Is the Vatican Listening to the Irish Catholic Church?

imageToday’s Irish Times carries two stories which exemplify the communications problem that pervades the Catholic Church.

One story details a brewing protest against the new Roman missal, to be introduced in parishes in Ireland later this year. About 100 people from the Association of Catholic priests and lay members of Pobal and We Are Church met in Portlaoise to discuss the new missal, which purportedly contains ‘sexist language.’

The Association of Catholic Priests has recommended that ‘priests and people avoid using the sexist language that pervades the new missal.’

It said that they are ‘baffled’ that:

“while generous provision has been made for the Latin Mass, no provision is being made to accommodate the far greater number of people who will have difficulty for different reasons with the new missal”.

In his address, Fr Brendan Hoban outlined some of the difficulties with the new missal:

  1. How as priests do we deal with the anger of our people?
    anger that with so much to fix,
    we should insist on repairing what isn’t broken;
    anger that, once again, they haven’t been consulted;
    and a mixture of anger and embarrassment that
    we insist on shooting ourselves in the foot at every opportunity.
  2. How are we to deal with the continuation of exclusive language?
    it’s a problem for women but it’s also a problem for men.
    Women who are hanging on to their membership of the Catholic Church
    by their finger-tips will feel outraged and disrespected by the return to exclusive language.
    What are we expected to say to parents whose children are finding it harder and harder to maintain any kind of connection to the Catholic Church and who will feel that they have been gratuitously insulted by the continued use of exclusive language?
  3. How do we deal with the confusion of our parishioners as they struggle with inserts into texts they are familiar with for the last 50 years?

Last week at mass, a small booklet was distributed announcing the new missal. I said to my husband that I had heard rumours of controversy around the new missal, probably because the Vatican had not consulted the Irish church about it before imposing it from above.

My husband replied: ‘the Catholic Church doesn’t do consultation.’

That may well have been the case in the past, but I had been encouraged recently by tentative signs that the church hierarchy was at least trying to listen to the people in the pews. Take for example the various listening processes happening through dioceses in Ireland, or the recent Apostolic Visitation to the Irish Church.

Maybe it would be a step too far to think that these processes constitute consultation, but it seems reasonable to expect respectful listening from people purporting to be leading others after Christ’s example. Especially when their leadership has presided over an abuse scandal of global proportions, a scandal which has seriously damaged the church, as well as traumatized untold numbers of vulnerable people.

The second story outlined the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin’s plea for the Vatican to hurry up and provide some formal feedback from the Apostolic Visitation.

Archbishop Martin was speaking in Dublin at a conference on the upcoming 2012 Eucharistic Congress. He said that:

“The longer the delay in advancing the fruits of the apostolic visitation, the greater the danger of false expectations, and the greater the encouragement to those who prefer immobilism to reform, and the greater the threat to the effectiveness of this immense gift of the Holy Father to the Irish Church”.

And that he was:

“Impatient to learn about the path that the apostolic visitation will set out for renewal for the Irish Church so that our renewal will move forward decisively. At the same time, I am also becoming increasingly impatient at the slowness in the process, which began over a year ago. This is not a criticism of the Holy Father. It is an appeal to his collaborators.”

The Apostolic Visitation team is reported to have submitted its reports to the Vatican in April.

I have no idea how long it normally takes the Vatican to respond to such matters. But it seems to me that Archbishop Martin’s words are urgent because he believes that ‘the secularisation of Irish culture is very advanced.’

Archbishop Martin thinks that the church must act swiftly and with justice if it is to truly support its members, let alone retain any relevance in the wider Irish culture. But with every passing day, Irish Catholics can legitimately wonder if they are really being heard.

(Image, logo of International Movement, We Are Church)

9 Responses to Is the Vatican Listening to the Irish Catholic Church?

  1. shane June 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    The Association of Catholic Priests actually represents less than 10% of Irish clergy. They do not seem that bothered that the New Mass and Vatican II itself were forced on the Irish Catholic Church, which at the time was very unenthusiastic about both.

