ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin has confessed that he is failing in his efforts to promote "radical change" in the Catholic Church.
Addressing a meeting yesterday in Cambridge, Dr Martin said he believed that the church in Ireland in many ways had already reached "the brink" of collapse.
In a lengthy and hard-hitting speech, he said the crisis facing the church is "real" and is a deep cultural problem that transcends the spate of clerical child abuse scandals and church cover-ups.
In spite of being acclaimed as the leading voice for reform in the church, Dr Martin, who took over in 2004 from the disgraced Cardinal Desmond Connell, dramatically revealed his personal frustrations and accepted that it might not be "his talent" to bring everyone with him.
This was interpreted as a veiled reference to his impatient personality and his reported unpopularity among many bishop colleagues.
Referring to the growth of secularisation and the steep decline in church attendances, Dr Martin said "even experts in change management would feel daunted".
"Certainly I would have to say that despite all my efforts I am failing in my attempts to lead such change," he said.
"Change management has to have the patience and the strategy to bring everyone along with it and that may not be my talent."
Signalling his continued determination to drive change as Ireland's second most senior church leader, he admitted there was no hiding the fact that the church was facing a real crisis.
"When I use the word crisis many people immediately associate the word with the handling of cases of sexual abuse of young people by priests and religious," he added.
"I have consistently said that the crisis of the church in Ireland is an even deeper one and my belief is that in many ways the brink has already been reached."
Dr Martin admitted that the church would inevitably become more a minority culture, but the challenge to its members was to ensure that "it is not an irrelevant minority culture".
He explained that when he spoke of the church crisis being deeper than the crisis about the sexual abuse of children he was not in any way downplaying the abuse scandal.
"Probably my greatest discouragement as Archbishop of Dublin comes from the failure of interaction between the church and young people.
"For the second time since I became Archbishop of Dublin there will be no ordination to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Dublin this year and the coming years indicate only a tiny trickle of new vocations."
Turning to church-state relations, Dr Martin said the place of the church in the current political discussion in Ireland was increasingly marginal.