* According to the 2011 Census, 84.2pc of people in Ireland described themselves as 'Catholic'. A clear majority, but this also represents the lowest percentage of the population describing themselves as Catholic since records began. It also throws up some curious inconsistencies.
A recent poll revealed that only 34pc of Catholics said they attended Mass. Only 30pc of 35-54 year olds and 14pc of 18-34 year olds said they attended. Only a minority said they believed in hell.
The Global Index of Religion and Atheism, a survey conducted by the Gallup International Association covering 57 countries across five continents, found that religiosity is falling faster in Ireland than any country in the west (only in Vietnam was religiosity falling faster).
A 2012 survey conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests found that 87pc of those surveyed thought priests should be allowed to marry; 77pc said they believed women should be allowed to be ordained; 46pc said they "disagree strongly" with the church's teachings on homosexuality; while 61pc said they "disagree" with the church; 87pc believed divorcees and separated people in a second stable relationship should be allowed to receive communion. Only 20pc agreed that sexual expression outside of marriage was immoral.
An IPSOS/MRBI poll in June this year found 75pc of people surveyed in the Republic supported the Government's abortion legislation; 89pc supported abortion to save a woman's life; over 80pc also supported abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in cases of rape; 78pc said abortion should be allowed to save a woman's health.
I might be so bold to suggest that a survey of Catholics' beliefs vis-a-vis transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, the assumption, the resurrection, the holy spirit, papal infallibility and purgatory might also make for interesting reading.
Is someone entitled to call themselves a Catholic without satisfying any criteria other than being baptised? If a person who has been baptised cannot ever leave the church (as is my understanding), is it the case that your Catholic life assurance policy is valid, irrespective of what you really believe, once you have been baptised? No wonder there are so many pro-choice, pro-divorce, non-mass attending, non-hell believing Catholics who disagree with the church's teachings.
So what does it actually mean to call oneself a 'Catholic' in contemporary Ireland?
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
BURDEN ON OUR COURTS
* Discussing the upcoming referendum concerning the establishment of a Court of Appeal, the legal maxim "justice delayed is justice denied" comes to mind.
There is currently a four-year waiting list for appeals from the High Court to the Supreme Court, which in practice blocks litigants' right to due process.
These delays not only affect a litigant's right to a resolution in a reasonable time frame but the speedy resolution of disputes is also necessary for a successful economy.
To highlight how this problem has come about, in 1971 the High Court had seven judges; and today, in 2013, it has 36 judges.
There has not been a proportionate development in the Supreme Court, which in 1961 consisted of five judges and today consists of eight. Yet the Supreme Court is receiving all civil appeals from an expanded High Court.
The establishment of a Court of Appeal would mean that the structure of the Irish Courts would be similar to other common law jurisdictions and most decisively would ease the burden on the highest court in the land.
The new Court of Appeal would cover criminal and civil matters and would sit much more frequently than the existing Court of Criminal Appeal. Its inception would bring efficiency and effectiveness to the Irish court system, something which I believe is badly needed.
Smithfield, Dublin 7
FIANNA FAIL . . . ALL AT SEA
They both capsized, both will enjoy, for a limited time, being re-floated and both are headed towards demolition.
Westport, Co Mayo
TRIBUTE TO ANNE DEVLIN
* This week marked the anniversary of the death of an influencing patriot, Anne Devlin. As faithful friend of the 'Darling of Erin' Robert Emmet, she suffered as much as a captive of the Crown.
Her headstone at Glasnevin tells of her "rare and noble" qualities while we learn as well of how she lived and died "in obscurity and poverty".
Anne Devlin deserves to be remembered with pride.
VINDICATION FOR ISRAEL
* Clive Collins (Irish Independent, Letters, September 18) draws a moral equivalence between Syria and Israel. It is an absurdity to do so. Not even Israel's most-vehement critics have claimed it has ever used chemical weapons in war.
At a time when the Arab world is cursed by self-immolation, strife and Shia-Sunni civil war, Israel is an oasis of peace, calm and tranquillity.
It must be very discomfiting for Israel's legions of copycat critics to see their myth of the Middle East – that Israel is the cause of the region's problems – has been, literally, explosively revealed.
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
PATRONISED BY THE POPE
* What on earth – or maybe heaven – is bothering Gary J Byrne (Irish Independent, Letters, September 14)?
Why should he feel patronised by what Pope Francis says, if he considers it "a load of bunkum". Conversely, Francis being humble, won't mind being condescended to by having reading matter proffered to help educate him in the error of his ways.
No doubt said suggested reading will show him his lack of sophistication and the intellectual superiority and undoubted erudition of Mr Byrne.
Address with editor
ROLL ON THE REFERENDUM
* I really wanted to vote to keep the Seanad in the referendum, but when I read that Michael McDowell, Gerry Adams and Fianna Fail want us to, then roll on the abolishment!
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
SECURING THE FUTURE
* I refer to the article 'We dream of retiring early but only 50pc of workers fund pension' (Irish Independent, September 17). Dream on; retiring earlier is inevitable. The alternative is allowing a minority to remain in employment while the majority are on the scrapheap of dependency. Those who do not contribute to pensions are probably lucky; pension funds may be methods of saving but will never again develop into "gold mines" providing security into the future. It would be better and probably safer putting it under the bed. Remember the warning: "Funds can decrease as well as increase".
Pensions of the future will be paid from the public purse, which will take a much bigger bite out of the apple of private economics. Employment will be generated by public service, not because the work is needed but because employment is essential to sustaining coherent society.
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo