Archbishop urges lapsed Catholics to just leave the Church

Archbishop urges lapsed Catholics to just leave the Church December 10, 2011

While dioceses in the United States are climbing aboard the “Catholics Come Home” bandwagon, at least one bishop in Ireland is saying “Go ahead.  Leave.  And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”


The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has urged the country’s lapsed Catholics to have the maturity to leave the church.

Over the past two decades, rising numbers of ‘a la carte’ Catholics simply turn up at the altar for the sacraments like baptism, communion and marriage.

But in a new documentary on the future of the church, priests reveal they will expect a firmer commitment from their flock in the future. It shows how church pews swell to almost full capacity for celebratory sacraments, while Sunday services have dwindling numbers.

Archbishop Martin urged non-believers to walk away from the church.

He said: “It requires maturity on those people who want their children to become members of the church community and maturity on those people who say ‘I don’t believe in God and I really shouldn’t be hanging on to the vestiges of faith when I don’t really believe in it’.”

Fr Michael Drumm, from the Catholic Schools Partnership, said the church would be getting firmer with parents looking to have their children baptised as a Catholic.

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105 responses to “Archbishop urges lapsed Catholics to just leave the Church”

  1. This is driving me crazy. Is this photo of Archbishop Martin? To me, this really looks like Cardinal Rigali (who recently retired as Archbishop of Philadelphia).

  2. Sounds like a good idea to me. There are some very religious people out there, (not just Catholics) who feel it isn’t necessary for formal worship in a church, temple etc. to the God they believe it. What is more natural than the outdoors on a seashore or in the woods, or one’s own back yard or their home etc. to be silent and quiet and thank or worship a higher power? Those people don’t need a formal leader (priest, minister,rabbi) or words written by someone else to direct their religious life.

  3. Forgive me if I suggest, yet again, that bad pastoral practices (like a bishops recommending that people leave the Church) rest in part on poor law (like making it virtually impossible for people canonically to leave the Church). If law, pace the interpretation given this matter in April 2006, were more adept at recognizing when people have, in fact, left the Church, we would not have bishops recommending that people leave her officially. My views on this are laid out here: Antinomianism is not just disdain for law, it’s also a recurring inability to see when the law needs fixing, and even, often enough, why it needs fixing.

  4. Cardinal Rigali ordained me Deacoon in 1994. Unlike this gentleman, he shaves. Deacon Greg, your site is great!

  5. I think, pagansister, you are missing the point. I don’t think Archbishop Martin is talking about people who want to worship God someplace other than a church building. I think he’s talking about people who want the convenience and perks of Church membership when it suits them — e.g., being able to get married in the pretty, photogenic church, having your child baptised Catholic as a social occasion, etc. — without being willing to commit themselves to living according to the teachings of the Church. In otherwords, people who want all the show without any of the substance, or who want the benefits without assuming any of the responsibilities.

    And yes, hannajo, that is Archbishop Martin in the photo.

  6. Where in the article does the archbishop say:
    “Go ahead. Leave. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” ?

    I was under the impression that he had a good understanding of the loss of credibility that Catholics in Ireland have about the hierarchy.

  7. But we do need one another, or we can’t love, which is what God is.

    Community is life, isolation is death.

  8. Is there a procedure for a formal at of defection? I am attending (and receiving instruction) in the Episcopal Church and would provide a formal act of defection to the appropriate Roman Catholic authorities if one is desired or permitted.

  9. My parish has received several formal letters from pastors of other denominations who have written that the person in question requests a formal notation be made in the Baptismal registry that the person has officially left the Catholic Church. My pastor keeps the letter, but refuses to make the notation. Yet, for a pre-marital investigation, we must ask if they have ever formally left the church. We also ask people who return to the Church after attending another Church for an extended amount of time to make a profession of faith. I would think the notation in the Baptismal registry would be sufficiently formal.

  10. Dear Brother Dcn. I have been a dcn, for 28(all of those Working in Pastoral needs in hospital , prison, jail as a Certifide catholic chaplain ) and, I belived that the Pastors, Priest, Deacons and religious there are to supervised them of what’s going on the parish, by the vicar in the area, many of the Priest become “administrators and less spiritual directors, the Exodo of the Hispanics (specially en the Scranton , PA, Diocese is do that they don’t care for them, and manny of the 65, ooo that they have in that diocese don’t have a pastoral plan, and in 4 spanish masses about 250 peolple goes to those masses…WHY) I guess it happen alL over and the protestant welcome them well and they have been converted… if we remember the message that pope John Paul II said about 10-15 years ago that we catholic don’t have to worrie about the protestant, we are to worrie about the Muslim(n Prisons MOST of the catholics are being converted to Muslin) …if we want to welcome them specially this season…welcome them in the rigth way and DON’T CLOSED THE DOORS ON THEM, like happening in manny dioceses…I guess we are to see what they do that that we don’t do…HAVE A BLESSED CHRISTMAS…Please read…1cor:9:16

  11. I think David hits it on the head. I think the Archbishop is addressing those who may be called cultural Catholics rather than practicing Catholics. They want the church when they need it like stopping in at a convenience store. They do nothing to build up the church like supporting it or participating in the life of their parish. For all intents and purposes they have left the church for now but perhaps someday they will return. Only God knows.

  12. I DID leave the church and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a bishop who finally understands (or admits) the logic of mutual respect behind such decisions. The only trouble is, the Church no longer has a procedure to formally leave. They shut it down just about the time people started to learn about it and use it in substantial numbers, mostly in Ireland and Europe. Of course the problem is that the Vatican likes having it both ways. If they maintained a procedure for leaving and kept any sort of records for it, they wouldn’t have the continued clout that comes from the fictional “1.3 billion” or whatever swollen membership figure they like to claim these days.

  13. Well there’s the rub, isn’t it? when people DO have the integrity and honesty to leave, the Church refuses to accept that. Until they do, the bishops and CINOs deserve each other’s company. If you’re Catholic by accident of birth and that religious identity is independent of your own conscious and actions, why should anyone feel constrained by official orthodoxy?

