empty churches and the fear of no return to the churches’. (‘Faith’)
  • “Some have said that the low numbers of young people practising their faith throughout the diocese demonstrates that the Church needs to make its celebration of the Eucharist more alive.” (‘Liturgy’)

Meath

  • “Very many respondents, as parents and grandparents lamented the inability of our Church to engage young people, particularly teenagers and young adults. Many feel they did their best to pass on the Faith to their children yet see little or no fruit for their efforts. This was highlighted as a huge challenge for the future.” (‘Faith-Discussion and Church Teaching’)
  • “Linked to the issue of leadership is a strong awareness of the lack of involvement of women, young people, and LGBTQ+ people in key areas of the life of the Church. This is experienced as exclusion by such people, and as contrary to the Gospel by those who love the Church… There is a sorrowful and painful lament coming from parents and grandparents for the loss of faith among their children and grandchildren. The traditional cooperative faithtransmission model of Parish-Home-School is no longer working” (‘Conclusion and Orientations’)

Ossory

  • “young people have faith despite their absence from church…. the Church has very little relevance for young people, youth is indifferent to Church, lack of young people in church saddens..” (‘Young People’)

Raphoe

  • These (parish) divisions were shown in the way we have lost contact with younger groups and in the way many parishioners do not want to interact with each other” (‘Welcoming’)
  • The fact that many young people have been away from the church for almost two years due to Covid doesn’t help. However, Covid is not the only reason, many young people have not been to church since they made their Confirmation. Many teenagers are lost, and they need leadership during their rebellious years when peer pressure is so strong. (‘Youth’)

Tuam

  • “One of the most frequent comments made among churchgoers today is that ‘we didn’t see too many young people at Mass today’. …The absence of young people at Mass and at other liturgies is a cause for concern for many, but it is also clear that these young people have not abandoned their faith. We see this in their willingness to participate in JP II Awards, and, later, when they decide to marry, and when they bring their child for Baptism. Yet, without the structure, routine and support of liturgy, they will fall by the wayside.”

Waterford and Lismore

  • “‘Who will replace us ageing people when we are gone?’ …The age profile/vocations was another topic that was evident among the people gathered. It was evident in those who gathered for the conversations, but it was also a topic of conversation as people spoke about the age profile of the clergy and the congregations that attended the various different parish liturgies. Who will replace those who are getting on in years? (‘The Synodal Process’)

13 Comments

  1. Margaret Hill

    It is all very depressing and food for thought. But we must believe that God has a plan and the Holy Spirit should be listened to and not ignored and gagged just because we do not like the direction he is pointing us to.

    Reply
    • soconaill

      Quite right, Margaret. From the get-go in autumn 2022 ACI will be making faith and faith formation central to our discussions, with particular attention to adult and family faith formation, for which a specifically Irish model needs to be discerned with urgency.

      Pope Francis’s own document on this issue – Christus Vivit – invites us to think in terms of kerygma – proclamation of the living and present Lord – as the central and persistent theme of faith formation – in preference to what he calls ‘indoctrination’. By the latter he means, apparently, an information-and-knowledge focus that could be centred on trying to teach Catechism answers to questions that people, including young people, are not themselves necessarily asking.

      See especially Christus Vivit 212-214. The Holy Spirit is evident there also.

      http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20190325_christus-vivit.html

      Reply
  2. Pascal O'Dea

    Thanks to Francis’s call for the Synodal meeting in Rome in October 2023 the Irish Church has been forced to acknowledge and quantify the reality as outlined in the various Irish diocesan listening exercises. While symptomatic of many Church failings and also alarming, the finding on Youth and younger people is a long overdue appraisal of the state of their involvement or lack of ,in official Church. Yes, the prophetic messages from this synodal survey regarding youth can be clearly seem as the Holy Spirit’s call for acknowledgement of the failure of cathechesis and the need for a new truly Synodal approach in appraising the many issues that combine to make the Church an irrelevance for many cradle Catholics, of all generations. For this initiative we should be grateful and pray that the message of the Holy Spirit will calm our understandable fear for the future while guiding the reticent to be open to change.

