The Future of the Catholic Church in Ireland

This from our friend in Ireland, Patrick Mitchel, a professor and leader. He has no desire to bash the Catholic Church, but he’s as grim as many. Let me say that this is a serious, serious issue, and while I want the proper procedures to be followed in the Vatican and beyond, the focus here must, must, must be on the victims of abuse and proper justice for the perpetrators of sexual violence

Here are Patrick’s words:

So what is the future of Catholicism in Ireland?

And this raises the question of ‘How can reform come to any church?’

[and again let me say here I am not wanting to ‘bash’ the Catholic Church when it is ‘down’. Nor am I implying that evangelical or Protestant churches have everything right – far from it. I believe the gospel is good news and that churches need to be good news – whatever brand they are]

Cardinal Brady also spoke of the desperate need for a ‘new beginning’ and mentioned at least four sources of that renewal:

  1. Listening to the word of God
  2. Listening to the Spirit
  3. Humbly dealing with the enormous hurt caused by those who have abused and the ‘hopelessly inadequate response of the Church to that abuse.
  4. A ‘sincere, wholehearted and truthful acknowledgement of our sinfulness.’

[Revealingly, he openly asked whether there would be a place for ‘those who have made mistakes in their past to have a part in shaping the future?’ and added that he would be ‘reflecting carefully’ over Easter. I may be wrong of course but I suspect he will resign.]

Few can argue with those four sources of renewal. The challenge is acting on them in an authentic way – a way that will bring structural and spiritual change.

In regard to 3 and 4 it is deeply ironic that a Church which champions confession as a sacrament has not only been determinedly resistant to confession of sin but has systematically hidden the truth at the expense of vulnerable and hurt people under its care. It has been a painful process watching the Church’s leaders largely failing [with the exception of Archbishop Dairmuid Martin] to grasp the depth of the need for transparency, confession, honesty and radical action to match words.

In regard to 1 and 2, I have to wonder what Cardinal Brady means by listening to the Word and the Spirit. In my humble opinion, there are profound theological and spiritual reasons for the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland – mixed in with the end of Christendom that is impacting the West as a whole.

Too often the Word has been sidelined by tradition, ritualism and sacramentalism. Too often the Spirit has been marginalised by hierarchy, human power and institutionalism.

Hans Kung asks why does the Pope not overturn the practice of enforced celibacy given its unbiblical foundation, its huge unpopularity and its probable link to child sex abuse by clergy.

I would go further and say that if the Catholic Church is to listen to the Word and the Spirit, this will mean nothing less than a new reformation.

A reformation where Jesus the Word and the Holy Spirit are given their rightful and central place of supreme authority.

A reformation that sublimates the magisterium and papal power under the Word of God.

A reformation that follows the Spirit’s emphasis on equality and giftedness in the body of Christ and thus undermines the unaccountable power of the priesthood & hierarchy.

A reformation that reconfigures the relationship between church and gospel so that the latter is clearly articulated, taught and lived out in a community of faith

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  • While I agree, I also wonder to what extent the media is playing all this up? For instance, I’ve heard that in the USA, there were ten times the number of sex abuse cases in the public school system as in the RCC. However, the media chooses not to report these.

  • Phil

    My understanding of the stances and practice of RCC (very limitted) make it seem like they would have too far a road to back down with Papal authority and infalibility. I do pray that they back down that road for their good and the good of the whole body of Christ, but I see that as a major hurdle.

  • Phil Dolci

    As a Catholic I am disgusted and heartbroken about what has happened to these kids. I am heartbroken about the lack of leadership from the bishops and cardinals. I feel some of them tried to cover things up, but some of them maybe depended to much on the redemptive work of Christ to heal these perpetrators when they sent them to get therapy…? I dont know all their motives, but it still saddens me greatly. I am so happy to see Pope benedict being in charge at this time. Even though he might have lacked leadership up years ago, i think he has had a conversion of sorts of this topic and is bring the hammer down.
    I think Patrick is way off on his recommendations. For recommendations one and two. We already do that. How did you come to the conclusion that Jesus and the HS isnt? Just because Catholicism doesn’t line up with your interpretation of the bible doesn’t mean Jesus and the HS are not central place of supreme authority. “the Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant.” CCC 85.
    for #3, how are defining giftedness and equality? Lets look at the new testament…”obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account” (Hebrews 13:17). Wasnt there levels of authority in the body of Christ during new testament times.
    And let me ask you how are we supposed to know the we have the truth. Are we supposed to just open up our bibles and pray to the holy spirit. Or do what the bible says, “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:6. Who are the we? the We are the church leaders appointed by Christ through the apostles.
    I point this all out because it seems like you are calling for changes that will undermine the structure of the church that Jesus established and that my friend Jesus will not allow. So if I am reading this wrong please put some flesh to some of your suggestions.

