Wednesday 21 February 2018

Martin admits fall in number of Catholics could be even worse

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Picture: John McElroy
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Picture: John McElroy

Sarah MacDonald

The latest census figures show "a radical change" taking place in Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has conceded.

However, he also stressed that the number of people self-identifying as Catholic is "still high" at 78.3pc of the population.

Speaking to the Irish Independent in Knock on Saturday about the "striking" CSO figures, Dr Martin said the number that registered themselves as Catholic could be "slightly deceptive for us, in that many parents would have put down all their children as Catholic and that may not be the case".

In his homily at St Mary's Pro Cathedral for Palm Sunday, Dr Martin further admitted the Catholic Church in Ireland had been "over hypnotised by the high numbers who attended Mass in the past and paid too little attention to helping people really deepen their faith".

The census figures show a drop of almost 6pc in the number of Catholics from 84.2pc of the population in 2011, totalling 132,200 fewer Catholics.

There was also a strong increase in the number of people of 'no religion', which currently stands at 9.8pc of the population.

The Catholic Church in Ireland was so "fixed on the tiniest minutiae of doctrine" that it missed real depth of faith, the archbishop acknowledged, adding: "We were so quick to identify sin and the sinner that we lost sight of the sinfulness of our own hearts."

Admitting that the Church remained "a Church of saints and of sinners", Dr Martin said in every one there was an interaction between belief and secularisation.

Many who profess themselves as secularised and even those who profess that they belong to no religion, may well possess remnants of faith and these remnants can play an important role in their lives, he said.

Many of those who would not have hesitated for a moment to register themselves at the census as Catholics, may be unaware of how much a culture of secularisation penetrates their lives and thought patterns and choices.

"There are those who call themselves Christians yet live as if God did not exist," he said.

Flanked by Archbishop Michael Neary and Bishop Kevin Doran, Dr Martin told the assembled faithful the Church must be a place of mercy, where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment but the strong embrace of the Lord lifting them up and helping them to begin again.

He told the Irish independent he agreed with a call by Jesuit Fr Gerry O'Hanlon for greater participation of the laity and women in the Church.

"We certainly need far more women involved, working in leadership positions in the Church," Dr Martin said.

Asked if he was worried about the trend in Catholic figures and a shift towards cultural Catholicism, the Archbishop said it was "up to the Church to see that it consolidates its mission and its task in the realities in which we live, whether this is as it was in the past, as a majority where we failed in many ways, or as a minority where we have to live and preach the teachings of Jesus".

Irish Independent

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