Monday, July 26, 2010
Whither the Irish Catholic Church?
Sallynoggin Church viewed from Glenageary Avenue.
We watched an interesting program last night on RTE on the state of the Irish Church. The program was well made and the participants were excellent. The only problem was that it lasted only an hour when three hours would not have been sufficient. As a result we got mostly soundbites when we might have hoped for more reflection and analysis.
All participants, lay and clergy, were agreed that the Church must change. And no doubt it will. The problem for many Catholics liberal and conservative is what will it turn into? There would appear to be two possibilities with very little possibility of a middle way.
The first would see the Church shrinking to a size perhaps less than 10 per cent of what it is now. Parishes would be amalgamated and would follow demographically what has happened to a certain extent the Catholic Church on the Continent and the Anglican Church in UK. It would become more conservative and hold to its exclusion of women in the priesthood and the admittance of gays as full members of the Church. It would be theologically tight and would not suffer the doubts of many individuals and religions. It would no longer be the religion of the masses except perhaps in some emerging countries of the third world.
The other possibility is that the Catholic Church effectively converts to Protestantism - it embraces a more democratic process, welcomes women as priests, Bishop's and perhaps as Popes. Why not? It dumps clericalism. It embraces gays. It comes to terms with birth control. It rediscovers Vatican 2 and turns its back on the last hundred years of theological conservatism.
It ends up where many Protestant denominations are today.
The question for people like me is ' why wait?' Over recent weeks I have been learning about the Society of Friends and they seem to be where I would wish the Catholic Church to arrive. It seems of little import whether people leave and wait for the Catholic Church to arrive, or stay with the Church and help it along the road. An equally reasoned argument can be made for both stances. At the end we can only obey our conscience as best informed.
I believe at the end of the day religion is not about numbers or power but about people and something we try to define as God as we stumble out of darkness towards the light in all humility.