  • Michael C

    They are reported, but in your local newspaper.
    There is a report at
    In the RCC church the number of offenders is put at 4% of clergy, in the school system it is difficult to find numbers of offenders, just estimates of those abused.

  • Phil D

    are you familiar with other Huns Kung beliefs?
    it doesnt matter to me if the discipline of celibacy stays or goes, it isnt church doctrine. But what i dont understand is the link between celibacy and abuse. I was celibate for many years and i not once even thought of sexually abusing someone. So do you have some study that shows there is a link between the two?

  • Taylor George

    “A reformation that sublimates the magisterium and papal power under the Word of God.”
    This satement is a joke. I wish protestants didn’t fool themselves into thinking we don’t have popes and theological systems.

  • Scot McKnight

    Taylor, that’s unfair and exaggerated rhetoric. Yes, evangelicals and Protestants and the Orthodox have powerful authorities, but there’s a chasm between the belief in magisterial authority and sola scriptura. Patrick’s himself a theologian and he’s weighing his words carefully.

  • dopderbeck

    Patrick, you’re not Catholic, and while I appreciate the Evangelical Alliance in Ireland (I lived in Ireland for a few summers), I think you’re way off base here. And Scot (#7), I don’t thik Taylor’s rhetoric is unfair at all.
    If the “solution” for reform of the Catholic Church in Ireland or anywhere else is (a) to misrepresent what it means to be Catholic; (b) mangle Catholic theology; and then (c) tell the Catholic Church stop being “Catholic” as so defined, then this is a pointless exercise of spitting into the wind.
    I mean, really:
    “A reformation where Jesus the Word and the Holy Spirit are given their rightful and central place of supreme authority.
    A reformation that sublimates the magisterium and papal power under the Word of God.”

    Did Vatican II pass you by, Patrick? Have you ever actually read anything by John Paul II or Benedict, like, say, Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth?”
    I’m sorry, but this seems to me the same-old same-old calumny that has divided the body of Christ for centuries.
    I don’t doubt at all that there’s corruption in the Catholic Church in Ireland. The sexual abuse issue is a massive scandal and house needs to be cleaned. But to say as some Protestants do that the scandal is caused by basic Catholicicity is absurd, and to say as some left-wing Catholics do that the solution is radical feminist theology is equally absurd.

  • Scot McKnight

    Well, sure, but notice the ordering of Brady’s own words which Patrick pushes. Frankly, I’m not sure sublimating the magisterium under the Word is not Catholic in its best sense.

  • Wolf Paul

    I would agree with Phil D about Hans Kueng (and I will spell it out: I do not think he is a reliably guide or advisor in spiritual matters).
    I also think that the connection between clerical celibacy and the abuse scandals both here in Europe (I am in Austria), in Ireland, the US, and wherever else is by no means demostrated. The abuse that has been going on is a mixture of power games and pedophilia, neither of which tend to find appropriate outlets in marriage. According to all the statistics I have seen the vast majority of pedophilia abuse cases take place in a family context but only get reported if and when they get out of hand in some spectacular way.
    It is the cover-ups which I find most disturbing, and the fact that some of that still goes on. I do believe in grace and mercy for offenders, but that cannot mean that they stay in their spiritual office until bad publicity makes their position untenable. And yet otherwise good people make decisions like that — incredible.

  • Zach

    I was celibate for 20 years. I never sexually assaulted anyone.
    Also, if celibacy is the issue, there must a lot of celebate teachers.
    “To support her contention, Shakeshaft compared the priest abuse data with data collected in a national survey for the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2000. Extrapolating data from the latter, she estimated roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a school employee from a single decade—1991-2000. That compares with about five decades of [11,000] cases of abusive priests.”

  • Zach

    @Wold Paul You hit the nail on the head.