  14. Fr Michael Drumm, from the Catholic Schools Partnership, said the church would be getting firmer with parents looking to have their children baptised as a Catholic.

    Please, please tell me this isn’t rooted in a “Catholic/non-Catholic tuition” issue but merely an ill-worded challenge to “hangers on.” If it is indeed a school issue, it would be (for me) another reason why some dioceses should get right out of the Catholic education business (emphasis on “business”). Anyone who has worked in a parish with a school may very well know of the divisiveness between “the publics” and “the school” and “the homeschoolers,” their fierce competition for funding, facilities and pastoral attention, and the constant presence of disunity it brings.

  15. Yes, there IS a procedure called Actus Formalis Defectionis ab Eclesia Catholica (an Act of Formal Defection). Or rather, there WAS. It basically entailed sending a letter to the bishop in the parish you were baptized, and they would put a notation in your baptism record. (They don’t “debaptize” you, and you are still considered permanently Catholic by the act of baptism, but you could officially leave the Church as an organization). For some good info, check out

  16. While I’m not in favor of the loose faith that cafeteria Catholics practice, I’m also not in favor of telling folks to leave. If they don’t believe in the Catholic Church and what she believes and teaches, they will leave, in one form or another on their own. But, to urge non-believers to walk away is tantamount to telling a suicidal person, “Go ahead and jump.” Not all will jump, but some will and the person who utters those words to the suicidal will bear some responsibility. We all have moments when our faith is not as strong as it should be. But, we pray for God to “help our unbelief” cf Mark 9:24. Remember the Servant Song in Isaiah, “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench…” Is 42:3. What we really need is more catecheses to answer people’s questions and to expand their understanding of the faith. Most people who walk away from their faith don’t fully understand it, or have not received sufficient instruction or training to understand it sufficiently. They see contradictions, but don’t understand that the Church is made up of both saints and sinners. They see demands or see where they don’t meet those demands, but don’t see mercy or what they believe would be mercy. They see standards, but don’t see all (particularly when it comes to peccadillos of those in charge) adhering to them. They see an institution, but don’t understand the Church is both human and divine. They see the Eucharist, but don’t understand that Christ is truly present body, blood, soul and divinity. If they only knew the gift of God…he would give them living water…so that they might not be thirsty (cf John 4:10, 15). We all need to evangelize better with both our actions and our words. We need to follow Christ more closely in order to draw others more closely to Him.

  17. Thank you for the courage to share this thought and conversation generating column. There are many topics already shared here to dialogue about. I was a deacon in Coloroado for a while. My parish was in a place of great beauty, and I met many who wanted photo-op marriages. I also met parents who wanted baptisms for children because of grandparents coming in to town for a family reunion — but the parents had no intention of practicing the faith. In a few cases, I’ve refused to marry a couple or baptize an infant until the adults involved demonstrated that their faith would be meaningful and practiced. Some pastors won’t support such a decision which has caused problems and confusion. May God please that the shepherds of His Church help lead us to a core of real and practicing believers who recognize what a gift we have been given. There is no ‘cheap grace.’ dt

  18. The Law behind Baptism says that there needs to be a hope for the child to be raised Catholic. If the parents bring the child for Baptism, there exists the desire and hope. Every parent who brings a child to my parish to be Baptized brings the hope of a new family in our community. And in our Baptism ministry, we open our arms with welcome to these families and pray that the Holy Spirit will work within them.

    I have seen this happen. I have seen families walk in our doors because they were rejected at other parishes, often for petty and ridiculous reasons, often in the name of “policies” and “Laws” which don’t actually exist (Including some policies that our own Bishop has said we should NOT be creating in the first place!) I have later had families tell me that they had not planned to stay but that the warm, loving welcome of our Catholic community brought a change to their hearts.

    This reminds me of the parable of the Shepherd who will look for his lost sheep. What kind of Shepherd would tell his sheep “Well if you want to go, go, because I don’t really want you around here anyway”?

  19. i totally disagree with calling us ‘immature’. firstly, there is an issue of cultural catholicism which has nothing to do with a lack of maturity: it’s pure ethnic and cultural value. secondly, to label somebody as ‘immature’ whilst the irish hierarchy themselves for decades lived in denial of their lack of common sense, is laughable. thirdly, a hierarchy that usurped power for decades has no right to make statements like this without first acknowledging that the church was more than a private religious institution in this State 🙂 and it is not just about their sudden moral pious stance, but also about the fruits of that clericalist seeds they are reaping now. hierarchy: stop patronising the nation you used to own and be mature enough to respect our culture, or go away. we don’t need you anyhow. we will continue being cultural catholics, if we so wish. we will continue using your facilities to suit our cultural needs.

    [Comment edited to remove obscenity. — Ed.]

  20. Interesting conversation. I see the argument the goo Bishop is making. But he is speaking to people who have no intention of living the faith of the Catholic life, not, I believe, those who are religiously “lazy” which is how most people fall away and stop practicing. Miss Mass, no lightening strikes, miss again, still no lightening, before long it is easier to just stay home. Eventually they have to give answer for why they don’t go, to a parent or friend. Cop-out answers are easier than serious reflection on the question. Perhaps this is an opportunity to think why one isn’t practicing.

    The Church is always a haven for both sinner and saint. If you do not wish to be a part of that invitation… well, that’s what free will is. I sincerely pray for those who might leave and would wish them to stay and become a part of the family and rich heritage that is theirs by virtue of being Catholic.

    As to people complaining that the “official” way of declaring that you want to leave the Church was a check box on a website….. really? Kenneth gives an explanation of the real and official method for leaving: Actus Formalis Defectionis ab Eclesia Catholica (an Act of Formal Defection). See his post further up the page. The Church holds no one hostage, but always hopes for their salvation and their coming to the fulness of the Truth that is found in the Church, as has always been her teaching. Leave if you really must, but think hard and critically about what you are saying “no” to… you may find your “yes”

  21. Adrienne the Law does say that there needs to be some hope that the child will be raised in the faith. We should also err on the side of administering the sacrament if there is doubt. But if we know that the family is not going to raise the child in the faith then we are to delay administering the sacrament until that attitude changes. Deacon Tom is correct in delaying the Baptism in those cases.

