Religious conviction should also help to inform attitudes towards the most vulnerable in society, he told those attending the annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage in Co Mayo.
In an address looking at how faith offers us real hope in our lives, Archbishop Neary told pilgrims that, like Saint Patrick, today’s faithful are challenged to answer a Gospel call that is “profoundly counter-cultural”.
Dr Neary was speaking at St Patrick’s Church in Lecanvey near the holy mountain after the annual pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick was cancelled due to treacherous conditions.
“In a consumerist culture, artificially generated needs are met by over-produced and over-advertised goods,” said Dr Neary.
“Religious faith ought to be a protest against, rather than an acceptance of, this situation and ensure that we do not substitute the politically correct for genuine values, the distinction between right and wrong.
“Surely, the acid test of any society or indeed of any faith is the care it takes of the disadvantaged, as it hears the silent cry of the afflicted, the lonely, the marginalised, the poor and the powerless and responds to them.
“No one has a right to impose his or her religious convictions on society, but if we fail to acknowledge the insights which faith contributes to the principles for which we stand and the values we share, then society will be the real loser.”
Earlier, Dr Neary said it was disappointing that ‘Reek Sunday’ had been cancelled.
“I’m not aware that it has ever been cancelled before and I have been climbing this mountain since I was a young lad many, many years ago,” he said.
In his homily, Dr Neary emphasised the extent to which religious faith can contribute to the collective conversation of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are heading.
“In unchartered territory society needs a compass,” he said. “Down through history, faith has acted as such. It speaks to something which endures in the human character.
“In our contemporary culture, change — even change for the better — may be experienced as threatening, traumatic and confusing. Financial markets, currency movements, technological changes are all complex and unpredictable.”
The more diverse society becomes, the more we need to reflect on what holds us together, he added.