  • hlvanburen

    “While I agree, I also wonder to what extent the media is playing all this up? For instance, I’ve heard that in the USA, there were ten times the number of sex abuse cases in the public school system as in the RCC. However, the media chooses not to report these.”
    If you can show me that there is a national organization controlling and appointing ALL school teachers across the nation, and actively involved in moving abusive teachers from one school district to another to prevent any kind of scandal, then I might accept your analogy. Until you are capable of doing that this is an apples and oranges scenario.
    Yes, there is a child abuse crisis in public education. No, there is most definitely NOT the national conspiracy to hide it as their is (and has been for generations) within the Catholic Church. When a teacher in Peoria, IL is revealed to have abused a child, there is not an educational bishop in Chicago that transfers that teacher in the middle of the night to a school in East St. Louis, IL.

  • pepy3

    I think Zach has good points. I might also add, how much of an issue is sexual abuse within the overall culture of Ireland. Is this something that also needs dealt with? Is it easy to lay blame straight to the clergy and therefore deflect attention from the other elephant in the living rooms of Ireland?
    I am not saying this clergy violence should not be dealt with in Ireland and Germany, etc. etc. But, if we are going to redeem part, can we open it all up and redeem the whole? Could there be a call to all for an honest repentance? I think that does come with #4 above. IMHO. And I pray for all who have been hurt.

  • Scott W

    The Catholic sex abuse scandal came up in my after Liturgy discussion lasy Sunday. My pastor, an Orthodox convert who grew up Catholic pre-Vatican II that the initial response to treat clergy sexual abuse by some bishops and others as “spiritual” problems which can be cured with a mix of psychological and spiritual work, and thus these priests were shifted aroung from place to place. The institutional intransigence took on a life of its own and became toxic and “criminal.” But to simply lay this at the feet of Catholic theology is off the mark.
    In my college years I attended a independant charismatic church where there was a case of a member abusing a child. In true “biblical” form they confronted him and brought this to the congregation. He repented and he was restored to the fellowship as if nothing happened. This was handled better institutionally but there was still this naivete about the depth of this problem and its impact which is not the same it today, 30+ years ago.

  • dopderbeck

    Scot (#9) — “sublimating” is a strange word choice here, particularly given its Freudian implications. But beyond wordsmithing, yes, it is entirely a “Catholic” principle that the Magesterium is not “above” Scripture, but nor is the Magesterium “beneath” scripture — they are complementary sources of norms. The calumny of some zealots in the Reformation tradition is the claim that the Magesterium stands “above” scripture, which simply is not the case, at least not in “official” Cathoic teaching today.
    Zach is exactly right here — we Protestants have at least unofficial sources of norms outside scripture (e.g., tradition, reason, and experience). We nevertheless hold Scripture to be the norma normans in way that Catholics do not. We can debate whether “our” approach is or isn’t more faithful to the deposit of faith we’re supposed to be passing along, whether this method really “works” on the ground, and why it has left us still dazed, confused, and bitterly divided among ourselves a century after the fundamentalist-modernist controversy erupted. But let’s not try to resurrect the old saw that Papism is the root of all evil.

  • dopderbeck

    ScottW (#15) raises a difficult point for “us.” We in the Reformation traditions hold to the “priesthood of all believers,” with varying degrees of tenacity. Do any of us know the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in our own congregations / traditions? What insititutional discipline and oversight has been enacted to deal with the problem? Remember, for “us,” sexual abuse perpetrated by any member of the body is abuse perpetrated by a “Priest.”

  • Richard

    I appreciate and affirm what Phil Dolci and Dopderbeck have stated.
    I think that Patrick has misunderstood and misrepresented Catholic teachings. 7 years ago I would have agreed with him because that was the only representations I had learned from my protestant pastors but as I’ve worked ecumenically and wrestled with theology with two priests in my community and several Catholic lay people, I’ve realized that, if anything, I and others like me had been basing our understanding of the modern Catholic church off of the rhetoric of the Reformation (not discounting the value of it, just acknowledging that over the top writing was a polemical tool utilized and needs to be recognized for what it is).

  • Scot McKnight

    Is it politically incorrect to ask if the “system” at work in the RCC is what has contributed to this problem of child abuse and cover up?