    Reply
  3. Cornelius Bray

    One can empathise with the concern obvious in the question “who will replace us?” But what is the basis of the concern? Is it the possible loss of salvation among large numbers of the present-day young people? Or is it simply the demise of Catholicism per se? Or is it a fear of for the existential wellbeing of the present young people arising from absence of faith? Or is it a disappointment that the name of God will not be praised and glorified?

    It is necessary to realise that the issue of non-observance of Catholic teaching is, though not entirely, an issue of cultural change. This applies to all age groups. Voting patterns in referenda on life issues in Ireland reveal this. Speaking as one who took part in all parts of the listening exercise in my own diocese, there was no surprise at the diocesan reports.

    The then youngish priest in 1969, Fr Joseph Ratzinger, anticipated the cultural development that has ensued. His prediction has been accurate on events to date and it is informative to read his anticipation regarding the future. Cultural change is the most dynamic change in the social context, and its subsequent progress, while always inevitable is slow and disinclined to reversion.

    At present, proponents of synodality propose a process of years of planning, an allocation of considerable financial resources, meetings, surveys, documents, and more meetings at every level of the Church. What is the goal or purpose? To build a synodal Church. And the future concrete, ongoing expression of “synodality” in the life of the Church seems to that of having meetings, mutual listening, surveys, documents, and yet more meetings. Different groups are promising to invigorate this routine with enlightening discussions.

    This seems to be the prominent, operational concept of synodality now. The intervention of the Holy Spirit is deemed to be unavoidable and inevitable. That being the case the outcome of the present synodal pathway in Germany should be one of people of all ages flocking back to Catholic observance, albeit a newly redefined observance, energised by a pastorally more self-sufficient laity. Time will tell.

    It may be useful here to remember that St Therese of Lisieux is a patroness of the missions. Her apostolate, implemented totally within Carmel, may remind the worried lay faithful of a form of participation and shared responsibility within the life and mission of the Church that is less visible to synodal processes. Making faith and faith formation central to future discussions is all very well but of little benefit to those concerned for the future of Catholicism and wishing to do something to convert their younger family members. Are there any instances of those proponents of activity based synodality drawing inspiration form saints such as St Therese? There should be such because they show those who feel ineffectual to contribute how they can indeed become labourers in the vineyard.

    Henri de Lubac once wrote: “For myself,” said Origen, “I desire to be truly ecclesial.” He thought—and rightly—that there was no other way of being a Christian in the full sense. And anyone who is possessed by a similar desire will not find it enough to be loyal and obedient, to perform exactly everything demanded by his profession of the Catholic faith. Such a man will have fallen in love with the beauty of the House of God; the Church will have stolen his heart. She is his spiritual native country, his “mother and his brethren,” and nothing that concerns her will leave him indifferent or detached; he will root himself in her soil, form himself in her likeness; . . . he will be aware that it is through her and her alone that he participates in the unshakeableness of God. It will be from her that he learns how to live and die. Far from passing judgment on her, he will allow her to judge him, and he will agree gladly to all the sacrifices demanded by her unity.

    Reply
  4. soconaill

    Here you lose me completely, Neil:

    “Making faith and faith formation central to future discussions is all very well but of little benefit to those concerned for the future of Catholicism and wishing to do something to convert their younger family members.”

    If conversion and faith formation are not exactly the same thing, they are too closely connected to be separated in this way. How could you propose to convert anyone without prior consideration of how their faith could be formed, i.e. without listening to their questions? Are you so sure of your own ability to accomplish this that you can be certain you have nothing to learn from anyone else? Have you even yet read the church’s General Directory for Catechesis, especially its insistence on meeting people where they are?

    Faith formation is a key focus for synodality because our school-reliant catechetical model fails at the point that the parents and family of school-goers no longer support what the school is attempting to teach, and when the faith of the teachers themselves can no longer be taken for granted. This has happened because in Ireland Catholic adults and clergy have not been in normal dialogue (synodality) from 1968 to 2021, the half-century of most rapid social change that you speak of.