  22. Well, my only problem with what you said is that “pastors of other denominations” have written to remove people rather than the person writing themselves. If the person wants to be removed, then they need to write to their bishop to be removed not have someone else write for them.

  23. “If the parents bring the child for Baptism, there exists the desire and hope. Every parent who brings a child to my parish to be Baptized brings the hope of a new family in our community.”

    I would love to be part of this parish. Many parents bring their children to be baptized to please their parents or as an excuse for a party. If there is no expressed willingness to bring the child up in the practice of the faith, the Baptism is delayed not refused.

  24. Oh, Eugene, I will pray that your heart changes and you stay in the RC Church. It is a haven of truth, truly our Mother.

  25. This issue brings to mind a comment from the priest for whom I worked as a Catholic high school administrator. He defined his duties for cultural Catholics as three; wet ’em, bed ’em, and dead ’em.

    To the best of my knowledge he never denied anyone those blessings.

  26. Jake!

    A deacon of the Armenian Eparchy who is also incardinated in a Latin Rite diocese, used this sequence — I like his better:

    “You hatch ’em; You match’ em; and you dispatch ’em.”

  27. I think the bishop has his priorities wrong, After a major sexual abuse scandal rocking Ireland, you would think the bishop would be more concerned about healing the church and his flock, rather than policing the pews.

    But as the handling of the abuse in Ireland continues on the same path as so many other dioceses (the church does nothing wrong) I am not surprised then that the bishop finds this more important.

  28. “…to urge non-believers to walk away is tantamount to telling a suicidal person, “Go ahead and jump.”
    I agree with that and also the rest of your comment.

  29. Don: I agree but I find it fascinating that an Irish bishop has made that call considering that this idea is not new with his church but with the church here in the US. There are a lot of folks on this blog who want someone with the authority and public presence of a major Cardinal-Archbishop make that same statement.

    Ain’t gonna happen!

  30. From one extreme to the other… The message the hierarchy needs to be sending out is the same as john the baptist: Repent! Turn away from sin and return to the gospel.

    Telling people to bolt is an east cop out, the inverse of not presenting church teaching accurately.

  31. On the subject of refusing to baptize an infant until one is convinced that the parents would demonstrate sufficiently that they would be practicing Catholics; that is a heavy responsibility for a pastor or deacon to take on himself.
    I recall an instance in which an unmarried mother with a history of poor church attendance asked to have her baby baptized in our parish. She had previously been turned down by another parish. Our pastor told us that he had mixed feelings about it, but his conscience told him to grant her request. The mother had herself been baptized as an infant in our church. He assigned the baptism and the prep instruction to my husband, who is one of the deacons in the parish. He did as the pastor requested, and said that he did see the mother at Mass sometimes afterwards. About 3 months later the baby died of SIDS. No one had any doubts at that point that the parish had done the right thing.
    Of course I believe that God takes care of children who die without Baptism; that somehow in His plan of salvation He has included them. But He also expects us to do what is possible in a human way for them.

  32. The Church DOES, in fact hold people hostage. Not in a literal physical sense of course, but they continue to count you as a member and in a sense, an endorsement of their religion even after you’ve expressly told them otherwise. Formal Defection no longer exists as an option in canon law. That’s the sort of behavior we associate with cults, not religions which are supposed to be freely and fully chosen by people.

  33. I would think that the above comment would be a violation of this site’s stated policies regarding posting and should be removed … or at least edited. Obviously, the writer has been hurt and the Church in Ireland is hurting. Let us all pray for healing on the Emerald Isle.

    [You’re correct. Noted, and edited, Fr. J. Thanks. — Ed.]

  34. Actually, Archbishop Martin is the rare cleric in Ireland who is very highly regarded these days, due to his outspoken criticism of negligent bishops.

    This message does surprise me though, and doesn’t seem like the best pastoral practice.

    I suspect that what he actually said is much more nuanced than the headline suggests.

  35. I’m always amazed as to how many drop outs and Cultural Catholics lurk and post on this blog. Where else do your find folks who hang out around what they say they despise?

    It’s all very telling if you ask me!

  36. Human suffering came into the world because of human sin. The Catholic faith has led my life in a new and wonderful direction. Thank God for the permanence of the Catholic church, the sacraments, and all my friends in faith.

  37. I think this is a largely useless conversation because God is in charge of the Church, as shocking as that may be. I for one do not think that the only way to salvation is in the Roman Church, and before you jump me, neither does the Catechism. Man people leave the Roman Church for reasons that are valid, and some stay for reasons that have more to do with culture, family and guilt. You have a take a stand somewhere. This isn’t about worshiping the Church, it’s about God. I think the Bishop is saying do was God is telling you. Why the upset? Stop calling people cafeteria catholics because it makes you sound more than a touch pompous and provokes the question who died and made you God?

    Calm down, everyone. God is in charge, as shocking as that may be.

  38. Klaire:
    That is a totally sweeping generalization and based on what I would say is a very superficial analysis of the intent of the commenters on this blog.

  39. Amen, HMS.

    This blog was never intended to preach to the choir, but to reach a wide range of people, from the serious to the skeptical, and get them talking. It was also launched to show that there are many ways of “being Catholic,” and to remind anyone who cares that the Body of Christ is big, loud, argumentative, passionate, beautiful, vibrant and shockingly, gloriously diverse. I’m more than happy to welcome people who disagree with the Church, doubt her teachings, or who have walked away for one reason or another. They’re still part of the family, and I’m happy they feel comfortable enough to drop by, take off their shoes and let off some steam. If it makes them want to hang around with the rest of us pious sinners, so much the better. You never know when something might rub off 🙂

    Dcn. G.