  • Scott Leonard

    I agree with most of what Patrick says. But with all due respect (always a preface to something disrespectful), the greatest need of the RCC in Ireland is the greates need of the RCC everywhere: a theology that recognizes the FINISHED work on the cross. It took Luther years to see it. He was not a child of God and regenerate until then. Most (not all, by any means) in the RCC have NEVER seen what Luther saw in Romans. It is what all MUST see to be saved. Theirs is the gospel Paul railed against in Galatians. He pronounced a curse on it. It is the gospel of Jesus plus. Until a priest abandons that and receives the priceless gift of grace, we should expect them to act like sinners, capable of the ugliest of crimes, just as all unregenerate are, and as I am, apart from the grace of God. Now put those in an environment where marriage is forbidden, and who knows what can happen? Fatal theology breeds the perpetuation of fatally flawed human beings! God have mercy on the blnd inside the RCC and all the protestant churches where a ‘works’ gospel is preached instead of grace.

  • Scott W

    One thing that may have contributed to the problem in Ireland is the fact that because the Church was seen as the bastion of morality and culture,and operated with the collusion/partnership of govt. and society in so many ways,this fed the institutional identity which could not readily admit to its deep flaws and practices. From what I’ve heard, the Irish Catholic Church has a history of being extremely authoritarian, which can lead to and magnify this issue, as an institutional phenomenon.

  • Richard

    @ 19 Scot
    I don’t think it’s politically incorrect to ask if the system contributed to the problems. I think that should be an important question in this.
    But in my limited life experience, I’ve observed that more regulation and systemic changes don’t make a difference if the current system of checks and regulation aren’t enforced. I think the deeper issue would be the individuals that thought covering and hiding would be for the greater good than coming forward and holding those responsible accountable. And from what I understand, Pope Benedict may be one of those individuals and I hope he takes more responsibility than he has thus far.
    But if we’re going to raise questions about the system, we need to make sure we’re accurately portraying that system as well.

  • Phil D

    who cares if it is not pc.

  • Scott W

    In the American context a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice highlighted areas concerning poor ministerial formation in a social context of great social change as contributing to this problem for those priest ordained within this cohort. If there is “grist for the theological mill” here, have at it!
    Transmitted 03/01/2004 1:53 PM ET
    Clergy sex abuse report and study mark major milestone
    By Jerry Filteau
    Catholic News Service
    The report highlights a closed seminary environment up to the 1960s and a too-open reactive seminary environment in the 1970s as part of the institutional problem behind the crisis. In the former, future priests got little or no training to deal with questions of intimacy and sexuality, and some of those ordained were so psychosexually immature that they identified with, and acted out with, children and teenagers. In the latter, seminary faculty unequipped to cope with the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s offered too little guidance to students who were part of that culture.
    The review board said that whatever the ideological viewpoints of the witnesses it interviewed “all agreed that the rapidly changing (seminary) climate — from a strictly regimented atmosphere to an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere — contributed to the current crisis” by failing to form seminarians for a mature celibate commitment.
    Experts say the seminaries have made major strides in screening and formation in celibacy and sexuality in the past 15 years. To the extent that sexual attacks on children by adults are part of the sinful human condition, it is inevitable that some of those adults will be found among the nation’s 45,000 Catholic priests. To the extent that conditions in society or an institution enable or contribute to such conduct, the epidemic character of priestly abuse of minors appears to have been a phenomenon of the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s.
    Issues of mandatory celibacy and homosexual orientation in the priesthood receive nuanced treatment in the review board’s report. It raises some tough questions for bishops to deal with, but it does not fall prey to the easy solutions of the left — let priests marry — or the right — ban all homosexuals.

  • I’ve just written about the latest resignation of an Irish bishop for Belief Beat, Beliefnet’s religion news blog. Check it out at

