Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Irish Church: "Living With the Realities"

Earlier today, at the Dublin Pro, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin ordained three men to the priesthood. The men -- one of whom served 25 years as a Christian Brother -- were the first ordinands for the Republic's capital in two years.

On Ordination Eve, Archbishop Martin appeared on the state broadcaster, RTE. In response to a question on women's ordination, the Dublin prelate gave the cryptically-worded reply that "I have to live with the realities which I have."

"What I want to do is to ensure that there's plenty of space for women in the Church outside ordained ministry, and I think we're making progress on that," Martin said.

Today's Chicago Tribune contains a piece on the Irish church's "fall from grace":
Like most of its continental neighbors, Ireland is undergoing a severe crisis of faith. Religious belief in this island bastion of Roman Catholicism is under siege by the twin forces of secularization and modernization. In addition, the recent exposure of a deeply ingrained culture of sexual abuse and cover-up by the clergy has dealt a staggering blow to the church's prestige.

What makes Ireland an interesting case study is the speed of the decline and the efforts of the Catholic Church -- lay people and clergy--to come to grips with the crisis. The Irish experience points to possible paths for the future of traditional religion in a globalizing society.

Through most of the 20th Century, Ireland was poor, backward and deeply Catholic. Irish Catholicism tended to be of a particularly harsh and unforgiving variety.

"Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood," wrote Frank McCourt, whose memoir, "Angela's Ashes," resonated among many Irish Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, Ireland is prosperous, cosmopolitan and no longer so very Catholic. As recently as the 1970s, 90 percent of the Irish identified themselves as Catholic and almost the same number went to mass at least once a week; now the figure for mass attendance is closer to 25 percent, according to church officials in Dublin.
So "deeply Catholic" = miserable, poor, backward and "not so very Catholic" = prosperous nirvana? Er.... It seems the empirics and the paradigm are being confused. Just my $.02.

Lastly on the Irish beat, I need to thank a reader in Wichita who let me know that, indeed, U2 is returning to the US on yet another Fall Tour. And who am I that the Bono of my Lord should come to me?

The Philly shows, slated for 16-17 October, are already sold out, so it seems that I'm gonna have to wrangle for tickets -- I've missed The World's Greatest Rock n' Roll Band too many times and just can't miss 'em again.

Yes, Bono gave my commencement speech. No, it doesn't make up for not having had the concert experience.

In the ideal, the archbishop of Dublin -- a Friend of Hewson -- would get over here for the show. The two Irishmen can save the world during the after-party, and the Italian would be more than thrilled to take notes.