  40. Worshiping at home alone or naked in the woods is fine if one deludedly believes in Jove and Bacchus or some god out there who doesn’t care about human beings. If you want to make a god in your own image, you might as well decide on how you want to worship it. But, anyone who believes in the true God revealed in Jesus Christ will worship in the way God revealed He should be worshiped. For the Christian that believes Jesus is who He claimed to be that means worshipping God at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which makes the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross present in an unbloody manner in hierarchically ordered worship. One cannot truly worship God without Christ. And one cannot truly worship God without being a member of the Body of Christ. For without the Son of God, we can offer nothing of value to the one God who gives value to our lives.

  41. Reread you Catechism.
    The Church teaches that she is necessary for salvation. Thus, anyone who is saved is somehow saved through the Church. That’s because Christ founded the Church to make Himself known and He identifies the Church so closely with Himself sometimes as His bride and somethimes as His Body. Thus, St. Cyprian’s hallowed formula: One cannot have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.
    God is “in charge.” And God has established certain conditions for salvation.
    You are the one who is being pompous by reinterpreting God’s will for mankind according to your preference, even though God fully revealed that will in His Son who founded the Catholic Church.

  42. Of all the responses I’ve seen to fallen away or lapsed Catholics, this has to be one of the worst. In Ireland, which is reeling from all sorts of problems, you’d think the hierarchy would demonstrate a bit more humility and compassion towards those who are struggling with their faith, or have simply lost their way. How about being a shepherd and go out and try to bring some of those lost ones back?

  43. Well, no one can force you to be a Catholic if you dont want to be one. But after reading books on the Early Church Fathers and the Early Church….you may just decide to come HOME.

  44. George is correct. The Church teaches (CCC 845,846), “Extra Ecclesiam Nullus Salus” or “Outside the Church there is no Salvation”. Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.

    This means that if one is to be saved it is through the Catholic Church. The Church was established by Jesus Christ as his mystical body in the world. Every other Church is thus man-made. It is the Catholic Church alone that can claim its founder as Christ. Christ is the one who stated that no one comes to the Father but through him and he established his Church to be the vehicle by which men come to the Father. He left charge of his flock to the Pope and Benedict XVI is the 265th successor to St. Peter.

    Does this mean that everyone physically outside is damned? Not at all, there can be people who are what the Church calls, “invincibly ignorant” that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ to which all men are called. Thus this is no fault of their own. But, if they do have the opportunity and the knowledge and thus refuse the truth – this is when such rejection can be damnable. As Christ said, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see, and so your sin remains”

  45. While you are not “de-baptized” it does remove the obligations that go with being a baptized Catholic. Where this would most likely impact would be if the person were seeking to get married to a practicing Catholic and they (the one who had left) had been married before. It would change the pathways to obtaining a decree of nulity, or at least getting the freedom to marry. It would remove the lack of form option because they would not be bound by the Church’s rules for marriage. It is still very much an official process, however sending it to the pastor is not the right way, it must go to the Bishop where the person was baptized, and the letter must come from the person. Joining another church is also considered a formal act of leaving the Catholic Church, especially if one is baptized into that church.

  46. The Church abolished the procedure in 2009 under a “motu proprio” which went into effect early in 2010. They will no longer process formal defections. I did in fact complete the procedure in the middle of 2009, and you’re correct in that you had to send the letter, a notarized letter, to the diocese office.

  47. Fr Jim, you miss the point by psychologising the issue and diverting it to formalities: I am a trainee counsellor myself, so I am being professionally taught to deal with all sorts of hurt (inner and collective). it’s about politics also, not just feelings of hurt, which themselves will need more than prayers: they need to be realistically addressed within our secular world in a social, cultural and political manner. *that* would be a mature way, not mumbling some pious nonsense: leave that to the aul’ sentimental nostalgics. so far, and to the very present day, the hierarchy has demonstrated a culture of red tape and denial, a relic of the clericalist days we, thankfully, left behind us as a society (hence: we don’t need them). archbishop Martin’s regularly saying he “was stationed at rome not ireland” throughout his career and “had no idea” simply does not cut it 🙂 if the hierarchy wants maturity: let them behave likewise and, above all, stop patronising.

  48. formal canonical procedures aside, there is a cultural mark a gigantic national institution can leave, that can be robust and hard to erase. it will always be much harder to ‘leave’ at that level than obtain a formal dispensation 🙂 i think *that* issue is far more important than the paperwork nonsense nobody gives a toss about anyway.

  49. Most Craddle or Cafeteria Catholics go to Church only in time of baptism of their children, funeral of their love ones, wedding or getting married without knowing the real meaning and holiness of the sacraments. Our Parish priest joked, he said ” if you know a family member who doesn’t want to come to Church for the Holy Mass, let him do so. Time will come he will be force to come inside this Church for there will be people that will bring him”. He was talking about funeral Mass of course. Yes, we need firm and mature Catholics that knows Catholicism- the teachings. Not just numbers of nominal Catholics only.

    Greetings from the Philippines to my brothers and sisters in Christ!

  50. I couldn’t agree more, as that is what I meant by “very telling.”

    Regardless of what grips many may have agains the CC, deep within I think most know it’s the Church of Truth, or Jesus Christ.

    Sorry for any who took this the wrong way. I also think it’s wonderful that the audience here is so diverse.

  51. It is about time that the Catholic Church weaned it’s flock and sent them out to graze on greener pastures. In the 1950s the Irish flocked to England and elsewhere because of the harsh measures adapted by the CC they knowing that there was abuses in almost every Parish. So these concealers of crime should be put on trial and made to pay compensation to all those who now seek Justice some at the expense of their relationship with God. There are many who stayed in Ireland as Cleaning stations for the rest of those who now worship every Sunday and continue to condemn those who continue to Clean up the Mess that they left behind. The Legal System has never seen such a bonanza of payouts for Child Abuse and used these victims as whipping boys for their financial and other gains. You Concealers KNOW who you are so get lost to greener pastures or pay up and shut-up. A Good FEARLESS moral inventory is now required of each of you. To the genuine Catholics both practicing and non practicing and there are still some around Thanks, Maybe a Return Spring will help to mend the broken hearts.
    2 minutes ago · Like

  52. I’ve heard it said that Catholicism is the “Hotel California” of religions: you can check out but you never really leave.

