Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thurles Cross stolen

Police outside Holy Cross Abbey:
The relic of the True Cross, which was brought to Ireland in the thirteenth century has been stolen from Holy Cross Abbey in Thurles. There is constant stories coming out of Ireland of acts of vandalism and theft against Churches, of violence against clergy, even of sacrilege and desecration of the Blessed Sacrament. This is just yet another sad story, that seems to illustrate the shrugging off of Catholicism in "Holy" Ireland. The " Holy" which sustained faith for centuries is now just seen in financial terms, as an antique to be sold on or even melted down.

For the last thirty years of the last century there were stories of visionaries, wobbling and bleeding statues, visionaries, stigmatics and apocalyptic prophets, in retrospect we can see this as a disconnection between the Church and the folk piety of the faithful.

No one can deny the Church in Ireland is in a pitiful state. Report after report unveils yet more unsavoury details of the failure of the Church's hierarchy. In England, and elsewhere, we are fortunate that our equivalents of the Magdalen Laundries, Industrial Schools and Reformatories were in the hands of the State and not of the Church.

A friend of mine who was at the European Bishop's Conference, said he felt sorry for the Archbishop of Dublin who just looked grey, exhausted and isolated; no wonder. He seems to be the only Irish bishops who has any credibility, in many ways he is a lone voice. Irish clergy who write to me seem to be depressed and in great pain. They want leadership and yet their bishops seem incapable of giving it. In Ireland the Association for Catholic Priests seems to be the only group that has a voice, it claims to speak for a quarter of the clergy.

The Association adopts the same line as dissident groups in Austria and elsewhere, it wants an end to mandatory celibacy, admission of the divorced to the sacraments, readmission to ministry of laicised priests, empowerment of certain lay people and the election of Bishops. Some within the Association seem to want a break with Rome and the establishment of a national Church.

I suspect many Irish clergy, the other three quarters, that aren't signed up to the Association are simply saying "something must be done", they are not sure what and some, not all, might well agree with some of the tub thumping of the rhetoricians of the Association, many of whom seem to have close contacts with the Irish political establishment, which Ireland is not necessarily a recommendation for anyone. The economic situation seems to have brought about a general mistrust of elites and at least a temporary favouring of those who topple them.

The Pope's initiatives for the healing of the Church in Ireland, in his letter, especially the prayer and penance, in many places seem to be ignored or forgotten in the slew of anti-clericalism; there has been little news of the Mission to the bishops, clergy and religious, perhaps as this sounds like "retraining" or boot camp, it doesn't seem to be met with enthusiasm.

What practically everyone is waiting for is the publication of the report of the Visitation: which bishops are going to be sacked, is pretty basic question, especially as the rumours and speculations about cutting down the number of Irish dioceses has been going the rounds for some time. Whilst Rome ponders and is silent morale continues to decrease and depression with all its dangers to the priestly life seems to increase.

If there is "an Irish question" as far as the Church is concerned, it is also a European question, the chiaroscuro of Ireland's deep and profound faith a generation ago and its apparent rejection of it today, epitomises the problems facing the rest of Europe, though perhaps some might suggest Celtic Catholicism, hence Celtic Secularism is different from European Catholicism and Secularism. What is to be done?

The urgency of the situation will be a test for Archbishop Fisichella and the Council for the New Evangelisation, a recurring theme is Ireland has been catechised but not evanglised. It will also be a test for the Congregation of Bishops; can it find men who will be effective leaders and teachers of the faith? As someone suggested recently favouring men with diplomatic skills as opposed to being teachers and evangelists has, possibly, been the result of replacing the CDF with the Secretariat of State in the choice of bishops. The change has meant having those who want peace with society, rather than those who have fire and fervour in their bellies as bishops.


shane said...

I'm afraid Ireland has not been catechised. (I speak as a university student.) That Archbishop Martin was able to claim that Ireland is the most catechised country in Europe shows how utterly clueless he is about the situation on the ground. Older generations (who still practice) were indeed given a very solid grounding in the faith, but those educated since the late 60s have been fed only a diet of poisonous heresy. I learned almost nothing whatsoever about the faith in either my 'Catholic' primary or secondary school. Anything I do know about Catholicism is from reading on my own initiative.

shane said...

