Back in September 2006, the Irish Times ran the findings of a poll it had conducted regarding the attitudes and lifestyles of the 50 + Generation. The poll found that 90% of them were still faithful, practising Catholics.
The commentary on the poll results made no mention of how strong the Catholic Church remained, so I wrote to the Irish Times, the letter appeared in the edition of 13th September 2006.
As an English Protestant only resident in the State for the past seven years, the thing I found most striking in your 50 + Poll was the resilience of the Catholic Church. Despite the scandals caused by those who betrayed the sacred trust placed in them, despite the constant ridicule and abuse from sections of the media, your poll suggests that 90 % of the 50 + population hold on to their faith.
To an outsider’s eye, the Church seems considerably stronger than some critics have suggested. As well as the 50 + faithful, the large numbers of those under 50 who still attend Mass regularly confound the prophets who believe that the Church is about to curl up and die. Perhaps the Church’s enduring strength derives from the fact that, when it is at its best, it offers an encounter with the sacred and a true sense of community, neither of which can be found in money, no matter how large one’s salary, or possessions, no matter how exclusive the label.
Fifteen centuries ago, as the Roman Empire collapsed and Christendom disappeared from Western Europe, it was the vocation of the Irish Church to remain faithful. As our current Christendom disappears, the opportunity seems to have arisen to again pursue that vocation.
As someone who publicly wishes them well, the news that Cardinal Connell is seeking to block the release by his successor Archbishop Martin of documents concerned with clerical sex abuse of children causes a sense of bewilderment. Surely what matters is not legal technicalities, but simply the truth. Were people abused or not? Were clerics guilty or not? If someone is guilty of a heinous crime, surely arguments about relationships with clients are a secondary matter?
Jesus told his followers, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.'” What’s wrong with that advice today?