Priests dismissed as 'grey-haired celibates' on family matters
Ireland's leading Catholic prelate has expressed frustration that priests increasingly face derision when they preach about the family - and are dismissed as "grey-haired celibate males who don't know what they are talking about".
Archbishop Eamon Martin told the Irish Independent priests were finding if they stray into a matter concerning the family, or marriage difficulties, they were liable to get a reaction of "what would you know?"
Defending priests' contribution, he said "a good priest is a listening priest". He admitted that "when it comes to family, we are cautious about telling families how to live their lives".
But Dr Martin said people open up to him about their marital and family difficulties "not for the parenting advice I can offer; they turn to me for spiritual advice and solidarity".
Speaking after he addressed an ecumenical gathering on the family at Clonliffe College in Dublin along with the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson, he welcomed the news that Pope Francis will grant a plenary indulgence to those who participate in World Meeting of Families events in Dublin in August.
According to the Catholic Church, a plenary indulgence can reduce the amount of punishment a person is due for their sins. The selling of indulgences was one of the major factors in the Reformation.
Acknowledging that "a plenary indulgence is very much a Catholic spiritual devotion" that goes back centuries, the Archbishop said it reminded people that the World Meeting of Families is "a moment for personal conversation - to go to confession, to receive Holy Communion, to pray for the intentions of Pope Francis and to empty hearts of selfishness".
"It gives me an opportunity to explain to people that they can participate in the World Meeting of the Families and be united with the wonderful blanket of prayer that will surround the World Meeting of Families," said Dr Martin.
He urged people not to look for the plenary indulgence for personal benefit but for the "benefit of a relative or a friend who has gone to their rest who may be in need of God's mercy".
He also expressed delight the World Meeting of Family organisers are planning a 'Pray-a-Thon', an initiative aimed at getting people to pray within the family home.
The 'Pray-a-Thon' will bring people from all over the world together in prayer, "imploring God's mercy on those who may be in need of forgiveness".