Church history expert says 10 dioceses enough for Ireland

Church history expert says 10 dioceses enough for Ireland Prof. John McCafferty. Photo:

An expert on Church history has said the need for a reorganisation of diocesan structures has “reached a critical point”.

Prof. John McCafferty, based in the School of History in UCD, told The Irish Catholic that Ireland would be better suited to 10 dioceses, “possibly less”.

The much-needed change, he opines, will not be hugely impactful – or hurtful – to laity who are more connected to their parish than diocese.

Prof. McCafferty said: “If Rome came out in the morning and said, ‘Right, we’re drawing up a map of Ireland and we’re going to divide it into 10 roughly equal size units and we’re going to use the old historic titles’, I can’t imagine very many laity being up in arms about it – but there would obviously be administrative burdens.”

It is already clear this process is underway, with the effective merger of the Archdiocese of Tuam and Killala under Archbishop Francis Duffy and that of Elphin and Achonry, led by Bishop Kevin Doran. These dioceses are now under the administration of a single bishop following the retirement of Bishop John Fleming (76) of Killala and the move of Bishop Paul Dempsey of Achonry to the Archdiocese of Dublin as an auxiliary, accompanying Fr Donal Roche.

Pragmatic changes were made in the past, like keeping the Diocese of Meath but having the cathedral in Mullingar. It is the same with the Diocese of Dromore, with the cathedral being in Newry.

Prof. McCafferty said: “It is the same with Elphin which is in Sligo… a big town. These pragmatic decisions have been made before and, in a way, amalgamating dioceses is just taking that to the next level. The Church has always done this.”

Read Chai Brady’s full feature piece here.