Whither reform in Irish Catholicism (2)?

A while ago I did a post wondering out loud on how reform might come to a church in crisis – the example being the Irish Catholic Church. Some thought I was just wishing all Catholics stopped being Catholics and became Protestants, but that wasn’t what I meant.

I was really trying to ask what needs to be in place for deep structural and spiritual change to occur – for the reforming and refreshing wind of the Spirit to blow and the renewing Word to effect radical change. I did  a follow up post here on Scot McKnight’s quite provocative (a blog comment rather than carefully edited and published article) views that the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are ‘un-reformable’ because of the constricting and stifling role of an elevated Tradition.

I mention all this because of Archbishop Dairmuid Martin’s comments yesterday on the ‘strong forces’ opposed to change within the Irish Church and of his deep personal discouragement – and presumably his deep pessimism over the likelihood of renewal and reform. Even when the Irish Bishops were in Rome there was less than full support for the Archbishop’s policy of transparency and need for reform from his colleagues. There is obviously a deeply hostile reaction to Archbishop Martin’s policy of honesty and accountability and he cuts a bit of a lonely figure.

Whatever about the theology – if there is not an appetite, even a desperation, for radical reform from senior leaders within the Irish Church after all that has gone on in the last few years, well, you can understand and sympathise with the Archbishop’s despair. I feel for him as a sincere man trying to do the right thing.

If some church leaders think somehow that keeping the truth secret is STILL the best thing for the Church [note the priority here] well, you’ve got to wonder that if those ‘forces’ remain influential, that the Irish Church is heading for a sort of death in the near future …. and maybe that’s the best thing.

Whatever you believe about the Catholic Church, all Christians should be able to pray that out of such ‘death’ can come spiritual life. Isn’t that what reform is all about?

I say that with no axe to grind or with any iota of pleasure, but as an observer. As the Archbishop says of those opposed to him, they do not “have a true sense of the crisis of faith that exists in Ireland.”


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