The Catholic Church is in a very different place and must go back to the basic values which have served society well if it is to have continued relevance in Ireland, the Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, has said.
In a thought provoking and personal contribution to the Irish Examiner, which can be read in full here, the outspoken Bishop has set out his own hopes for the future direction of the Church and its position within an increasingly secularised Irish society.
Acknowledging that many would "rejoice at the current predicament of the Church" the Bishop warned, however, that secularism may not be the panacea that many hope.
He writes: "The problems of the Church are mirrored in society. The authority of the Church is damaged, that is for sure, but so is the authority of every other institution in society...
"For anyone who thinks that life without the Church and the basic Christian principles which she imparts is rosy I would ask to take a closer look at the consequences for our society ...
To achieve this, the Bishop suggested, the Church must go back to basics and concentrate on its "immense contribution to society in education, healthcare and in shaping the way we see marriage, family, the gift of life and the ultimate meaning of existence."
Setting out his own vision of the future Bishop Cullinan described a Church which would be seen as a "creative minority" and a "field hospital" within society.
Referencing Pope Benedict's definition of a future Church whose renewal would be assured by "a creative minority", Bishop Cullinan said such renewal would not come about through a ghettoised church, as some have suggested, but one of "active believers who have chosen and want to live the Church’s teaching"
Bishop Cullinan also suggested it was time, as Pope Francis has demanded, for those who remain in the Church to "get our hands dirty ... and be like a hospital in a battlefield, open to all, working with others to help and to heal, in the messiness of everyday life."
The Bishop said that amidst all these challenges the Church must be prepared "to tell the truth of the human story even if people do not want to listen ... that Jesus has taken our faults on Himself and that through His death and Resurrection we have the promise of redemption and the grace to live a new kind of life and gain eternal life, returning to the paradise from which we were exiled.
Bishop Cullinane is known within the wider Church for his outspoken views and has courted controversy in the past.
Earlier this year he suggested that those Catholics who voted Yes in the 8th Amendment referendum should go to confession before they can receive communion.
Last year the Bishop also apologised for comments in which he suggested the Gardasil HPV vaccine was “70% safe” and was encouraging sexual activity among young people.
Read Bishop Cullinan's full contribution here