Archbp. Martin: “Irish Catholics are very weak, and that’s the fault of generations of the Church…”

From CNA:

Dublin archbishop says lapsed Catholics should admit their non-belief
By Benjamin Mann

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 14, 2011 / 06:05 am (CNA).- Non-practicing and non-believing Irish Catholics should be honest about their relation to the Church, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the makers of a TV documentary that aired Dec. 11.

“It requires maturity on two sides: maturity of those people who want their children to become members of the Church community, and maturity of those people who say, ‘I don’t believe in God, I really shouldn’t be hanging on to the vestiges of faith when I don’t really believe in it,’” he said.

Archbishop Martin’s comments were featured in an episode of “Would You Believe,” RTE Television’s investigative series on religion.

Its Dec. 11 episode looked at the issue of Irish parents who have ceased to practice their faith, but still want their children to receive the Catholic sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.

Filmmaker Mick Peelo’s interviews showed many self-identified Irish Catholics seeking sacramental preparation for their children, while lacking either the intention or the ability to pass on the principles and meaning of the faith.

People interviewed for the show gave various reasons for wanting their children to receive the sacraments, despite their own lack of belief and practical commitment.

One woman described the rites of initiation as a “platform from which (children) can question” in later life. Another noted that a child often “doesn’t want to be left out” when their peers are making their First Communion.

While Archbishop Martin called for honesty among adults no longer committed to the Church’s faith, he also acknowledged that the problem’s roots run deep.

“Irish Catholics are very weak, and that’s the fault of generations of the Church in their understanding of Scriptures,” he said, reflecting on teachings that “taught us things about religion” but “didn’t really deepen our faith.”

He suggested that practices of the past may have inspired anxiety, in place of a personal commitment.

“For many people in Ireland, the God we were practicing and teaching wasn’t necessarily the God of love at all. It was a God who inspired fear, it was a God who was sort of a ‘somebody watching you,’ rather than freeing and empowering you.”

The situation calls not only for honesty, but for a more substantial presentation of Catholicism.

“We have to do a radical new look at the way that religious education takes place,” Archbishop Martin said in his interview with Peelo.

[…]

Read the rest there.

Read Pope Benedict’s Letter to the Irish People HERE.

Pray for the new Nuncio, Archbp. Brown.

Archbp. Martin: “Irish Catholics are very weak, and that’s the fault of generations of the Church…”
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15 Responses to Archbp. Martin: “Irish Catholics are very weak, and that’s the fault of generations of the Church…”

  1. jhayes says:

    You can watch the documentary here:

    http://www.rte.ie/tv/wouldyoubelieve/av_index.html

    The episode discussed in Fr. Z’s post is December 11. The documentary starts with the Dcember 4 episode.

  2. Hieronymus says:

    “Irish Catholics are very weak, and that’s the fault of generations of the Church in their understanding of Scriptures,” he said, reflecting on teachings that “taught us things about religion” but “didn’t really deepen our faith.”
    He suggested that practices of the past may have inspired anxiety, in place of a personal commitment.
    “For many people in Ireland, the God we were practicing and teaching wasn’t necessarily the God of love at all. It was a God who inspired fear, it was a God who was sort of a ‘somebody watching you,’ rather than freeing and empowering you.”

    So, the problem is still the old, narrow-minded pre-Vatican II church with its insistence on constrictive dogmatic teachings and discipline . . . And yet it seems like the Irish were sending missionaries all over the world back then. And now they are closing seminaries and don’t have any vocations.
    Perhaps the professors at Ushaw College were overzealous in preaching about God’s wrath and the threat of eternal damnation?

  3. Phil_NL says:

    This is of course hearsay, so maybe Abp Martin intended it somewhat differently than what I infer from this, but it strikes me as mixing two categories that mix as well as water and oil: having no intention to pass on the faith is one thing, being unable to is very much a different matter in my book.

    For example, later in the article a parent is quoted that the kid “doesn’t want to be left out”; well, that’s indeed such a poor reason for receiving the sacraments tht I can very well imagine the call by the Abp to be frank and not receive them. Yet even in the warped phrase used by another parent that the initiation sacraments serve as “a “platform from which (children) can question” in later life.” suggests at least some intention to give the kids a spiritual foundation, and since they want Catholic sacraments, there is at least some vague disposition that this be in accordance to Church teachings. Probably this parent has no idea what those teachings are though, and would be unable to articulate them. Probably that isn’t too easily fixed either, as the quality of instruction for children and adults alike has indeed been very poor for very long. And barring a ‘road to Damascus’-like moment, which not everyone is given, remedying this can take many years.

    But one could hardly lay all the blame for that on the child or the parent, and I wonder whether enough of it could be blown that way to tell people off from the sacraments. After all, not all children will make it to a stage where they in adulthood would fix these issues themselves – again, if they are capable of doing so amidst a sea of poor teaching.