    Why not? Because the opposite of synodality is non-communion, non-participation and non-mission – the monological ‘sit there and listen’ church model that the same Fr Joseph Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II have left us with. Never did the term self-fulfilling prophet better fit anyone than it did that Bavarian forecaster of a drastically reduced church.

    To propose that a non-synodal church can form faith now is absurd, proven by the calamity through which you yourself are living. St Therese’s faith too was formed within a loving and fully believing family, and there can be no recovery for the Irish church until a family-centred faith formation model – as well-attuned to our own times as the Martin family’s was to theirs – has been developed, synodally, in Ireland.

    Reply
  5. Neil Bray

    Writing as one of those who has participated in what I am told is a synodal process I am not clear on what it is all about. But yet more discussion does not seem very productive. Pope Benedict’s 1969 statement has proven realistic so far. One observation of his – ruling out mass conversion – is particularly apposite in the context of the cultural reality of our time. It’s what I have observed in three parishes in France where renewal is obvious. ( I could also throw in the experience in October 2018 of being one of less that 10 people over the age of 30 at a Sacrifice of the Mass in a church in Bordeaux packed with twenty-Somethings.”) Not a folk Mass!

    The last time I attended the Sacrifice of the Mass in one of the three parishes 33% of the congregation were young married couples with their children. This was the outcome of efforts made over a 15-year period. There was no formal synodality. But the progress was partly based on an ongoing pattern of young marrieds, few in number initially, influencing others of the same age. The successive Cures (priests) were at the core of the process. As Benedict predicted there has been no mass conversion. The percentage of the otherwise Catholic population attending the Sacrifice of the Mass is small. But the congregation has a spring in its step. The process has moved on from “who will replace us” to “who else can we get to join in.”

    Call that synodality if you wish. But it differs from the notion of synodality that is promulgated even from Rome just now, whose main constituent seems to amount as I’ve said above to years of planning, considerable financial resources, meetings, surveys, documents, and more meetings at every level of the Church. Then what? Do the preparatory documents from Rome contain any detail on the ministry of the laity?

    Due to Covid we haven’t visited that parish for two years. My annual visit was for the purposes of putting a spring in my own step. It has taught me to view the age profile of attendance at the Sacrifice of the Mass differently. I make two suggestions.

    Firstly I am part of the future of the Church in my area. That’s the lesson from Pope Benedict and St Therese of Lisieux. I am not pastorally competent. In terms of sociology and in terms of culture the decline in Catholic observance in set to continue in Ireland. The pattern will outlive me. Of course one can never second guess God. But for the majority of Catholics of all ages, God is no longer a significant consideration. They genuinely see little relevance in the idea of God. Spirituality perhaps, but not religion. Christenings, first communion, confirmation, marriage ceremonies still have a cultural attraction.

    Like all those quoted in the article I’d prefer things to be different.

    But this a “sursum corda” moment. Those who still practice can consider the second of the two suggestions – three initiatives. Firstly, clarify for themselves why they want Catholicism to survive and flourish. That’s important. Then realise that like St Therese they can contribute to the work of evangelisation. As St John Paul II would advise, “be not afraid”, in this case “be not worried.” As the Lord would say “I have overcome the world.” Thirdly be grateful for their Catholicism and seek to live it to the full, and if feasible, contributing in any practical way. Cut down on the “talking shops.” This is a way of letting God “build the house.” This is far better than cursing the darkness.

    It is beneficial for people to hear young priests in action, to see young people involved in stimulating fashion in the Church. The latter is happening in Ireland but we don’t see it. But both are available at the switch of a button on EWTN.

    Reply
  6. soconaill

    Neil – re your experiences of France – would it interest you to know that Anthony O’Leary wrote as follows to the Irish Times in Sept 2020?

    “This year, in country with four million Catholics, where all Catholic children receive seven years of faith formation at primary school and the vast majority get five more in secondary school, we will ordain only one new priest. There will be more bishops consecrated than priests ordained.

