Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

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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