  4. jaykay says:

    Correction of a misquote in some media:

    Irish Times 14th December 2011

    Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Dublin’s archdiocese has said the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, never suggested lapsed Catholics should leave the church, as reported in some media. It had been reported he had said so on the RTÉ TV programme Would You Believe ? last Sunday.

    What he said was: “It requires maturity on those people who want their children to become members of the church community and maturity on those people who say ‘I don’t believe in God and I really shouldn’t be hanging on to the vestiges of faith when I don’t really believe in it.’”

  5. shane says:

    “Irish Catholics are very weak, and that’s the fault of generations of the Church in their understanding of Scriptures,” he said, reflecting on teachings that “taught us things about religion” but “didn’t really deepen our faith.”

    These words must be seen in light of the fact that Archbishop Martin had a sickly covered copy of the Gospel of Luke sent to every home in his archdiocese, in the rather naive belief that it would encourage scripture reading among Catholics. Protestant evangelicals have been bombarding the world with bibles for 4 centuries and it hasn’t seem to have done much good. Scripture reading is a worthy goal but his whole approach is ridiculous. Futhermore, it avoids the real problem…

    His scapegoating of past generations conveniently ignores the unquestionable historical reality that it was HIS generation that destroyed the Irish Church. In his archdiocese, in schools of which he is a patron, children are taught a meaningless and indeed heretical RE syllabus, which teaches them absolutely nothing about Catholic doctrine. Concerned Catholic parents have been crying out to diocesan authorities about this for decades, only to meet an arrogant indifference. We now see the results. Indeed the catechetical and liturgical wasteland, implemented and presided over by the Irish bishops, has done a million times more damage to the Church in Ireland than all the abuse reports combined. What has the good Archbishop done to remedy this? Nothing whatsoever.

    There are rumours that the Vatican is intending to replace the Irish hierarchy (or what’s left of them) wholesale. I pray they’ll give strong consideration to the crisis in the Archdiocese of Dublin and whether or not it could use new leadership.

  6. jbpolhamus says:

    Would that those Vatican rumours are true, and that they apply to large parts of the American episcopate as well. As to the Catholicism that has been passed on by former generations, I assume he’s talking about his own weak, watered down, confused, identity-less, Vatican II generation. That’s really the only explanation that will hold any water, or maintain any credibility. It’s also interesting that he uses the word “anxiety” as a product of Catholic practices and teaching, a word redolent with 1960’s psychobabblogical overtones, and a word that has recently been removed from the english-language Embolism following the Pater Noster. We know that age not only by its language, but by its fruit.

  7. skull kid says:

    Folks might be interested in watching 2 programmes from Irish TV on the Church in Ireland. They are the ‘Would you believe’ programmes from 4th and 11th December. Just search for them on the site. I hope these programmes are viewable for international visitors. They work for me and I am in the UK.

    http://www.rte.ie/player/#

    They give a good idea of the madness we are dealing with.

  8. Shane, thank you for pointing out the shameful attempt to sully the pre-conciliar Irish, who had strong, vigorous Catholic beliefs in a vigorous, growing Irish Catholic Church, with the deplorable moral and spiritual decadence wrought by the post-conciliar bishops and clergy and they alone.

    It is the height of hubris, injustice, and ingratitude when people besmirch Catholics of their parents and grandparents’ generation as being somehow fear-ridden, rigid, “childish” in their faith, rule-bound, etc. etc. The fact is those folks had a more mature Catholic life and a true sense of the apostolate of the laity than the vast majority of parish-goers now, which is the main reason they remained faithful and the current generation has not.

  9. Irish Catholicism has always had a strong helping of strict asceticism in it, which in the insecure can become rigidity in the treatment man or timidity about approaching God. But. Overall, the Irish have generally maintained their ascetic streak as a corrective to their tendency to have almost too much trust in God, almost too much presumption of His mercy. In short, if people weren’t walking barefoot up Croagh Patrick and staying up all night at St. Patrick’s Purgatory, they’d be spending all their time treating Jesus as a source of good craic and jokes, and Mary as the mom who can always talk Dad around. You have something pretty strong to have a balance between the love and the respect!

    Or maybe that’s just (traditionally anyway) the Irish in the US. :)

    Anyway, there’s lot of good fun in walking barefoot on rocks, or walking on your knees, or fasting, or keeping vigil all night, and offering stuff up. In a cold, painful, miserable, sleepy sort of way, mind you, but it’s still awfully satisfying, when you’ve got something to repent. :) Let’s not take that away.

  10. anilwang says:

    Don’t quite agree with the thrust of the article. Yes, it’s important to be honest, but the past was not the problem….people actually learnt something of the faith back then, whereas now they tend to know more about other religions and secular philosophies than Catholicism.

    I also disagree with the children of parents with weak faith need not apply suggestion. Children and Parents with weak faiths keep some of the trappings of the faith precisely because there is a part of them the size of a mustard seed that is still drawn to it. The Lord can do wonderful things with mustard seeds. Often all it takes is a major tragedy or a major life event (e.g. marriage, birth,…), for that mustard seed to blossom.