  • Dopderbeck,
    Well, first it feels a bit peculiar to be accused of same old calumy that has divided the church for centuries. Yes I have read the Pope’s excellent book on Jesus. Our local church actively seeks to build bridges with the local Catholic church. I’m part of a evangelical-Catholic dialogue group and have been blessed by the fellowship and theological discussions we’ve had there as we’ve explored our differences and commonalities in a spirit of respect.
    I’m not naively or ignorantly just wishing Catholics were Protestants. You’d have to live here to get a sense of the depth of the crisis facing Irish Catholicsm. This is not, as some have suggested, a media created story. Words can’t capture how devastating a series of recent Govt reports and their fall out have been – all on top of 15 years of terrible revelations.
    There is much talk of how the church got to this position and how reform and renewal can come. Many many Catholics are saying that there is a desperate need for the Word and the Spirit to become more central in the actual life and experience of the church. Cardinal Brady was saying the same thing.
    I don’t think it is mangling Catholic theology to say that sadly the actual practice of Catholicism in Ireland has not had a central place for Word and Spirit in the lived life of believers. My comments are borne out of a sense, shared by many from all perspectives, that talk of renewal has not really begun to go deep enough. It has been too political and structural in tone.
    In last Saturday’s Pastoral Letter to the Irish Church from Pope Benedict in light of sex-abuse (apparently a unique letter of its kind in the history of the Papacy), the Pope talked of how these awful events “have obscured the light of the Gospel”
    That’s what I’m trying to get at – how can reform come to an institutional church where the gospel has been obscured? As Cardinal Brady rightly says it must begin with Word and Spirit. So what needs to happen for Word and Spirit to bring spiritual reform?
    PS and on my blog I made clear that while these comments were in light of the crisis facing Catholicism in no way were they suggesting that evangelicals / Protestants have it all ‘right’. Protestantism in Ireland has its own need for spiritual reform.

  • dopderbeck

    Scot (#19) — “politically incorrect” is a red herring.
    What do you mean by “the system?”
    Does “the system” means the way in which Priests were trained and supervised, and the way in which allegations of abuse were handled? Obviously there’s an enormous problem on that front. It should be exposed and dealt with. And if the Church isn’t willing to do that, it should be subject to no-holds-barred critique.
    If “the system” means the tradition of celibate male Priests and Bishops, ask the question, but do it in an informed way. That question is the tip of a huge ideological iceberg, involving internecine disputes in Catholic circles of which most Protestants are utterly unaware. I’ve heard people suggest, for example, that because Priests must be male and celibate, mostly gay men are attracted to the Priesthood, and of course gay men are naturally attracted to young boys…. Realize that this is one of the roads underlying this sort of critique of “the system.” (I’d want to suggest that this line of argument is ignorant as well as politically incorrect).
    If “the system” means the doctrinal system in which a teaching authority stands alongside scripture, then I think any suggestion that “the system” is a problem with respect to this particular issue is just dumb. Unfortunately, that’s the sort of meaningless critique that jumped out to me in the original post.

  • dopderbeck

    Patrick (#26) — I suppose I’m having some trouble with phrases like “an institutional church where the gospel has been obscured.” They sound so, so much like the bleatings of fundamentalist churches I grew up in in North America, which were convinced that Catholics in general were heading for Hell. Have you ever read a Chick Tract? I understand you’re not saying the same thing, but you should understand how your message sounds to my North American ears.
    I spent parts of three summers in Galway. I visited the Galway Cathedral for Mass. The Gospel wasn’t obscured at all — what is the Mass but a proclamation of the Gospel? I also was surprised to hear some religious programming on RTE radio as I drove around the countryside.
    I do appreciate, of course, the unique and odd mix of history, culture, economics and religion that have led to today’s secularized Ireland. I live in the NY City Metropolitan area, and when I went to Galway I felt in many ways like I was back in New York, only with Irish accents and more charming pubs. I suppose it’s always been little hard for me to understand some of the navel-gazing about that in Irish Christian circles. What do you expect? We live in a post-Christian world and need to adjust our sense of mission to it.

  • Scot McKnight

    No, dopderbeck, “pc” is not a red herring, at least not in my view.
    By “system” I don’t mean celibacy, though as you know there are many Catholics calling for re-evaluation of that.
    What I mean by “system” is exactly what Patrick has now said in his response in the comment just before yours. That’s what I’m talking about. The system is broken and not working well and there needs to be some serious, serious revision of what’s going on. And I mean by it what you say in your opening paragraph.

  • dopderbeck

    Scot (#29) — sorry, I disagree: throwing around the term “pc” is just a way of avoiding serious debate on one side or the other, which is the quintessence of a red herring.
    As to “system,” the mechanics oversight and so-on are not what Patrick discussed in his original post. What he discussed in his original post, like it or not, is that Catholics should accept all the fundamental theological principles of the Protestant Reformation — which have nothing to do with the mechanics of oversight.
    If the point here is that more and better oversight is needed, I don’t think anyone, anywhere, disagrees with that — including the Pope, as Patrick now notes. So what’s the real point?

