Monday, November 14, 2005

Holding the Fort

A pretty strong post-Ferns commentary from a columnist in Belfast, with a welcome reminder that there are still practicing Catholics out there.

The Republic's secular commentariat were quick to suggest, either openly or through inference, that the Catholic Church was a mortal danger to all Irish people.

Catholicism's days in Ireland were numbered and the Ferns report would be the final nail in the Church's coffin.

From the inside, however, it seemed more to be a nail in the coffin of the remnants of the pre-Vatican II Church.

The days when bishops - princes of the Church - and senior clergy could view themselves as being free from the laws of the land were certainly laid to rest with Ferns.

The monarchial hierarchy has been shown to lack the necessary leadership qualities.

At its worst, the higher levels of the Catholic Church are too much interested in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and not enough in the example of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Metaphysical considerations are not what is needed in rescuing young children from predators.

However, the charges that ordinary Catholics would abandon their faith were well wide of the mark.

Attendance at Sunday Mass is certainly down but it is more due to laziness, disinterest or simply not believing in God than as a protest against sex abuse.

Ferns may provide an excuse for some for not returning but it will be only that - an excuse.

For those Catholics who still practise, the issue will be one that will never be far from their minds.

It is they who will remember the victims of this evil in the years to come and it is they, in every likelihood, who will contribute towards paying compensation for them.

Why do the laity bother to attend Mass or have anything to do with Catholicism?

Not for nothing are they called "the Faithful". They will not allow themselves to abandon God due to the actions of a few priests and they recognise that the great majority of priests with whom they come into contact are men of great spirituality and integrity - a point that was not emphasised too greatly after the Ferns report was published.

In short, the laity believe in God and they want to continue to worship Him, receive Holy Communion and partake of other sacraments.

The strength of that belief may well come as a surprise to journalists - but it will probably come as an even bigger surprise to the hierarchy.

To rewrite an old hymn that has fallen out of favour, for many of the laity it is a case of "Faith of our Fathers, burning bright, in spite of dungeon, fire, sword - and sex abuse."