ON Monday this week, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell, above, whinged that Christianity had totally lost its grip on a country notorious for having once been a seething cauldron of godliness and unspeakable cruelty.
His point was underscored a day later when, for the first time in Ireland’s history, an atheist group was invited to meet the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Labour Cllr Alison Gilliland.
According to The Irish Times, it has been customary in the past for the city’s Lord Mayors to meet up with politicians and religious leaders, but Gilliland broke with tradition by hosting two members of Atheist Ireland, its Chairman Michael Nugent and its Human Rights Officer Jane Donnelly, above.
Welcoming the invitation, Donnelly said “it was at her initiative and never happened before”. She felt it important that the Lord Mayor had placed Atheist Ireland representatives on an equal footing with religious leaders.
Nugent noted how “we are often described as people of ‘no belief’ or as ‘nones’, which is not true. We have positive beliefs.”
Both said were “very pleased” at the meeting, where discussion centred on:
The importance of recognising atheism and other non religious philosophical convictions as having the same positive status as religious beliefs.
The Mansion House meeting confirmed Farrell’s assertion that Christian belief in Ireland “has for all intents and purposes vanished”.
He also warned that:
The current model of the Church is unsustainable.
His comments were made in an interview with the latest edition of Siolta, the annual journal of the national seminary in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
In the interview, Farrell warned that Ireland’s “crisis of faith” is “particularly acute among the younger generations”.
Public commentary in the media in Ireland has not been positive in its understanding of the Church and its need for vocations, and for public support of those trying to preach the Gospel.
The Archbishop, who was appointed to the role last year, set out the challenges facing the church.
We have an ageing clergy and very few vocations to the diocesan priesthood or religious life. There is a major decline in the number of people who actively practise and live their faith.
Today the visibility of faith has for all intents and purposes vanishes. I am also dealing with the legacy of sexual abuse scandals which have damaged the Church’s credibility. Since finance is a function of numbers, financial issues will arise which will be accelerated by the global pandemic and its aftermath.
Clutching at straws, the prelate said he was not “pessimistic” about the future of the Church in Dublin and suggested:
This time of reduced numbers may well afford us an opportunity to be creative and re-imagine the institutional Church.
A comment beneath the Irish News report said:
It’s almost as if claiming to be the ultimate moral authority while engaging in child rape and murder fatally undermines trust in your institution. Can’t imagine why that might be.
It got 134 upvotes.
Meanwhile, over at Reddit, Farrell’s lament drew a tsunami of snarky comments:
• The archbishop is an example of how being unforgivably obtuse is a major contributor to their declining membership. The public does understand the Church and rejects what it has come to represent.
• Priests need jobs too! Being a priest is a calling, so if you don’t let them preach at you, you are denying them their only possible career choice. Won’t somebody think about the poor priests? If they don’t have flocks to herd they might have to do real work, like even (horrors!) manual labor …
• If they’re looking for vocations, I’m sure folks in Ireland could use plumbers, electricians, carpenters and mechanics much more so than priests. At least if a plumber sexually assaults a child they are fired. The church just transfers a priest to new hunting grounds. Where else they gonna get easy access to children while also maintaining a position of perceived power, purity and moral high ground over people?
• I honestly love watching them shovel their own graves deeper and deeper with their absolute stupidity. With all the burying they did it’s not surprising they’re good at it, I’m just glad it’s their future and not some innocent kids.
• That’s Catholic rhetoric at its finest. In their eyes, the Church is perfect, so if you criticize the Church or don’t like the Church for some reason, it’s because you’re either evil, stupid, or misinformed. It’s impossible to dislike something that’s perfect, according to them. And they say it’s not a cult.
• Yup. Time to convert churches into low-income, temporary housing for the homeless and jobless, supported by donations from Christians AND atheists. Let’s see if priests love God enough to manage a halfway house instead of getting to stand up in front of hundreds and spout their knowledge of an ancient book of fables.
According to the 2016 census, people of no religion (including atheists and agnostics) in Ireland numbered 481,388, or 10.1 per cent of the population. It represented an increase of 73.6 per cent on the 2011 census figure. In Dublin people of no religion then made up 48 per cent of those in the 24 to 29 age group.