  • Your Name

    As an Irish person who has read the conversation generated by Patrick’s recent comments, it seems to me that the contributions emanating from the N American side of the Atlantic indicate little awareness of the impact of recent disclosures related to sexual abuse in the Irish context.
    A society which until comparatively recently consisted of 96 % Catholic citizens, mostly practising, has been utterly devastated by events as they have unfolded. Many formerly devoted Catholic communicants are teetering on th edge not only of the Church but of faith. This reaction can in no way be explained by media hype.
    It is against this backdrop that Patrick has made his timely remarks and it is simply foolish to ignore his suggestions and dub them as anti-Catholic invective.The situtaion is too serious to get bogged down in theological arguments, which the Church has unfortunately often done.

  • Dopderbeck (30)
    In our dialogue group we’ve debated and discussed the real and substantive differences that remain between us. That has taken time and trust. I’ve learnt lots in the process. But I’ve said the same thing there as here – and you might find it a fundamentalist attitude – I think that there are aspects of Catholic theology that tend to obscure the gospel. Again, that’s not saying there aren’t many weaknesses in Protestantism / evangelicalism too that are well aired on this site all the time. But as some theologian said, Protestants need to have good reasons why they are not part of mother Church.

  • dopderbeck

    Patrick (#32) — as a protestant myself, I have no problem with clear and generous dialogue about points of theological difference — though I’m suspecting that your definition of “gospel” is overly individualistic.
    What I have a big problem with is suggesting that those differences are what essentially underlie the Catholic sex abuse scandals. To put it bluntly, I think that’s sanctimonious nonsense.

  • After dialogue with the user Doperdeck I think it might be helpful for me to start this comment with some bio. I am an Irishman training to be a Presbyterian minister in the pontifical university in Ireland at Maynooth. My classmates are Catholic seminarians. My lecturers are priests. I was raised Catholic by two faithful parents who love God and attend mass daily. I am not writing from a Chick tract pushing, anti-papist sectarian position. Instead, I am writing as a Christian who grives sincerely with my brothers and sisters in the Irish church for the sins we have committed and been complicit in. But I feel a need to step in and defend Dr. Mitchel, who is surely one of the most moderate and informed people one could hope to consult on the contemporary church in Ireland.
    First off, some clarifications:
    In his article, Patrick reported what Hans Kung had to say, however controversial he is, he remains a giant of catholic theology and although he is not entitled to teach Catholic theology, he remains a priest of the church and his views therefore should not be dismissed a-priori. More importantly, Patrick did not endorse Prof. Kung’s views. He himself did not connect the child abuse scandal to celibacy but reported Kung’s argument along those lines. In true Jesus Creed fashion, he opened the conversation up with them. He then proposed his own suggestions in light of and in the form of the documents circulating here in the church in Ireland. So please don’t read his writings as warmed-over Kungism! 🙂
    Pepy3 raises a brilliant point when they write, “how much of an issue is sexual abuse within the overall culture of Ireland. Is this something that also needs dealt with? Is it easy to lay blame straight to the clergy and therefore deflect attention from the other elephant in the living rooms of Ireland?” Child abuse was historically a problem and remains challenged but not yet totally overcome. A constitutional ammendment on the rights of the child is to come before the people in the next 12 months. As bad as the rates of abuse within the church and church-run services were, the scandal that is really shaking the church and society here is the extent to which the church tried to cover it up and continues to fail to speak clearly of repentence.
    Scott W describes this well when he says that they would “treat clergy sexual abuse by some bishops and others as “spiritual” problems which can be cured with a mix of psychological and spiritual work, and thus these priests were shifted aroung from place to place” but he too misreads Patrick when he thinks Dr. Mitchel laid this “at the feet of Catholic theology”. What Patrick proposed is a way out of the problem, not an archeology of how we got into it. Ironically, in comment #21 he gives a pretty good stab (for a darn Yank! 😉 ) at that explanation when he says, “One thing that may have contributed to the problem in Ireland is the fact that because the Church was seen as the bastion of morality and culture,and operated with the collusion/partnership of govt. and society in so many ways,this fed the institutional identity which could not readily admit to its deep flaws and practices.” The Catholic Church to some extent is still unwilling to face the reality of the end of Irish Christendom.
    What I would ask from all the Jesus Creed community (I am a constant observer but rare rare rare commenter) is prayer for the Irish Church because the scale of the problem is actually hard to communicate. One Irish theologian, Gladys Ganiel has put it well when she said the tragedy here is that we are unable to even be surprised or shocked anymore by revelations. It is the opposite of hope. Many of my dear friends who are priests are wrestling in serious ways with their approaches, their vocation, even for some, their faith. So please do pray for healing and courage and then pray still more again for the victims.