    (After all, how many people go around identifying themselves as “lapsed Presbyterians” or “recovering Methodists”?)

  53. Stephen I agree that God is in charge, but as for CATHOLICS who leave the Catholic Church, they DO risk their salvation, especially if they left after having been exposed to and taught the faith. Willful ingorance is also not an excuse.

    On the other hand, anyone who never had any exposure to the CC can most certainly be saved outside of it, although everyone saved, in the end, is only saved by the blood of Christ.

    Personally, I can’t imagine anyone ever having the Eucharist and “leaving it/Him.” It’s simply as mindblowing as deciding to leave heaven.

  54. Although this stance is tempting to take when the church is divided on major issues, I hope those who hear this message will know that Christ’s hospitality is extended to all and join another faith community who lives into that hospitality in a more genuine way.

  55. I believe this article and the Archbishop’s expressed view greatly over-simplifies and distorts the issues.

    In my family alone (speaking of my parents, my 4 siblings and I, my grandparents, and the ‘next’ generation of children) there have been a wide range of stances toward the Roman Catholic Church developing since the 1960s. I am 52 years old and I would not have attended a single mass out of sincere belief since around age 14 (1973). Yet at holidays it has been very important to some members of my family (especially my father) that we attend mass together. I have generally done this when with my parents, without taking communion, for sake of respect for my father and family tradition.

    Various members of my family are more or less devout and do not necessarily attend mass regularly if at all. The Archbishop seems to be saying nearly all of my family should just stay away. That is completely fine with me, it is my own ‘preference’ — but it definitely would have obliterated much of my family’s joint activity in relation to the Roman Catholic Church over the past 4 decades.

    Again, it’s not an issue for ‘me’ — I’m happy to be done with it all. But there are many RC believers such as my father (now 85 years old) who have considered it important, in religious and moral terms, to keep a family connected with the RC church in any ways possible when many of us have indeed chosen some distance or even (at least quietly) renunciation.

  56. Stuff and nonsense. Such people worship at the altars of theirselves. Even the old Druids won’t bother with such people.

  57. Ridiculous and shameful. A less Christian message is impossible to imagine! The Church is the Lord’s church, his members his responsibility, not some private fiefdom of someone who has probably spent too much time pondering his personal authority.

    Our Church needs to regain moral ground and get the souls back into the pews, into Church activities, and on track for the next life, not focusing on only those members who appear to have their moral lives in order. The missionary tasks of the Church aren’t just limited to some pagans over the horizon, they are just as pertinent here and now among our neighbors.

    If the Bishop would like to have a tantrum and urge some of God’s children to leave salvation, why not start with those sleazy “Catholic” politicians such as Pelosi, Cuomo, et al who publicly and shamelessly scandalize our Church by supporting and facilitating abortion, gay marriage and other sins while publicly claiming to be “good” Catholics. Probably not as easy as expelling the ordinary people, though.

    Given the somewhat lousy performance of our shepherds in the child abuse scandals, I recommend that they step down and accept replacement by new Bishops who actually care about the future of our Church and its members.

  58. It should be noted that the Bishop is speaking of a particular kind of lapsed Catholic, not lapsed Catholics in general. He is speaking about those who have become atheists. I cannot possibly envision an atheist having any modicum of desire or hope of raising their child in the Catholic faith.

  59. Good for the bishop but the people who are moaning and complaining won’t leave. Alone they’d have nobody to annoy.

  60. LOL

    I think poor Archbiship Martin is having some sort of crisis.

    As a victim/survivor of clerical sexual abuse, I’ve had it all thrown at me – pushing me to ‘leave’. Many times wanted to. But ‘faith makes well’. Not faith in a hierarchy. Faith in Christ. In some ways I think maybe Martin has fallen ‘victim’ to the ‘vipers’ too.

    God bless us all,

    Thanks for the laugh !!

    For the ‘lapsees’ – how about Desperado. “Out ridin’ fences for so long now….” lol

  61. I agree: ridiculous, shameful and puerile. The bishop seems to be assuming that those who only go to church on important holidays are doing so for shallow, sentimental reasons, to satisfy their Christmas nostalgia craving or some such thing. But that seems to be missing a hugely important possibility: that during those important seasons of life they are drawn back to the church despite themselves, out of a helpless longing for meaning, for some way to solidify and reflect on the passage of their lives as part of the human family, in what would otherwise just be a meaningless season of commercial frenzy and arbitrary family gatherings.

    Those who go back to the church just to “use” it to ritualize their marriages and the births of their children are perhaps another matter, as those sacraments explicitly require an agreement which they can only fulfill by shifting out of “cafeteria” mode and back into full immersion. But those who are drawn back during certain liturgical seasons ought not to be spurned so unilaterally. Perhaps it is at those seasons, when they go back to their families and revisit the foundations of their lives, that they are most stung by the need for meaning and belonging, and by going to church they are admitting their vulnerability. Rejecting them at this time would be the worst thing to do. This should be seen as a perfect opportunity to engage them, rather than to reject them for their remission.

    Those who are inclined to reject people who only come to church at this time of year are perhaps not seeing the church as a meaningful way to engage the contingency and vulnerability of human life as a community, but rather a members-only immortality club where belonging must be earned, not by “faith” or a willingness to face and accept the human condition through engaging in the mysteries of the Christian tradition, but by “faithful” attendance of church services and formally correct reception of the sacraments.

  62. I’d have to agree. I am surprised this man came out with this, why I wonder he is not perhaps having some kind of crisis.

    I have personally seen, known and suffered to the point of death, (yes) the ‘immaturity’ of certain hierarchs. I came back to the Faith – but know lots of people who want nothing to do with the Church because of the abuse crisis. Understandable. The ‘immaturity’ of the hierarchy has much to answer for. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black here. The hierarchy could take a lesson from the ‘lapsed’ – learn to grow up. 🙂

  63. cor gaudens,
    I find your remarks difficult to take seriously. If you have the courage of your own convictions – that is, if you truly believe in your heart of hearts or your conscience – that your departure from Holy Mother Church is morally righteous and correct, then you hardly need to spend time online squawking about an allegedly invisble cultural mark left by this so-called gigantic (inter)national organization.
    I speak from personal experience. I left the Church 39 years ago (and returned 8 years back) because I tired of the tension between being an active Catholic in good standing each Sunday and living my life as I wanted the rest of the week. I left, it felt great, and I didn’t need formal or even informal recognition of my departure by the Church. I didn’t care because I was comfortable in my own skin about my decision.

    You’re whining about a cultural mark which exists nowhere except in your own head, so seek therapy and stop shifting to the Church responsibility for the deep, personal diffficulties you seem to have. The only indelible mark you need to worry about is the one placed on your soul by the Holy Spirit through Baptism, and that, my friend, is presicely why the Church cannot – nor should it pretend it can – remove that mark from your heart. It will be a lifesaver to your very last breath should you ever wise up and return Home.

  64. Rick:

    Are you on the same stream on this BLOG as the rest of us. This Bishop is NOT and American! He is “Green Irish.” He has canonical responsibilities only for the folks of his OWN diocese and — I think — has some authority to say what he said for those people. He does not speak for nor does he speak to the American Catholic experience.

  65. I understood that this Bishop is Irish – but I also saw many approving posts by American Catholics. We have a universal (“catholic”) church and whether this Bishop is Irish or not, his comments reflect on attitudes that seem to prevail.

    Our church needs to get rid of the dead wood and get moving as the moral authority and was and should be as established by Our Lord. Chasing away those who need more grace is exactly counter to the mission as established in the beginning. We need more Catholics, not fewer. To do that all of us need to be missionaries and the lapsed Catholics are “low-hanging fruit” for redemption – not a population to be abandoned.

    Why hasn’t our Church condemned those politicians who are leading others to grave sin? Why are we giving them the Blessed Sacrament and scandalizing the world at a time when we need to regain the true moral authority Our Lord gave it?

  66. I guess I’ve never met a family who said “We’re not actually going to bring our children up Catholic, we just want our kids Baptized.”

  67. Great discussion. Unless the Bishop’s words have been taken out of context, I’m with those who say he’s got it wrong. Persistence can change hearts. One chance day at mass could open someone’s eyes. We need to be open and welcoming.

  68. The Archbishop of Dublin is correct. If people don’t truly believe in the significance of attending church on a regular bases then why not leave & join a religion with a criteria to accommodate them.

  69. I find it interesting that Eugene Pagano wants to keep coming back and tell anyone and everyone that he has left the Catholic Church for Episcopalianism. I sense a bit of discomfort with his decision. Eugene, I am praying for you.

  70. Completely agree with your analysis. We should be aggressively assisting fellow Catholics to invigorate their faith and freshen the Church as a whole.

    We are faced by unparalleled opposition by militant Islam and atheism around the world and now is not the time to chase people away.

    If our leaders can’t understand their primary role as missionary shepherds, fire them and get leaders who will follow the example of the Disciples. We have way too many “princes of the Church” and far too few humble Apostles of the Lord.

  71. No, he is not: we Catholics and all Christians are facing evils as great as those faced by the early Christians against Nero and Caligula. Our Church leaders need to pray fervently for the Holy Spirit to guide them towards reaching out to lapsed and wavering Catholics everywhere. This is not the time to push people away, this is the time to get a new message out that our Church is the source of strength and salvation in a world being overcome by evil.
    Catholics who attend every Mass and outwardly appear to be the Archbishop’s chosen few may or may not being heading for heaven. Only our Lord knows what’s in our hearts. Allowing evil to exist unopposed while looking great in our vestments doesn’t accomplish anything.
    We, as Catholics, have missed a great many opportunities to win over converts to the true Church by failing to militantly oppose evil – such as our quiet during the Holocaust, or our silence during the monstrous scandal of child sexual abuse – but now is the time for our Church to reascend to righteousness.
    Welcome and teach lapsed Catholics; don’t chase them away.

  72. Excellent reply – the whole point of hoping and praying lapsed members will be converted and return to the Church can only really be understood if you ‘get it’ yourself. God bless you.

  73. If only the bishops would see to the training of their priests to actually teach the faith each and every Sunday during a longer homily, people might feel and understand the wonder and depth of falling in love with God.

    The bishop should consider it his prime duty to check out the depth of living faith of his priests. Then more people would actually be inspired.

    Sound teaching of the whole faith; inspired, holy priests.

  74. I think that if I was simply trying to have communion with that which is natural, I would head out to the beach… I am interested in communion with He who is super-natural and will follow the plan that He suggests for this communion that I desire.
    Jesus established a Church, gave it authority and watches over it. This Church tells me that I need to worship in and listen to His Church. Thinking that you have a better idea than God is probably a good definition of pride.


  75. After all the things that have come out about the Irish Catholic church regarding it’s children and it’s treatment of them over many, many decades, I figure many Irish Catholics have lost much if not all of their “faith” in it’ s leaders—priests on up. Actually, many countries have found the church wanting when it comes to being able to trust what they are told and what they actually when no one is looking.

  76. So your God can’t be thanked or worshiped outdoors at any time, George? Since He created the world, I would think outside would be an appropriate place as well as a man-made building in his honor, a Church. I think I have read about Mass being held outdoors—is this not appropriate? As for the creatures you mentioned above, Jove/ Bacchus—not any that I “worship” or believe in, FYI. And as for running about in the woods naked? That’s just silly—to many bugs, and bushes! etc. :o)

  77. In Isaiah 29:13 the Lord says, “this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men.”

    If the Archbishop’s words challenge people to reexamine their commitment to the Lord, all well and good. I hope he isn’t making the mistake of assuming that all who regularly obey the laws of the Church, especially in regard to Mass attendance have hearts sincerely devoted to the Lord, or that all who have strayed from regular attendance are far from the Lord in their hearts.

