Sunday, March 04, 2012

"If It's Sunday..." Dublin Edition

Long known -- and often feared -- as the most prominent microscope in American media, a year after it passed the now-cardinal of New York with flying colors, tonight's 60 Minutes went to Ireland, where it looked into the country's scandal-ravaged church, focusing on the prelate widely recognized as global Catholicism's most forthright voice on the abuse crisis: the onetime Vatican official, now Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Here's the full segment.... an extra, online-only clip:

For greater subtext, meanwhile, a snip from Martin's latest address on the faith's next steps in Ireland:
The challenge of faith in Ireland can only be addressed by radical efforts of new evangelization. That new evangelization must however have its own Irish characteristics. The renewal of the Irish Church must be led from within the Irish Church. It must begin immediately. There is little time to waste.

Many people are disillusioned by the Church. It is very hard to underestimate how much the scandals regarding the sexual abuse of children and the manner in which it was dealt with by Church authorities has wounded the Church in Ireland. I am struck by the effect that these scandals had on young people who find it hard to reconcile what happened within the Church with the Christian message. The fact that thousands of children were abused within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland is a scar that the Church will bear within it for generations to come. There is no way in which what happened to be consigned out of the way into the archives. The lessons of what happened and how it happened are a vital key to our looking forward to and building the future with hope.

Inevitably the effect of these scandals on some has been an anger on the part of many and by some a complete rejection of the Church and even in some places it has resulted in appeals to remove the Catholic Church presence in society.

In other cases there are appeals for a sort of de-institutionalisation of the Church. There are those who would wish an Irish Church separate from Rome. There are those who would speak rightly of a strengthening of the role of lay people in the Irish Church, but really want a Church in which Office and Order would be radically emptied of their theological meaning. There are others who want reform, by reform by going back to the past. Renewal is required, but that renewal first of all requires conversion on the part of all and not just outward changes in structures.

Church authorities must learn to listen; but that listening is not to be equiperated simply with sounding-out public opinion. It requires above all listening intently and in common to the word of God and proclaiming that word and living it....

For too long the Church appeared in a role of moralisation and people failed to transmit the real depth of the Christian message which is about Jesus as a person who in his life and teaching reveals to us who God is. God is a God of love with whom we can in Jesus enter into a personal relationship, which then brings richness to the way we live of our lives.

On a deeper level, however, there is a certain ambiguity as to what “being Catholic” means in contemporary Irish society. There are multiple expressions of the claim: “I am still a Catholic, but…” Many people who no longer regularly practice will still come to Church on special occasions and on the great feasts and maintain some personal contact with the Church. In some cases people live out a sort of cultural Catholicism; in other cases what is called Catholicism is really a type of civil religion, a social spirituality without dogma, with blurred reference to a Jesus of one’s own creation.

Again, without becoming elitist, the Catholic Church in Ireland must be concerned about the lack of knowledge of basic elements of the Christian faith and of the nature of the Church among Catholics. This is a situation which should be a cause of concern as it can only increase from one generation to the next....

The Irish Church is extraordinarily weak in its knowledge and use of the scriptures. In other cases there remain among those who have drifted from Church life vestiges of faith and of affection for the Church. The importance of these signs should not be underestimated. But such vestiges will never flourish again without a genuine programme of new evangelization.

I can see that priests in Dublin have gone through a troubling period and at times they felt lack of support but they have never abandoned hope. There is a genuine enthusiasm for renewal and among priests, diocesan and religious. The results are already being seen. Attendance at Sunday Mass may be falling but enthusiasm is not missing....

Who are my successors in taking up today the challenge which I undertook as a future priest? Where will we find the leaders of the future Catholic Church in Ireland? There will be fewer priests and the place of the priest in society will be different. Those priests will have to be men of a strong and outreaching faith. They must understand their priestly role founded on their bond with the Eucharist around which the Church is constructed. They will have to be able to listen to but also talk to and with the community of believers which they serve. They must be able to break the bread of the Word of God.

The future of the Catholic Church needs such priests but leadership will not be the prerogative solely of the priest. The presence of the Church in the society of tomorrow will be lay lead, but lay lead by men and women who have a profound understanding of what faith in Jesus Christ entails. The future of the Church will not be about social commentary on political issues but about witness, witness to the impact that the message of Jesus Christ can make on lives and on the interaction of people. The “Communion with one another” which must be the mark of Christians must be one which reflects the meaning of communion with Christ and the communion within his Church.

The Church of tomorrow will not be created tomorrow or next week or next year. The Christian life is a life long task. Ecclesia semper reformanda est: the Church must constantly reform itself. Each Christian must constantly reform himself and herself. Reform and renewal involve humility and holiness; not the empty humility and holiness of performance, but a humility and holiness which can be tested and verified by the lenses of integrity, personal and institutional.

The Church of tomorrow will not be created tomorrow or next week or next year but I believe that slowly the Church in Ireland is turning the corner. I say “is turning the corner, not ”has turned the corner”. History teaches us that hope and challenge will always be present together in the Irish Church. We have to get the balance right. The crisis today is however much greater than in the past and we have only one chance to get it right. Burying our head in the sand or making a mistake of discernment, especially any return to triumphalism or self-satisfaction, could turn renewal back irreversibly.
A key marker on the Isle's road to renewal comes later this year, as the 50th International Eucharistic Congress takes place in Dublin in mid-June. Last month, meanwhile, Marie Collins -- the Dublin woman who's become the Irish church's most public survivor -- became the first victim of clergy sex-abuse to address a Vatican forum, speaking at the weeklong global conference on rebuilding from the scandals held at the Pontifical Gregorian University.