    “This year is undoubtedly a bad year for ordinations – in most years there are four or five ordinations in Ireland, a little more than one priest per million Catholics. Yet in France, with a Catholic population of about 40 million, but where religious instruction is banned in about 80 per cent of all public schools, it consistently ordains about 120 priests per annum or three priests per million Catholics. Why does the profoundly secular republic of France ordain vastly more priests than the “Catholic” Republic of Ireland? One possibility is that all religious formation in France is fully voluntary and is generally carried out in the parishes. In Ireland, faith formation is almost exclusively carried out in compulsory classes in State-funded public schools, by lay teachers.”

    Might the more vibrant Masses you have encountered in France, with young married people present, also be a result of the circumstance that O’Leary notes: the necessary role of the parish – and therefore of the family also – in faith formation?

    That this must also facilitate ‘walking together’ – i.e. synodality – by clergy and people is obvious.

    Why you should find the purpose of synodality obscure in Ireland is itself a mystery, as that purpose was succinctly expressed by Cardinal Mario Grech in his letter to the Irish bishops in March 2021:

    “Indeed, synodality is at the way towards a Church which is in a permanent state of a mission.”

    https://www.catholicbishops.ie/2021/03/04/address-of-cardinal-mario-grech-to-the-bishops-of-ireland-on-synodality-2/

    If you can explain to us how the Irish church could move from inertia and contraction to mission – with everyone mobilized in that cause – without a sustained process of intensive internal discussion – please fire ahead. Was the risk of endless ‘talking shops’ truly greater than the risk of disappearance altogether, without any discussion whatever?

    Everyone in the early church had a role in ‘mission’ – simply by obeying the Great Commandments of love of God and neighbour. That is the primary ministry of all of us. How come in Ireland and elsewhere the church came to be associated not with love but with a lust for control? That’s easy: the rise of Christendom after 312.

    Reply
  7. Neil Bray

    In May 2021 The Irish Catholic published a letter of mine in which I related details from France akin to those in my last submission here. I asked: “Do we have to reinvent wheels in a Synodal Pathway when strong examples of pockets of Catholic renewal already exist elsewhere in Europe? Can we not learn from these?”

    In relation to your quotation from Anthony O’Leary I ask a related question: “given evidence of pockets of growth in vocations in some dioceses and religious orders in the Anglo-European-American world, can we not be learning from these examples?”

    I don’t expect you to remember this Sean, but a number of years back I forwarded you a study I did of synodality based primarily on then recent Vatican documents on same and on Pope Francis’s letter to German Catholics. I did not expect you to agree with it. My conclusion – that synodality was one of a number of possible pastoral practices.

    Since then, I have become less sure about synodality. To some extent synodality has a chequered history in Christianity. Apart from its German version it is largely an experimental exercise. The Vatican individual charged with overseeing the process, has little to say beyond reference to the listening process and the Pope seems less that committed to it in his own manner of acting.

    The German pathway regards changes in Church teaching as a necessary (not merely possible) outcome particularly in relation to the teaching on marriage. As late as Monday last, June 13, a member of the Irish Catholic Church’s Synodal Pathway Steering Committee adopted the same stance in an article in an Irish national daily. Not only that but he also misrepresented the Catholic teaching on the Sensus Fidei. And to make matters worse he referred to a minority within the Church preventing his discerned outcome from emerging. In global terms, are those Catholics who disagree with him really in a minority? Whither listening in this person’s attitude?

    In my previous submission above I suggested that the concerns of those worrying about “who will take our place” can be alleviated if they clarify what they are concerned about. A similar clarity is needed in relation to synodality.

    Sometime in 2021 one Irish theologian claimed the Church “needs fixing.” Of course it’s not Catholicism that needs fixing, but its practice by us who claim it as our belief system. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ; He doesn’t need “fixing”. The Church includes the saints in Heaven; they don’t need “fixing”. She includes the souls in Purgatory whose “fixing” is in hand. There remain those on earth who always need some level of “fixing” in the manner previously experienced by those in Heaven and Purgatory. This would have involved repentance, ongoing conversion, charity, prayer and the joyful centrality of giving glory and praise to the name of God.