  78. You hit the precise point of the problem: the clergy are the pivot, the face, the voice of the Catholic Church. Good priests and sisters convey and support our faith and bond us to the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, the Church has allowed the influx over time of really unworthy men and women and then compounded the problem by pretending that the problem didn’t exist. It has been corrosive and many in the highest leadership positions either don’t know or don’t care that millions of souls – those who were or could have been receiving the sacraments – have been drawn or driven away because the physical heart of the Church couldn’t be trusted
    The real value of the Catholic Church isn’t the vestments, the majesty, the cathedrals. It’s the bond between priests and parishoners, the humble and heroic daily life of communication, care, and trust. This is the individual manifestation of Our Lord and for it to be corrupted is an atrocity.
    As I have previously ranted, we have had Bishops and Cardinals and even Popes who focused on the exterior without caring for the interior: the priests are the lifeblood and unless they have high moral quality – and that quality is rigorously enforced – the Church will see more and more empty pews. Trust is precious and very difficult to regain.

  79. Greg:
    I went to the original posting suggested by this last comment and found the following:
    “f I were a priest I would want to point out that baptism shouldn’t be done just to please the grandparents; that First Communion is more than an occasion to buy an expensive dress for family photographs; and that a church wedding shouldn’t be requested in order to have a tasteful backdrop. But what if this puts off the enquirers from coming to church again?”

    Can I tactfully suggest that all of these items are already being done ?

    –We have Parents’ Classes for Pre-Baptism and they are required (although we do have a video based program if attendance at the scheduled one is an issue). The handout we design, we discuss in detail, and have the attendees take home covers those points fairly well.
    –When I actually preside at a Baptism, I emphasize those four places in the ceremony where I ask POINT BLANK if the parents are sponsors recognize the commitment they are making to be mentors of that child’s spiritual development.
    –The issue is similar within sacramental preparation programs for weddings. For instance, in our take-home booklet here, we readily admit that a large number of couples who want to get married do not use a church setting. Those that do, however, are making a positive assertion that the religious dimension of THEIR wedding ceremony is important to them.
    –Again, when I actually preside at a wedding, my homily always falls back on that religious choice of the couple. I then do something very odd — during my homily I have the couple stand up and face the congregation. I point out to the congregation much he same thing — they are there at the church because they want to be (in our area, maybe one-third of those expected at the reception actually make it to the ceremony) and the reason they are in that congregation is to witness to the religious dimension of the ceremony the bridal couple developed.

    I have to admit, I do not work with families of First Communion candidates — but I do work with candidates for Confirmation and my one-on-one interview with them emphasizes the same notion — the personal choice to accept the grace of that sacrament.

  80. In our area, maybe one-third of those expected at the reception actually make it to the ceremony…

    This is something that always leaves me surprised and saddened. A number of couples, when discussing their wedding plans with me after the PNI, have mentioned that a large number of those invited to the wedding probably won’t come to the church, but will just go to the reception.

    Even if you’re not Catholic, even if you’re not a believer of any stripe, if you care about the people involved, why wouldn’t you want to witness that moment?

    Dcn. G.

  81. The bishop told unbelievers to leave the church, not doubters. There’s a difference. Unbelievers by they’re denial of Christ and their Church are already spiritually separated. They stay around simply to benefit from the social side of being a member of the community. Over the long wrong phony Catholics do more harm than forthright atheists. Their insidious presence creeps into parishes and higher up, threatening to dampen the zeal of the faithful around them. Contraception is okay, going up to Communion is just for show, marriage is optional, it’s all okay and let’s not be bothered with church teaching. These kind of people might call themselves Catholic when it serves their needs, might even show up for Mass now and then, but they’re not fooling God. If they belong to a church, but refuse to mentally assent to her teachings, they’ve already separated themselves form the church. Walking away is only a formality. A mature person, a self-aware person, ought to at least live in honesty, and not pretend to hold beliefs he doesn’t hold.

  82. Your original comment said that formal worship is not necessary in the minds of some people. I meant to address that.
    A Catholic does not formally worship the way he or she does because of “preference,” but rather because he or she believes based on revelation and reason that there is an objectively correct way to do so. Of course, one must also have a private devotional life wherein one worships God informally at home or in spontaneous prayer outdoors. However, such worship ultimately flows from the public worship of the Mass. It is almost immature to claim to worship God as one wants to while rejecting the way God established it should be done.
    Mass can be said outdoors, but that should be rare and because of some necessity. If it happens often it is an abuse, since ideally sacramental ceremonies should take place in a consecrated building. (Again, this is about formal worship, not private prayer.) God created nature, but God did not command us to worship nature. At Mass, the focus should be on the Creator, not the creature.
    About your initial point, my problem is with your subjectivist orientation (although in your calling Jove and Bacchus creatures of the human imagination, perhaps there is a glimmer of recognition of objectivity despite the fact that people once worshipped them as gods). People who worship as they prefer rather than as God reveals He wants to be worship do objectively need a Catholic priest (but not a rabbi nor a minister since objectively modern Judaism and Protestantism follow incorrect doctrines) for correct and proper formal worship, because only a priest can offer Mass. People who follow their own preference in rejecting the formal worship established by the Son of God may believe they are worshipping God, and if they are in invincibly ignorance God may look kindly on them, but whether invincibly ignorant or not, they are objectively wrong.
    The basic difference between the Catholic viewpoint from the neopagan or existentialist one seems to be that the Catholic believes he or she is part of a reality created by God and thus must seek to relate to God as God reveals. The neopagan or existentialist viewpoint elevates the human being as the arbiter of reality such that the human being gets to define (and even reject) God and relate to God according to personal preference.

