Tuesday 21 November 2017

Church too out of touch, say faithful

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Sarah MacDonald

IRISH Catholics have told the Vatican that the church is out of touch on sex, divorce, homosexuality and family planning.

In their responses to the Vatican's questionnaire on the family, the Irish faithful made it clear that the church's teachings are disconnected from real life.

The survey is part of a sounding out of the global church on these issues ahead of a synod on the family called by Pope Francis for October in Rome.

According to the Irish bishops, on the basis of the answers they collated from the country's 26 dioceses, Catholics in Ireland feel the church's teaching is often not experienced as "realistic, compassionate, or life-enhancing".

On Thursday, the bishops revealed that some Irish Catholics see the church's teaching that contraception is intrinsically wrong or that the divorced and remarried cannot receive communion, as disconnected from real-life experience.

"They said these teachings left them feeling guilty and excluded".

Discussing the general findings of the survey, the bishops said the responses also identified "immense challenges" for families in Ireland arising out of severe financial hardship, unemployment and emigration.

Other difficulties identified were domestic violence, infidelity, neglect and other forms of abuse, as well as the constant pressures on 'family time'.

Some respondents also expressed concern about the limited amount of state support for marriage and the family. The overall findings for the Irish church echo those revealed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin two weeks ago for the diocese of Dublin.

They also mirror the findings of the Association of Catholic Priests' (ACP) survey, which was a simplified version of the Vatican questionnaire.

According to Archbishop Martin, respondents in Dublin said a 'theory-practice' gap existed in relation to the church's teachings on marriage, sex, divorce, homosexuality and family planning.


One Dublin respondent said: "Church teaching often appears theoretical and remote from an understanding of the real lived experience of couples".

The ACP's survey, which was undertaken by 1,562 people across Ireland, found that 98pc of respondents said that cohabitation was a pastoral reality, while 89pc of respondents said separated and divorced couples were a pastoral reality.

Regarding same-sex relations, Catholics in Dublin saw the church's position on this issue "as being purely negative and judgmental".

Many respondents felt that there should be some way of civilly recognising stable same-sex unions, "but there was a clear hesitancy, uneasiness and opposition with regard to marriage for same-sex unions", according to Archbishop Martin.

Two-thirds of respondents to the ACP survey said they considered dioceses to be "negative" or "hostile and condemning" towards same-sex couples whilst 11pc considered them somewhat or highly "supportive".

A spokesman for the diocese of Ferns revealed to the Irish Independent that his diocese had received no responses at all to the survey.

Fr John Carroll suggested that the short timeframe may have been to blame as well as a deadline that was too close to Christmas.

Elsewhere, a spokesman for the diocese of Cork and Ross had said it would not be making the feedback public as "we understand that the Holy See requested that this information be treated as confidential".

The decision by the bishops to reveal some of the feedback appears to have been driven by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam.

Irish Independent

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