  • dopderbeck

    Kevin (#34) — great comment. Obviously what all true followers of Jesus desire here is healing, reconciliation, and renewal. I am not trying to downplay the scope or evil of this tragedy in Ireland (or Germany, or the U.S.). Like you, I’m regularly engaged in protestant/evangelical-Catholic dialogue as well as ecumenical outreach. From my vantage point, this is not a time to highlight again the wounds of the Sixteenth Century, which it seems to me is the only fair way to read Patrick’s post. Would that it could somehow even be used of God to bring the Church together!

  • Patrick didn’t mention the 16th Century. He mentioned the Gospel. Those two things have no necessary collusion. The only way to force them together is to unfairly make assumptions from outside what was written…

  • tscott

    You might as well ask, “What is the future of the Protestant church in the world?” A positivist doesn’t think the real problem is the anything more than outmoded belief systems. They believe that most of any religious belief system is an anachronism.
    The scientific method is the wave of the near future. Picking on sexual perversion of celibates isn’t much different than picking on sexual perversion of the monogamous( trust me they think this is wrong also). And they can prove it.

  • dopderbeck

    Kevin (#36) — he listed five basic points for a “new reformation” that may as well have been lifted out of the Westminster Confession. I don’t see how else to read that. This is much more than “the Gospel,” it is equating gospel with a particular ecclesiology. And that is precisely my problem here (it is also my problem with Tridentine Catholicism, but as I’ve noted, they at least moved forward at Vatican II..).

  • dopderbeck

    Kevin (#36) — he listed five basic points for a “new reformation” that may as well have been lifted out of the Westminster Confession. I don’t see how else to read that. This is much more than “the Gospel,” it is equating gospel with a particular ecclesiology. And that is precisely my problem here (it is also my problem with Tridentine Catholicism, but as I’ve noted, they at least moved forward at Vatican II..).
    But look, maybe you’re right, maybe I’ve over-reacted and misunderstood Patrick’s post (I’ve been known to do that kind of thing from time to time….). I can’t really comment on the ground-level reality of your ministry context in Ireland with its multifarious challenges. At least when I was there it was still the Celtic Tiger.
    All I can tell you is how this particular bit of rhetoric strikes me, particularly as imported here into the “Jesus Creed” community context, which is mostly North American. I personally think, as Mark Noll put it, that the Reformation is basically over, and that it’s generally a big missional mistake to try to use the Catholic sex abuse scandals in Ireland or elsewhere to highlight old theological differences. I can’t help it, that’s the lens through which I read Patrick’s comments, and therefore in my own context I don’t find them helpful.

  • Mark

    While the majority of posters here are predominantly seminarian in background, I am not. What I do know is that regardless of business, affiliation or denomination, admitting to transgressions should be the first order of business to correcting issues. The Catholic/denomination idea has always bothered me in defining Christians. We either believe the Gospel and actively seek out those lost souls amongst us, or we don’t. If we don’t, we aren’t Christian. God commanded us to do certain things and he didn’t give us alot of pomp and circumstance to get those things done. All of those things are man-made and should play NO part in whether a soul is saved or not. Regardless of each person’s religious traditions, branch, denomination or proclivities, we all better wake up and come together as was commanded or we all will e very sorry. It is on our watch as to whether we get this right or not. The bottom line is that Jesus lived, died to save us all and as long as we accept him in our hearts and lives; the rest doesn’t matter…..none of it! Clean this mess up and act like children of God and let’s get down to God’s business of being fisher’s of men/women/children.

  • I have to leave this conversation – just to say David if you are ever over here, let’s do the Irish thing and have a pint and discuss religion and politics … And I’d start that conversation by saying I don’t think Noll & Nystrom’s (very good) book actually did conclude that the Reformation is over – plenty of ambiguity left on that question from my reading.
    But then I hope we’d talk about more missional stuff because, despite appearances from this thread, we actually spend very little time debating difference between Catholics / Protestants when there are far more pressing missional challenges.