That said, this theft is a tragedy and reminds me of the fire in Longford Cathedral (which destroyed some very important historic records and the over 1,000 year old St Mel's Crosier, which in medieval times attracted pilgrims from all over Europe). Let's pray the relic is recovered.

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to say, Fr Blake, you have rather overestimated what Archbishop Martin has done over his eight years in Dublin. The Archbishop speaks to the secular Media, politicians and the secular "intelligentsia", but not to the genuinely faithful. We, the faithful are ignored, and sometimes even referred to in a dismissive, disrespectful way in the third person while he addresses his chosen audience (generally those who do not care for religion or respect freedom of same). I am in my early forties and never received the true or full doctrine of the Church at my Catholic schools. My son, who is in his late teens, has been subject to the same awful or non-existant education and formation, from nominally Catholic schools (his secondary school is a Jesuit one!). Heresy is unchecked from the seminary (Maynooth), "Catholic" third level colleges, through to "Catholic" secondary and primary schools. Heretics, including many clergy have pride of place, and are often prominent in the Media, but the Archbishop has not admonished or stopped one of them. The Archbishop does not speak out stridently against the continual and egregious breaches of and attacks against the most fundamental human rights, e.g. life, marriage, freedom of religion. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Apart from a small number of priests who courageously do their duty, we faithful Irish Catholics are persecuted and sidelined while having no leaders to look to within the Church. Lynda

MartinT said...

When we talk about people being 'catechised' it means going through the motions of catechesis -they have been through the programmes or the classes or whatever programme the catechists have devised. But without evangelisation, it is all words without meaning, notes without a tune.

Gigi said...

"The " Holy" which sustained faith for centuries is now just seen in financial terms, as an antique to be sold on or even melted down".
Desecration seems like opportunism to those with no notion of "sacredness".
My cousins are in Northern Ireland, and their children still seem to be catechised; even the little ones appear to revere the church and it's clergy with a mixture of affection and trepidation. But I have friends across the border who have clearly grown to distrust and mock the clergy. I sympathise with young priests in Ireland particularly: preaching to the unconverted and unconvinced is one thing, but fending off criticism, slander and abuse from within the natural congregation must be heartbreaking.

migueldeturbulencia said...

" end to mandatory celibacy, admission of the divorced to the sacraments..." etc, etc.
The usual tired old list of Modernist demands, but this time coming from the Irish priests themselves. Is this not the sure sign that they too are the products of the failed catechesis of the 'New Pentecost'?

Sharon said...

Orthodox catechesis in the Faith is almost non existent in my state in Australia. My generation was the last to receive orthodox catechesis and we foolishly trusted that the schools were doing what our schooling did. Most parents who send their children to "Catholic" schools now didn't receive orthodox catechesis themselves and think that the pablum presented as Religious Ed is the real deal. There doesn't seem to be any movement by the bishop to remedy this situation and so it will continue with "Catholic" schools being providers of a good secular education with some social justice thrown in. Our bishops' commission is great at telling the government what they should be doing with asylum seekers but not so great at insisting of authentic Catholicism being taught in the schools.

GOR said...

Father I think you have fallen prey to the ‘media view’ of the Faith in Ireland – all is lost, nothing but doom and negativity. I disagree. Yes, there is much to criticize – bad catechesis, lack of episcopal oversight, clerical apathy, a sense of entitlement and taking things for granted.

Much of that is not new. Other than the catechesis issue it was all present – and noted by the people - 50+ years ago when I was growing up there. But the Faith of the people was strong - and often it was more in spite of, than on account of, the clergy. They may not have had a high opinion of “Fr. X and Bp. Y” but they still went to Mass and the Sacraments and saw through them to what and Whom they represented, albeit sometimes poorly.

Today, while the media focus is on Cloyne, Ferns, Dublin etc. there is much good being done - quietly and prayerfully - that is seldom seen and gets little publicity. In my home diocese there have been ‘Days of Reparation’ – 24 hours of fasting and praying by the priests and people with Masses and Devotions throughout the day in the parishes, including the Cathedral parish.