    Does this not set the ultimate context for synodality? Christ’s presence in a room is combined with those two inseparable characteristics of Truth and Love. Meaningful synodality has to refer to grace; to Gods Spirit linking the human agents in synodal process to the source of Wisdom and Love, transforming their thinking in line with God’s healing and teaching action in the ongoing formation of His Church.

    Where does the dominant narrative leave the concept “discernment?” Some, including the previously mentioned theologian claim an immediate insight identifying teachings to be discarded. In 2021 one Irish diocesan synodal leader issued an ultimatum in a national daily amounting to “do such and such or I leave.” Such incidents tend to come with an assurance that listening and sharing et al, will under the said leadership reveal what else the Holy Spirit might desire. Prioritising the achievement of non-negotiable demands ahead of exercises in discernment has become apparent.

    I have seen a notice in a Church in France literally begging parents to avail of catechesis for their children. This puts Anthony O’Leary’s story in perspective. It serves as a reminder of how reliant on God the parochial process has to be and the sacrifices it entails.

    Reply
    • soconaill

      Why, Neil, do you make it a practice to refer critically to individuals without naming them, even though they themselves put their names to what they publish?

      “The Vatican individual charged with overseeing the process….“ ?

      “As late as Monday last, June 13, a member of the Irish Catholic Church’s Synodal Pathway Steering Committee ….” ?

      “In 2021 one Irish diocesan synodal leader …” ?

      What is it that prevents you from being straightforward and forthright in your criticisms, and why do you have a settled objection to Irish Catholic people meeting together to discuss the crisis we are in – when in the France, which you offer to us as an example, the formation of faith is already a shared responsibility of clergy and laity – at parish level?

      Have you noticed that all synodal discussion in Ireland also begins and ends with prayer? Do you deny that synodality in Ireland could be better guided by the Holy Spirit than by yourself? What exactly is your problem with Irish people, priests and people together, determining, prayerfully, the future of their own church?

      Reply
  8. Neil Bray

    1. Names
    Firstly, I find its better to deal with issues rather than personalities. Secondly, I find that some people rubbish the person named rather than addressing the issue.

    I imagine you know the names of three of them. They have all been highlighted in a website you know well. In that context I think it was fair minded of you to allow the submission to go through.

    2. Criticisms.
    My comments are factual and straightforward. In these interactions I have posed questions and made observation regarding synodality which by and large have not been responded to. I haven’t ruled synodality out.

    3. Meetings
    I refer you to the following from my last submission
    “Christ’s presence in a room is combined with those two inseparable characteristics of Truth and Love. Meaningful synodality has to refer to grace; to Gods Spirit linking the human agents in synodal process to the source of Wisdom and Love, transforming their thinking in line with God’s healing and teaching action in the ongoing formation of His Church.” I would also draw attention to John Murray’s article In today’s Irish Catholic.

    4. Bray versus the Holy Spirit
    I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit, if allowed to do so will always guide any movement in a way beyond my imagination. Even in the physical sciences the notion of cause and effect is problematic. But not so in the case of the Holy Spirit.

    5. “What exactly is your problem with Irish people, priests and people together, determining, prayerfully, the future of their own church?”

    As a letter in today’s Irish Catholic notes, one petition in the Sacrifice of the Mass reads “look not on our sins but on the faith of your church.” It demonstrates that the Church is owned by Christ. This realisation has to be the starting point of all deliberations regarding participation in ministry in the Church. Consequently, the notion of the priests and the laity actually “determining” the future of “their Church” is not clear. A clarification of this sentence would probably go some way to answering some of the questions and observations I have made.

    It might be relevant to mention here a comment by Pope Emeritus Benedict on St Benedict and his first community. They never intended to create what eventually grew out of their foundation. Their only objective was to get to know God.

    6. France
    I hope to see what I have detailed about France occur in Ireland.
    Comparisons are odious, but as of some years ago there exists a community in the Dublin area drawn from different parishes where families combine to create a thriving Catholicism. At least that was the case pre-covid.