  • dopderbeck

    Patrick (#41) — I’d enjoy that. Slainte!

  • dan

    There will be no reform unless it happens from the top down. Try getting rid of the Free mason clergy in the Vatican. The Pope knows who they are. Secrets and more secrets. Oops did I just say that?!
    I am a practicing Catholic and find it hard to sit through mass every weekend without wondering why we just don’t let it fall apart and rebuild after all the sinful corpses are buried. How is the Vatican supposed to set the religious tone for the world when there are too many skeletons in the closet. The Vatican security is even tighter that our own CIA..
    “When people hide secrets, it is because they don’t want to get caught.”
    George Bush….911

  • deanna clark

    I found the impetus to stick with Mass from, (drumroll), the writer George Eliot, especially in Silas Marner. From her comments on William Cowper, the poet, I investigated his life. He was a victim soul of spirituality and found sanity and help in the mortal, simple realities of life. I wrote a paper on him tying his story to scolastic Catholic teaching on nature… but of course nobody cares what a grandmother and a nobody writes. I’m not a priest or nun or rich or a celebrity visionary! But neither are you folks, so I thought to say, “howdy” from a Scottish Texan who joined your church. Let’s pray for a great revival,and the downfall of priest-worship. GOD IS God, and we ain’t. HAPPY EASTER!

  • deanna clark

    Howdy again. William Cowper said, ” A pastor knows enough who knows a duke.” That puts a lot of the Church’s problems in a nutshell! Here in the states the joke is, “Before a priest can become a bishop he must have an operation to remove his spine.” Also, regarding the abuse in secular schools and so on…sin has been around a long time…it is sanctioned, hidden sin in the church of Jesus that makes these abuses so horrible…”Suffer the little children to come to Me and get beat up and sodomized.” Christian authority figures have been robbing children of their childhood innocence under God’s roof! Not only that, they have been robbed of the one true sanctuary from the cold, cruel world…where can they go to find Jesus in this world now?

  • Chuck

    As a former Catholic I can’t help but wonder what part the celibacy requirement for priests has played in this scandalous situation. When men, though with the best of intentions, take a vow of celibacy it opens wide the door to deviant sexual expression and abuse. In some cases it can lead to a strange logic that reasons “marriage is off limits but everything else goes”.

  • Rob

    Are Catholics caught by suprise?
    Does the Word of God speak of this situation?
    Is the Spirit blowing a fresh reformation?
    Puzzled – then read Hebrews 11:22-29. God is shaking the churches of all unrighteousness and unholiness. It’s God not the devil (he’s revealing the devil’s works – like Jesus’ words about the white washed tombs – shinning on the outside dead bones inside).
    If we cannot accept the shakings and come to God in honest confession of sin and repentance – then that spells the doom to the “Catholic Religion” – God has come to shake it and draw out the “catholic faith”, which will live on.

  • Mhoira

    It is so amazing that the issue of men abusing boys is the big problem all of a sudden. It has been going on for years under our very noses and what hits the media is only the tip of the problem. Jesus welcomed everyone, both men and women, in spite of the fact that culturally he had to make 12 men his apostles. These were backed by women and it was Paul who had both men and women serving as ‘officials’ in the apostolic church. ‘Priests’ came much later when men took over the control of the Church. I felt a call to the priesthood in my teens when a number of the boys, including one of my brothers, tried his vocation. I was not allowed to and could only enter a convent. Women had to put up and shut up.
    So last year, having gained a second degree, in Theology and completing a Master’s degree in Church Practice I was welcomed into the Reformed Catholic Church and validly ordained as a prebyter/priest. My fellow Catholics, especially the women I knew, praised me for having the guts to do something about it. Even a couple of priest friends agreed with me and supported me, even wanting to concelebrate Mass with me, but one of them was told by his bishop that if he continued to associate with me he too would be excommunicated. I had to ask myself where my precious Savior was in all of this – certainly not with the Bishop and his dictates.
    I have Irish ancestry but currently live in Australia trying with my whole heart to return to Ireland to serve my sisters and brothers as their priest. But Rome under Benedict XVI cannot bear the thought of equality for women. So where do I go? What do I do?