    I’m not Irish, but I can sympathize. I only received 1st communion since I was told confirmation wasn’t important, and I didn’t even learn enough to qualify as Christian (i.e. Jesus and Mary were just good humans who submitted to God. Jesus was Lord and Mary was Queen.), though I did learn enough Stoic and Platonic philosophy to protect me from complete worldliness when I left the Church at High School. It took a two decades but I did return (after marriage) and I did find my way back and learn all the things I was never taught. Little things, such as kneeling and genuflecting, and the sign of the cross were the first reinforcements that this truly was where I belonged.

    As a member of the “Lost Generation” I ask not cast out the Agnostic/Cafeteria Catholics as lost causes. They need us even though they don’t know it, and we would be failing in our duties to the Spiritual Acts of Mercy to abandon them, when they are only one confession away from restoration.

  11. Leonius says:

    “For many people in Ireland, the God we were practicing and teaching wasn’t necessarily the God of love at all. It was a God who inspired fear, it was a God who was sort of a ‘somebody watching you,’ rather than freeing and empowering you.”

    From this I draw the conclusion that Archbishop is never going figure out the solution to the problem as he has the completely wrong idea about is causing it in the first place.

    Fear of God is not a bad thing, rather according to the scriptures it is the beginning of wisdom and it has certainly been a huge aid to me during times of particular struggle.

  12. jaykay says:

    ““For many people in Ireland, the God we were practicing and teaching wasn’t necessarily the God of love at all. It was a God who inspired fear, it was a God who was sort of a ‘somebody watching you,’ rather than freeing and empowering you.”

    This is the constant mantra that has been pumped out since the 70s, intensifying in recent years. There was an element of “fear”, certainly, in terms of the pulpit-thumping hellfire sermons that took place during Parish Missions (usually in Lent – the Redemptorists were famed for them, although you can see a good Jesuit example in Joyce’s “Portrait”). That was by no means the totality, and it’s totally simplistic to suggest that a popular and vibrant faith could only have been sustained by constant fear and threats. I personally find it extremely insulting to my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, who were intelligent and active Catholics, to suggest that they were some sort of cowering, mind-controlled serfs slavering in terror beneath the pulpit.

    But in fact it’s easy, on even brief reflection, to see the agenda behind this negative portrayal, which is to falsely condemn the past in order to highlight the current menu du jour. Which, of course, is the post-Conciliar model… more correctly, a very selective version of it!! Obviously this mindset is not unique to Ireland but we seem to have acquired a particularly virulent strain, resulting in almost self-hatred for having suffered such a supposedly evil past. This in turn seems to place a mental block in those who accept it from seeing the very obvious fact that Irish people are historically not noted for suffering passively under restrictive regimes of any sort, as our constant series of rebellions and resistance to political domination by outsiders has shown. The pre-Conciliar Irish Church may not have been perfect, but viewed as a dominating and tyrannical force by the people it certainly was not. It couldn’t have survived (let alone flourished) otherwise.

    Needless to remark, the proponents of this “bad old days” view never seem to stop to reflect on just why those whom they fondly think they have “freed and empowered” have exited in droves from this newly-erected and wonderful ecclesial edifice of huggy warmth and feel-your-pain outreach

    That said, Abp. Martin has set up a full-time TLM chaplaincy in Dublin Archdiocese and celebrated a Pontifical High Mass, for which I am personally very grateful as I would never get to attend a TLM in my own diocese where a certain, erm, “Spirit” is still at large.

  13. Could I suggest that people not base their comments on what any article says the Archbishop said but rather on what he actually said in the program (is it actually viewable outside Ireland?). Remember that he only appears for a few moments in a half-hour program. As regards the pre-Concilliar and post-Concilliar Church – isn’t that a distinction the Hoy Father wants to be rid of? From my conversations with those who lived in those years (my parents and most of my brethren) they were, like now, a mixed bag. Some people were scared and left scarred. Some were inspired and later felt let down. Others didn’t feel at home at all. I think the Archbishop may be right that previous generations had plenty of information on the Faith but not necessarily any great depth while more recently there has been neither information nor depth (I teach teenagers so I know). He knows there is a severe problem but even as Archbishop there are limits to what he can do. Perhaps he has too has to wait for certain individuals to retire or die off?

  14. jaykay says:

    Brother Tom Forde: Yes, I agree that HH of course wants to move the discussion away from that swamp of “pre” and “post” concialiar division, which is totally false as we know. Still, his opponents in the media (and the Irish versions are almost totally composed of them) insist on trotting it out endlessly. I don’t doubt the Abp. was selectively “edited” but I still get annoyed at any suggestion that there is such a division. And I don’t think that that particular remark (which he did make) helps. But he is a good man in an awful situation.

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