Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic World News

Irish Church lost influence by conforming to culture, Archbishop Martin says

February 23, 2011

Catholicism is a “minority culture” in Ireland today, according to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

In an address at Magdalene College, Cambridge, the Primate of Ireland explained that secularism has taken a heavy toll on the faith in Ireland for years, to the point that most people—even those who identify themselves as Catholic—no longer order their lives according to the principles of the Catholic faith.

Archbishop Martin told his Cambridge audience that several years ago, Pope John Paul II asked how Ireland had suddenly become secularized. The Irish archbishop said that he respectfully disagreed with the Pontiff, telling him that the change had not come suddenly:

Secularisation, whatever that means exactly, had been on the Irish radar screen for many years. It was not all negative but it was not an overnight wonder. It was there, but not recognised. It was there but the answer of the Irish Church was for far too long to keep the same show on the road, not noticing that there were problems with the show and that the road was changing.

Years earlier, Archbishop Martin recalled, a sociology professor had told him that Catholicism was already a minority culture in Ireland. At the time the argument seemed outlandish, he said, but in time he came to understand the professor’s point. Now conceding that Catholicism is a minority culture, the archbishop said: “The challenge is to ensure that it is not an irrelevant minority culture.”

Archbishop Martin said that the Church has failed to capture the attention of young Irish, so that “there is a missing generation—and perhaps more than one.” He said that the Church must undertake greater efforts to reach young people.

On the public scene the influence of the Church has lapsed considerably, the archbishop continued, noting that “in the current political discussion in Ireland is increasingly marginal.” With elections approaching, he noted that none of the country’s political parties had made an effort to gain support from the Church.

Archbishop Martin said that the process of secularization was accelerated by the efforts of Church leaders to conform to the culture. He explained:

The paradoxical thing is that the farther the Church goes in adapting to the culture of the times, the greater is the danger that it will no longer be able to confront the culture of the time. It will only be able to speak the language of the culture of the day and not the radical newness of the message of the Gospel which transcends all cultures. It could become a type of civil religion: politically correct, but without the cutting edge of the Gospel.


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  • Posted by: Defender - Feb. 24, 2011 1:15 AM ET USA

    And the Apostolic Visitation was conducted by Cardinal O'Malley? Let's see: busting the teacher's union; the Kennedy funeral business; the gay parents controversy; and Boston College is Catholic? Though the cardinal gave Ireland 5 or, at most, 10 years before it falls "over the brink," one wonders if his own archdiocese won't also suffer from a similar fate?

  • Posted by: dmva9806 - Feb. 23, 2011 9:00 PM ET USA

    When bishops (and their priests) get in bed with politicians seeking government paychecks for "charity", that is what one expects to happen.