Spiritual Renewal in Ireland?

What do you think of these 4 statements?

  • Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with … a person, Jesus Christ.

  • A developed and mature Christian faith requires knowledge of the scriptures.

  • We have to know the scriptures, to love the scriptures, to understand the scriptures, to prayerfully read the scriptures.  All of us have to learn to take up the scriptures every day.

  • It is in an encounter with the God who is totally other, but who became incarnate as one of us, that we are able to know ourselves more fully and find our true identity.

    Jesus focused; Bible focused; major emphasis on authentic personal faith. Written by some well known evangelical?

    Well you might be surprised that the opening line is a quote from Pope Benedict. And the points are drawn from a speech by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dairmuid Martin at the launch of “SHARE THE GOOD NEWS”: The National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland

    He continues:

    If faith centres on a personal relationship with Jesus, this will have radical implications for the rule-bound approach of traditional Catholic  catechesis.

    If a mature faith in Jesus requires knowledge of the Scriptures, this will have revolutionary consequences within Irish Catholicism where most families do not possess a Bible.

    If young people are going to develop in a personal authentic faith there will mean “revolutionising all our structures” including a fundamental reordering of the reliance on school-based religious instruction in Ireland to a rediscovery of the role of the local parish and of parents.

    This will need “a new group of lay people” to be voluntary catechists in their parishes.

    All this is needed because “we can no longer assume faith on the part of young people who have attended Catholic schools” or who come from Catholic families.

    Once again, it is Archbishop Martin who (virtually alone among the Irish hierarchy?) is articulating both the nature of the monumental challenges facing the Irish Catholic Church; seeing the need for truly revolutionary change; and arguing that such change can only begin with a spiritual encounter with the living God through his Word.


    But here’s a question, and I may get in trouble for putting it this way. I’d welcome comments, especially from those who grew up within Irish Catholicism.

    He doesn’t use these words, but he’s addressing, within a Catholic framework, the legacy of Irish Christendom. A legacy that did ‘assume faith‘ at every step of life:

    – Assumed regeneration and membership of the church through baptism

    – Assumed receiving of Jesus in First Communion

    – Assumed a real personal active Christian life via a sacramentalism that valued attendance at Mass above all else

    – Assumed knowledge of faith and the Scriptures through Catholic-controlled schooling

    – Assumed mature commitment to Jesus and reception of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation

    And at every step such assumptions worked against the 4 points at the start of this post. Personal faith was marginalised and actively discouraged, as was reading of the Bible. The system, in good modernist / Christendom style did it all for you. Everyone was ‘in’ from the get go, the rest of the Christian life became an optional extra.

    And now, as Irish Catholicism faces unprecedented decline and crisis those assumptions are rightly being questioned. Archbishop Martin is right, revolutionary change is needed. I pray and hope great spiritual renewal does arrive out of the present brokeness.

    But at the same time I wonder if the very structure of Catholicism has an ‘inbuilt resistence’ to the very hopes that the Pope and Archbishop Martin give voice to. The theological framework that gave rise to those assumptions is all still in place and not going to change.

    I know this may sound like the arrogance of a non-Catholic evangelical, but there is plenty of discussion of the weaknesses of evangelicalism on this blog, so I hope not.

    But I guess my question is this: Is (Irish) Catholicism reformable?

    6 thoughts on “Spiritual Renewal in Ireland?

    1. Fair ‘nough answer. That’s what you get for asking a closed question!

      To rephrase. Does the sacramental and theological structure of Catholicism too easily and often lead to an assumed faith that actually makes it more difficult to build in daily Bible reading and a volitional personal faith? Or could this just as easily be said of much of Irish Protestantism as well?

      • Yes I am certain the Holy Spirit is capable of speaking into every situation and thank God for the Archbishops thoughts however I am not sure that the Roman Catholic Church is willing (or able) to relinquish its doctrinal control when faced with “–the radical implications” or “–revolutionary consequences” that results from a faith centered on “–a personal relationship with Jesus”. JPW

    2. Hello JP and welcome.
      Yes – Archbishop Martin is grappling with the same Christendom / post-Christendom challenges facing all churches from within his specific context. Catholicism is very deeply wedded to Christendom, theologically, historically, culturally, structurally. It really will take radical reform to change things.

    3. Irish Catholicism will undergo change but reform may be too large a word. Archbishop Martin will not be appreciated by the conseravtives within the RC Church until long after he is gone. The reform needed would acknowledge most of the belief structured tendancies associated with Protestantism so a wall goes up.(sometimes invisibily, sometimes not) It will be hard to change centuries of wearing red ermine cloth surrouded by a lot of incense and the power structures asscoiated with such items. With a broad brush I state that the RC Church forgot about God in pursuit of the control of people and the power embracing institutions of the Church. It forgot about Jesus when dealing with the abuse scandals which have surfaced throughout the entire Church system from Cardinal to priest. It forgot about the Holy Spirit when parishes split and the victims were doubly made victim as people viewed them as liars and conspirators against the Church and they were ostracised in rural communities. For pities sake not even Rome heard their cries where it is said that the Pope has a direct line to God. When such an authority values itself as the “one true Church” and lies on issues which confront it then at what stage can we trust it to be telling the truth. It is time for real change yet again and yet again there will be no real change. History tells us it is so. All of us, both within and without the RC Church, should pray that righteous change comes. All of us should pray for those of the ilk of Archbishop Martin and the faithful God inspired Christians which exist in the ediface calling itself the “one true Church”.

    4. Maybe the time has come to return to the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of St. Patrick. The rejection of conciliar Church government by the bishops of Rome at the beginning of the 11th Century has spawned many of the divisions and problems effecting all Christians. A return to the conciliar Church government of Holy Apostolic Tradition would not only be a blessing to Roman and Orthodox Catholic Christians, but could also be a basis for healing the past and continuing wounds of the Refomation.

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