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Is the Edsel a paradox?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 03, 2006

Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin spoke on February 18 to Pobal, an Irish group committed to building "a humble, listening Church" in the spirit of Vatican II (if you get the general idea). The archbishop-- who would learn just a few days later that he was to continue being known as "archbishop" rather than as "cardinal"-- reflected on the great changes that had occurred in Irish Catholicism while he was off serving at the Vatican:

The Church in Dublin to which I returned after an absence of over thirty years is a very complex Church. There is no doubt that Vatican II was a great gift to the Irish Church, which needed a quantum leap for it to become truly Church in the second half of the 20th century.

Hmm. The "second half of the 20th century" began in 1950 or 1951, depending how you calculate these things. The Council came 12 years later. So for more than a decade, there wasn't "truly" a Church in Ireland. An unsettling thought.

There are however many paradoxes.

Note that word carefully: paradoxes.

Numbers attending Church regularly have dropped radically. I visit parishes where there are no young people present at all.

Do you see a "paradox" here? I see a failure.

Vatican II is not a term used often in the vocabulary and culture of most of our young people.

And if you hang out with young people on the sidewalks of Dublin, you don't hear much chat about the Council of Trent either, nor the Council of Nicea. That in itself is not cause for concern. The key question is: Do they know their faith?

We have invested huge effort into new catechetical programs, yet many young people move out into life with a very superficial religious culture.

Oh. Ford Motor Co. invested heavily in the Edsel, too. Most business analysts today don't think of that investment as a "paradox."

For the first time in the memory of the Diocese of Dublin there was no ordination to the priesthood last year. And yet I find parishes that have never been as vibrant in their history as they are today.

Ah, now that observation, if accurate, is indeed paradoxical. But Archbishop Martin, who could cite clear evidence of the problems with post-conciliar Irish Catholicism, offers no such evidence of the Church's vitality. He simply asserts that the parishes are "vibrant." And you have to wonder whether the vibrations he hears are indications of pulsating energy, or merely the long, faint echoes that haunt an empty building.

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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 07, 2006 8:41 AM ET USA

    Analogies are never perfect. That is why we use the word "like." The point is that Bishops and The Vatican need to take responsibility for the corruptions in the church under their watch just as a coach needs to take responsibility for a losing program. The difference is that coaches actually get fired and Bishops who undermine the church actually get promoted like Cardinal Mahoney. Oops, did I name names.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 07, 2006 6:04 AM ET USA

    Vatican II is a gift. The problem is, it is like a gift of a beautiful "Sunday go to Mass outfit" that was used to play in the mud as soon as it was put on. It now needs to be thorouhgly cleaned or tosssed in the sprap heap.

  • Posted by: MM - Mar. 06, 2006 8:39 AM ET USA

    "There is no doubt that Vatican II was a great gift to the Irish Church" Whatever the connection is between VCII and the post conciliar "very superficial religious culture", it exists and it needs to be acknowledged. Statements such as the above come across as either foolish or dishonest. When you are trying to fix a problem, a key step is to admit the nature of the problem. The Irish heirarchy are looking anxiously around at the emerging wasteland, but they still won't take that step.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 04, 2006 8:45 AM ET USA

    Odysseus -- The "coach" analogy isn't quite right. The coach is our Lord Jesus Christ. Failure of the program to deliver is based on failure to listen to this coach's Gospel.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 03, 2006 6:23 PM ET USA

    If priests and bishops cease to be Catholic yet retain their authority and influence, then why is it surprising to find the flock in disarray? It's like a college basketball coach with a consistently losing program who blames his players for the performance. It's the coach's job to prepare his players and build the program, it's the player's job to buy into the system and play. If a player will not do his job, he sits the bench or is kicked off the team, and a coach may need to lose a job.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 03, 2006 11:59 AM ET USA

    I grew up in Catholic Ireland - I left there in 1972. The Church was vibrant then, as far as I knew. I was back there last year for a vacation and was horrified at the one Mass I was at! Everyone sat from after the entrance of the priest until the Gospel!! Presumably because most people were geriatric!! Parishes may be "vibrant" but are they faithful? That is the question!!

  • Posted by: - Mar. 03, 2006 10:23 AM ET USA

    QUOTE -- "which needed a quantum leap for it to become truly Church in the second half of the 20th century" -- UNQUOTE. Note lack of article ("the") before Church, which is fashionable lib-speak (e.g., "we are Church"). Also note use of "to become" -- as if there were no Church before Vatican II. Is this what BXVI refers to when he talks about "rupture." Benedict can read the lingo. Ergo, no red hat.

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