The annual diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes is one of the largest in the country with hundreds of volunteers involved year after year (my sister has volunteered for over 20 years and many others for longer than that…). They pay their own way and spend the time there catering to the needs of the sick – preparing and serving meals, cleaning rooms, taking them to the baths, to Masses and processions. The bishop leads the pilgrimage, assisted by dozens of diocesan priests. The sick who cannot afford the trip are paid for – often by the contributions of the priests as well as the laity.

I have noted elsewhere that in my home parish there are over 40 volunteer organizations catering to the physical and spiritual needs of the people. There are groups catering to the poor, the sick, the elderly, the youth, the homebound, the Travellers, the bereaved, etc. etc. Masses and devotions are well attended by today’s standards - albeit much less than formerly. Granted, that is only one example - but I doubt that it is the only one.

So Father, all is not lost in Ireland, though much has been. The Church was started in a small way and it will recover in Ireland in small ways also. But it will take time.

”…et portae inferi non praevalebunt.”

Gigi said...

GOR: thanks; that's really heartening to hear. It's in the blood of the media to seek chinks and cracks in something essentially incorruptible: faith. Clearly the Catholic Church is not just her artefacts and buildings, nor just her clergy. While you have people - praying, volunteering, gathering - in her name, you will find the Church.

Sadie Vacantist said...

"In England, and elsewhere, we are fortunate that our equivalents of the Magdalen Laundries, Industrial Schools and Reformatories were in the hands of the State and not of the Church"

You have not thought through this statement. A person needs to be fully conversant with the socio-economic, socio-political and socio-historical context of the Irish "abuse scandals" before commenting. The Murphy report (written by a lawyer) totally fails to provide this and the above statement reveals a similary flawed piece of analysis.

Ma Tucker said...

"A friend of mine who was at the European Bishop's Conference, said he felt sorry for the Archbishop of Dublin who just looked grey, exhausted and isolated; no wonder. He seems to be the only Irish bishops who has any credibility, in many ways he is a lone voice. "

Archbishop Martin has fantastic credibility with the media who are anti-Catholic. Hmmm. If you want to know why give this a try:-

1) pick any of his speeches, any one at all.
2) Count how many times the personal pronoun "I" is used e.g. "I said", "I knew", "I tried" "I believe" etc
3) Count how many times Christ is referenced either directly (by name) or indirectly (His Gospels in the light of tradition)
4) Compare the results from (2) and (3)
5) Sit back and consider charitably that maybe you picked a fluke in step (1).
(6) Return to step (1) and repeat the process with a different speech.

I have done this with his last three speeches. The results are laughable and it is plainly obvious why the world loves him. It is plainly obvious why the media will only listen to his voice.

Peter M said...

As a fellow Irish man, I can second what Shane says about catechesis. The Irish people have been neither catechised nor evangelised.

Anonymous said...

I am an American of Irish descent. I know I'm American, not really Irish. How sad all this is for me. But somehow, for me, all this controversy just washes off--perhaps as the result of witnessing great evil, great failings, in my early life and later living in the secular humanist world, which seemed as great in its failings as the narrow, insular, often cruel Irish catholic world I grew up in. Also, I have sinned as much--more--than the Magdalene. Maybe it's dissociation, but for me, everything falls away at Mass. I hear Christ as I did not as a young woman. That quiet voice and his flawed Church--which open my eyes to His beautiful, ugly sad/happy world-- -they are all what matter. Thanks for your blog, Father Ray.

Crux Fidelis said...

I attended Sunday Mass in a country church in Ireland a few weeks ago - in the Diocese of Meath to be exact. There wasn't much devotion in evidence there. People held audible conversations right up to the start of Mass, very few genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament and children who had paid absolutely no attention to the Mass (this includes the twelve [!] altar servers) went to receive Holy Communion. As soon as the priest, who had opened Mass with "Good morning. Did ye all watch the rugby this morning? Wasn't it great?", stepped down from the sanctuary at the end of Mass the conversations resumed. Copies of the new translation of the Mass provided at the end of each pew were largely ignored with many uttering the old responses and prayers.

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