  83. It is unfortunate, but the flip side of that is that Catholics, at least devout ones, are very often doing that same thing to other people. Serious Catholics very often refuse to attend the weddings of anyone they don’t feel is holding a “valid” ceremony – ie divorced people, weddings where one of the members is lapsed, non-Christian ceremonies.

    This is apparently done at the instigation of Canon law which says Catholics shouldn’t tarnish themselves or be seen as “endorsing” canonically shaky unions of others. People take this seriously enough that some alienate their own families. In my own case, most of my oldest buddies are Catholic to varying degrees. A couple of them blew off my own wedding (and reception) for this reason. One of them wasn’t that close. One was someone I had gone to some length and expense to stand up in his own wedding. In the end, I wasn’t going to let it end a 20+ year friendship, but I also wouldn’t feel that torn up about blowing off the wedding Mass of someone else as a result.

  84. kenneth: Say what ?

    “This is apparently done at the instigation of Canon law which says Catholics shouldn’t tarnish themselves or be seen as “endorsing” canonically shaky unions of others.”

    I have never claimed to be a scholar of Canon Law but I be REAL surprised if that admonition is actually there.

    Anyone else have a clue or a citation ? Ed Peters?

  85. I have not read all of the posts here.

    To the “I’ve had it” Catholics: You are following a sacred doctrine of the church. Did you ever hear about Primacy of Conscience? Probably not. The priests and nuns knew if Catholics could/should think for themselves, they would ultimately disagree.

    I was ordained by a Roman Catholic Bishop and served the RC for ten years as a Franciscan Friar. I left in 1990. Some three years later I became pastor of a church based on Catholic principles/sacraments. You would not know we we’re not Roman in our worship. You would know we embrace the P of C in all who celebrate with us.

    Search for a solid, independent Catholic community in your area/country. We are out there.

    Fr. Michael
    San Damiano Catholic Chapel
    York, Pennsylvania USA

  86. IMO, George, everyone views God in a different way or their wouldn’t be so many different religions. You make good points based on what you believe. My relationship with a creator is probably different than your relationship. You believe your faith is the correct one since you mentioned that those of the Jewish faith and Protestants follow incorrect doctrines. I respectfully disagree with that. What one believes is a personal matter and IMO, a Creator appreciates the diversity of worship He/She is given.

    Oh, I do/did realize that Jove/Bacchus were once worshiped. Just not by me.

  87. Well, I can tell you that one of the places I’ve seen this discussed at length is on Jimmy Akin’s various blogs and sites. I don’t think he’s a canon lawyer or anything, but he seems to be regarded in Catholic circles as a pretty heavy duty and well informed apologist for the faith. The friends I mentioned are also very well read and quite probably consulted with their own pastors in deciding they could not attend my wedding.

  88. Phil,
    Are you Irish? Or Polish? Your surname doesn’t sound Irish. If you are not an Irish or Polish catholic (or Maltese or other such), the subject does not apply to you. We are discussing ethnic catholicism, ok?
    Kind regards,
    cor gaudens

  89. David,
    again: one thing is formally leaving an organisation. the other: leaving your ethnic, cultural roots behind. i believe the Church that usurped the cultural and ethnic scene in a given nation has obligations with that nation which are beyond the religion as such.

  90. well, let’s say Irish bishops feel besieged. thus, they are in a fight/flight mode at present. their utterances are likewise: humility is absent from their style of speech because they’re cornered and humiliated enough as they are. looking at things pragmatically: the Irish church is steadily declining. its finances are dwindling. its political influence is almost negligible. i think by the time the churchmen are able to look back at things properly and objectively, *that* church will become extinct. something else and completely new might emerge in its stead, who knows…

  91. on the pragmatic side: in Ireland many cradle/cafeteria ones still pay parish dues. cultural catholic atheists on the other hand will not. but as the number of the latter increases round here, the parishes are losing the much needed chance to do any financial planning: the old contributors are dying out, the young people would not contribute. yet, many still want the ol’ catholic rituals! 🙂

    problem is, that it would be coherent to ask the immature atheistic ‘catholics’ like myself to get out, were it not about the church that usurped political power in this country for several decades, yet due to an attack of historic amnesia, refuses to acknowledge that simple fact. i believe a former usurper has a cultural and political responsibility in helping the society re-assess and forgive.

  92. to your “we have”, let me tell you an old innocent Dublin anecdote. in the late 60s, when an all-feared almighty archbishop of dublin John Charles saw two nuns in his palace’s window one night, he got indignant: what are these two doing on the street after hour? call them in now!

    so the two nuns are called in. they explain that they are on a visit from NYC and that they’re just back from shopping 🙂

    there’s also a good old russian saying: do not try your [monastery’s] rules in a different monastry 🙂 for all the universality, “rules” (but more so customs and traditions) can vary from culture to culture…

  93. Carolyn,
    nobody pretends here. in ireland nobody in their right mind will ask for your religious views when u attend a funeral. a funeral is a funeral. it’s simply a matter of good manners here to attend one.
    Kind regards,
    cor gaudens

  94. Fr Michael,
    I am sure there would be enough people among lapsed catholics wishing to embrace a ‘church with principles’. However, to me the issue at stake is that of cultural and ethnic sentiment, that of nostalgic relics, and so on — no doubt about that. But additionally, there is an issue of common practices shared by the nation, by the tribe: institutionally, collectively. When an Irish person who is an atheist attends a church funeral or a first communion, (s)he merely adheres to local practices to which a big majority of society here adheres. There is no issue of hypocrisy or lack of maturity for me there. It’s part of our secular ethnic identity, just like Halloween.

    People in the States do not seem to grasp that reality of ethnic catholic nations: to them everything in catholicism goes down to individualistic choices. In a nation like Ireland cultural choices cannot be reduced to what an individual wants exclusively. I cannot possibly tell a friend I will not attend the church funeral since I am an atheist: it will look pompous and disrespectful.

    cor gaudens

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