Ireland is moving rapidly from a society in which it was “virtually impossible not to believe in God” to one in which faith “is one human possibility among others”.
That’s according to Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, speaking at the University of East Anglia as part of the Newman Lectures.
Addressing ‘The Church in the Public Sphere — a perspective from Ireland’, Archbishop Martin said that while 78% of the population of the Republic “self-declaring as Catholic” (Census 2016) might be considered “a remarkable vote of confidence in the Church”, commentary here focussed on its decline “and the consequent calls from some quarters for a redoubling of efforts to remove the Church’s perceived remaining influence in schools, healthcare and public policy making”.
The Catholic Church in Ireland had seen “great damage to its credibility on account of the child abuse scandals and other shameful episodes of the past.”
As a result, when the Church attempted to speak in the public sphere about the right to life of the unborn, “some are quick to point to the scandals and to shameful stories of the past”.
“Decades of service by countless religious sisters and priests to the education and healthcare of the people of Ireland and all over the world is almost obliterated by a revised and narrow narrative that religious ethos cannot be good for democracy and stands against the progress and flourishing of society and the rights of citizens,” he said.
It had been suggested, he said, that what the Church in Ireland is experiencing “today may be partly a reaction to what was perceived as paternalism or even authoritarianism on the part of Church in the past”.
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