  2. Martin June 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    ACP haven’t a clue. It IS the Mass that matters. As Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) once remarked:

    “I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy, which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists and whether He speaks to us and listens to us.

    “But if in the liturgy the communion of faith no longer appears, nor the universal unity of the Church and of her history, nor the mystery of the living Christ, where is it that the Church still appears in her spiritual substance?,” he asked.

    Too often, Ratzinger lamented, “the community is only celebrating itself without its being worthwhile to do so.”

    This tirade from the ACP is a complete joke. It would be absolutely hilarious if they weren’t actually serious.

    As regards consultation of everybody, that is just ridiculous. There was consultation among Irish bishops over the missal translation. The idea that you can or should consult everybody is silly and unrealistic. I’m a faithful Catholic, but I have no language or translation skills, I’m not a theologian, I have no competence with liturgical translation. There WAS consultation with this missal, among people who were worth consulting. It’s just so stupid. Are you going to ask Nellio O’Donnell with the black cat down the road about what she thinks about the merits of ‘consubstantial’ versus ‘one in being’? Gimme a break!

    ACP are sadly part of the problem, not the solution.

  3. Martin June 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    That should be ‘Nellie O’Donnell’.

  4. Martin June 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    I think a pertinent question is this: Is Ireland listening to the Vatican, or is it business as usual? I refer to the teaching of the Catholic faith and to the Sacred Liturgy, areas where chaos and dissent have reigned for over 40 years.

  5. Eric Conway June 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    The ACP are guy’s with too much time on their hands. They are obsessed with projecting their anger ( why are the likes of Fr. Brendan Hoban always so full of anger – it’s not a particularly Christian or positive characteristic ) on to the laity. Why don’t they put up or shut up. The honourable thing would be to resign and/or set up their own sect. Their patronising attitude towards the laity ( we are quite capable of understanding the new Missal ) is offensive in the extreme.

  6. Martin June 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    You think they’re going to give up one of the best jobs going? A priest who’s not doing his job (read: fulfilling his vocation) enjoys a fierce cushy number. Free car, free food, free house, holidays, golf, maybe even a housekeeper. Write books, give talks, go on TV – what’s not to love?

    There is a catch though. The Lord isn’t best please with bad shepherds. Yeah, that’s the only catch. Buy now, pay ‘big time’ later. Yep.

  7. Eric Conway June 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Quite so, Martin. A very wise ( non Spirit of Vatican II variety ) Priest once told me that a lot of theological waffle comes from Priests ( particularly, though not exclusively Order Priests ) with too much time on their hands. The ordinary secular Priests are generally too busy ( & in most cases fulfilled ) tending to their flock – baptisms ; teaching ; Mass ; all the other Sacraments ; house visitations etc. This close involvement/contact with the laity also means they tend to be more grounded ; as the vast majority of lay people are not great for trendy theological innovation. This can be seen when occasionally a trendy Priest tries to ” re-order ” ( code for desecrate ) the Church in the ” Spirit of Vatican II ; It’s usually the laity who object to their ancestors inheritance being thus messed around with. To conclude, one can only hope that the Vatican is not listening to the Irish Catholic Church, at least in it’s ACP manifestation.

  8. Martin June 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    Good point Eric. As they say, the devil makes work for idle hands.

    BTW, both Gladys and Eric should take a look at Dr. Mark Dooley’s new book, ‘Why be a Catholic’.

    It provides an alternate point of view to that other book you reviewed recently Gladys.

    Take a look at his book by clicking my name, ‘Martin’.

    Amazon.com has a ‘look-inside’ preview.

  9. Eric Conway June 10, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Also as an antidote, it would be worth reading the recent book by Michael Coren – ” Why Catholics Are Right ” ; can’t imagine this being on top of the ACP required reading list !.

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