    Reply
  9. soconaill

    From Neil Bray:

    (5) “Consequently, the notion of the priests and the laity actually “determining” the future of “their Church” is not clear.”

    So, Neil, to enable yourself to quote someone else on the Lord’s ownership of his church you excise the word ‘prayerfully’ from my sentence, obliging me to state the obvious: that ‘prayerfully’ in this context means ‘in communion with the Trinity’?

    That Jesus tells us that we are the family of God; that he promises us that if we obey the Gospel of love the Trinity will make their home in us; that he promises us also to be with us through all travail – all this is as well known to you as to the rest of us but nevertheless you think it necessary to remind us that Christ ‘owns’ the church – as though Jesus would wish us to think of him as an exacting landlord rather than as the gentle host – the setter of the table, the kindler of the hearth?

    How exactly did you come to this role of stiff custodian, duty bound to remind us that the church is not our own home but the Lord’s – when the Gospel clearly tells us it is both of those things?

    That we have not been keeping it in proper order is obvious from all of the diocesan synodal syntheses, especially from the compiled unanimous concern for the young people who are missing, usually, from our Eucharistic liturgies – despite so many years of Catholic schooling. That the Irish family of God are shown to be at one also in wanting to address this problem, by developing a more informed adult faith, is ample justification for the synodal process already.

    Thankfully synodality will therefore certainly continue in Ireland, if only for this reason – because it must. Its direction is not in any doubt. That was set in 2018 in Dublin by Pope Francis, at his concluding Mass in Phoenix Park:

    Each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager…

    “Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, each Christian is sent forth to be a missionary, “a missionary disciple” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 120). The Church as a whole is called to “go forth” to bring the words of eternal life to all the peripheries of our world. May our celebration today confirm each of you, parents and grandparents, children and young people, men and women, religious brothers and sisters, contemplatives and missionaries, deacons, priests and bishops, to share the joy of the Gospel! Share the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!”

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  10. Neil Bray

    I will be in Knock over the next two days – the national pilgrimage of The Apostolate of Eucharistic Adoration. Pre-covid this pilgrimage used attract around 5000 people. The numbers will be smaller this year. So I will be unable to respond further.

    At one stage in his life the Cure of Ars became aware of a statement circulated and signed by a number of priests to the effect that the Cure’s ministerial practices were improper. The Cure signed it as well. In that vein, and given the chapter of personal faults attributed to myself in this thread, I would also sign the relevant document. That would perhaps improve my listening skills.

    However, that said Sean, I have the temerity to respond to your last statement.

    There is a verse in Psalm 95, recited each day in the Divine Office which reads in one breviary:

    Come in, let us bow and bend low
    Let us kneel before the God who made us
    For he is our God, and we the people who belong to his pasture
    The flock that is led by his hand.

    Your last comment reflects this, but not entirely. The Church is Gods pasture, there as a gift of God’s mercy for our care and sustenance and freedom, led by Him but not ours to redesign, not ours to play around with. As different from the right of possession, ownership for Church members involves conviction about the truth of Catholicism and toil at giving faithful witness to its teachings in the drama and actions of life as lived in the vineyard.

    The credibility of synodality is not enhanced when questions regarding its essence are not answered, when one is expected to accept it simply as a matter of trust. Few if any of the issues I have raised here have been addressed here.

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  11. soconaill

    Questions regarding its essence …?

    What could the ‘essence’ of synodality be other than simply meeting for discussion?

    Yes of course those who meet will have agendas, but the opposite of meeting is no meeting and no discussion. Should there never have been a Council of Jerusalem then? Would we be having this discussion if that had not happened?

    Your letter to the Irish Times is curiously oblivious of the longer history of synods – as though you think that Ireland never had one until Pope Francis came along. You must know that isn’t so. You are also aware that far more has been discussed in the Irish synodal process than the need for inclusiveness – the Irish Times emphasis.

    You must also know that division in the church has long preceded this synodal process, as did radical decline in Ireland. So how could non-synodality be a viable option? What is your alternative?

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