ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Diarmuid Martin yesterday criticised "negative and cynical caricature" of the church, saying it does nothing to build values in society.
Speaking at a special Mass to commemorate World Peace Day in Dublin, Dr Martin admitted that criticism or rejection of the Catholic Church was "legitimate".
He acknowledged that church leaders had "overstepped the boundaries of their legitimate mandate" over the years.
But he said there was a need for a "mature" dialogue between church and Irish culture to build on "positive aspects" of the past.
"Criticism or even rejection of the Catholic Church and what it represents is legitimate, but criticism is different from negative and cynical caricature of faith or spin," he said.
"Caricature of faith does little to build up in society the values that endure. A society which seeks only quick answers is the least apt to identify the values that endure. . . A new situation now exists and this requires a change in the manner of interaction between Church and State," he told a congregation that included Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
He added: "Church leaders have over the years overstepped the boundaries of their legitimate mandate. Yet the contribution of individual believers and of the church as an institution to Ireland's development and social culture has overall been positive."
Dr Martin's comments came after a series of controversies in 2011 which shook the church to its core. The Cloyne Report, published in July, found that the church failed to report allegations of abuse and said the Vatican's response to guidelines aimed at protecting children was "entirely unhelpful" and gave comfort and support to those who dissented from them.
It sparked a furious attack from the Taoiseach, who criticised the Vatican for its "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, narcissism".
A week later, the Vatican recalled the Papal Nuncio to Ireland. Then, in November, the Government decided to close its embassy in the Holy See.