Cup of tea. Opening Prayer to Holy Spirit.
2. Dublin Archdiocese in 2030
The meeting used as a basis for its discussion the Priests Council Data Report 2030 published on the Archdiocese website in January 2016.The report was prepared by outside consultants Towers Watson.
1. Objective: To estimate the number of active priests in 2030, Weekend Mass attendance, Sacrament use and the options to consider to deal with the situation.
The meeting noted that the focus was on these very narrow aspects of faith and also changes in underlying population were ignored. The numbers were simply projections based on current actual data.
2. Mass attendance: based on last six years the decline in mass attendance was 3.7% per annum. However as this percentage was dropping in most recent years the report projects the drop rate at 2.5% giving a further total drop of 33% by 2030.
3. Baptisms: the report projects the number of Baptisms will remain stable at around 16,250 per annum. However they note that if baptism ceases to be a requirement for preference of entry to primary catholic schools then there will be a decline in Baptisms.
4. First Communion and Confirmation: the report sees the numbers for both sacraments remaining stable at about 15,000 per annum. Of course if the reduction in Baptisms were to take place then a similar reduction would be seen in these two sacraments.
5. Funerals: Funerals are expected to remain at current levels of just under 8,000 per annum. The recent developments in relation to lay participation in funeral services in the very near future was noted. In particular it is envisaged that the priest will no longer go to the graveyard for burials.
6. Marriages: the report projects that the number of church marriages will drop from a current 2000 per annum to 1000. Church Marriages dropped by an average of nearly 9% per annum in 6 years to 2014. This could be partly due to economic downturn. It was suggested at the meeting that reasons for the decline also included the increased options available for wedding ceremonies, the cost of church weddings normally involving larger numbers and the attendant celebratory costs, the reduction of marriages generally and later marriage age.
7. Numbers of priests: The report focused on what was termed Full Time Priests (FTP) and this number took into account part time participation of priests as they got older. The priests’ number is projected to decline from 369 FTP to 144 or a 61% reduction over the period. Priests being ordained are projected at 1 per annum up to 2030. The number of Religious Order Priests in parishes included in the figures decline from 104 to 33.
To maintain the current number of Weekend Masses at the same rate would require an additional 102 FTP.
8. Options for dealing with Shortfall: The report suggests possible options:
i) Recruit from overseas
ii) Allocate more non-liturgical work to lay either on a voluntary or remunerated basis.
iii) Encourage priests over 75 to remain involved.
The meeting felt there was a need to develop prayer services with distribution of Communion particularly on weekdays. While it was noted that some progress had been made on this it still was the exception rather than the rule.
9. Options for reducing number of Masses:
i) Combine parishes for masses, particularly weekday Masses and also possibly First Communion and Confirmation
ii) A combination of reduced Masses and combined parishes
10. General Comment: while the report dealt with the statistics it was felt that the issue of Instruction and Faith Development for all the laity was fundamental to the challenge of church vibrancy. The report identified symptoms but didn’t address the disease.
11. Loyola Institute International Conference: the recent three day conference in Dublin on the theme “The Role of Church in a Pluralist Society” was reported on briefly:
i) Well attended by 250 people including several ACI members.
ii) 15 international speakers and a further 50 position papers read.
iii) Topics included: Arguments for and against Pluralism, Types of Pluralism, Liberalism and Secularism, Media and Sex Abuse Scandal, Consulting the Faithful on Doctrine, Church in a Consumer Society, Where is the Public Square now, The dilemma of loving God and hating Church, Communicating Faith in the 21st Century –Digital possibilities.
iv) The papers of the Conference will be published in due course
NEXT MEETING: It was decided to take a break for the summer and have the next meeting on 28th September 2016.