Dear Editor, Perhaps the most interesting aspect of your interview with Archbishop Eamon Martin this week (IC 20/6/2019) was not his comments on the country’s smallest dioceses, or even his openness to a national synod in a few years, but his barely veiled suggestion that the Archdiocese of Dublin be dismantled to make the Church fit for mission in the most populous part of Ireland.
The Primate of All-Ireland is, of course, careful not to say quite this, but he talks both about the administrative reality that since 1994 Co. Dublin has now been divided into four distinctly administered parts, and raises the admittedly “controversial” question of whether some Irish dioceses might be too big for their people to be in communion with their bishop and indeed with Rome.
With Dublin significantly bigger than the country’s next three most populous dioceses – Down and Connor, Meath, and Derry – combined, it seems clear that Dr Martin must have been talking about Dublin.
Numbers really suggest that something is amiss in Dublin: a story you ran last year revealed that the three aforementioned dioceses have between them at least twice, if not three times as many men in formation as does Dublin; we keep hearing of parishes with 2% Mass attendance, and the pathetic attendance at the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park last summer should have been the reddest of red flags about how lifeless our biggest diocese is.
Maybe dividing Dublin is the only way to unlock whatever potential the Church has there.
Drogheda, Co. Louth.
Nothing new about priests being wounded healers
Dear Editor, In The Tommy Tiernan Show on RTÉ recently, Fr Brian Darcy lamented the Church’s failure to keep step with developments in the sexual revolution. The Church is “way behind society” and that is for him a failure both of enlightenment and “compassion”.
The changes in sexual mores have brought us to a place where over one third of Irish children are being raised in single-parent households (Census 2016). Family breakdown is rising with devastating consequences for children’s health, housing, education and future prospects.
So is the number of Irish women having abortions since the beginning of this year.
Abortion and the effect of promiscuity on the mental and physical wellbeing of the young are the kind of issues one might expect a Catholic priest to reflect on in a lengthy prime time television opportunity.
Instead Fr Darcy spoke about marrying couples “from the same address” without any acknowledgment of the benefits of the Christian understanding of marriage to both families and society.
The interview was about Fr Darcy the man rather than the minister of souls and he was happy to keep it there. He went from his abuse experience to what he sees as the pointless burden of celibacy.
Yet, the Church’s mission around the world and at home was made possible by the dedicated service of men and women who lived celibate lives in religious orders and as ordained ministers.
There is nothing new about the concept of the priest as wounded healer. However, it is hard to listen to the narcissistic pleadings of Fr Darcy without calling to mind the plight of many other priests in persecuted lands today whose sufferings are of a rawer, deadlier kind than his.
There are few to listen to their stories and fewer still to tell them on their behalf.
Blarney, Co. Cork.
Ring of truth
Dear Editor, It was fascinating to read Fr Conor McDonough’s Notebook column about C.S. Lewis (IC 20/6/2019). Fr McDonough is entirely right to note how often we forget how the experience of war formed Belfast’s greatest Christian writer, as it did that of J.R.R. Tolkien. Indeed, there’s a case to be made that not merely is Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings the 20th Century’s greatest work of the Christian imagination, but also that it is the most profound study of evil and the horrors of war that the last, horrendous century produced. Anyone unconvinced of this should take the time to read John Garth’s astonishing Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle Earth.
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
A move out of the blue can be upsetting for all
Dear Editor, If our lot as Catholics is ‘not to wonder why’, then that dictum applies even more to our priests, some of whom at this time of the year receive instruction to uproot their ministries and lives and head off to pastures (or parishes) new. The bishop’s transfer request will surely be welcomed by some, but for those of us well used to a priest or parish priest and who have come to depend and love the man as much as his vocation, transfers ‘out of the blue’ can be hard to take.
Change, it is said, is good but surely no change can be better. In my experience, fresh religious faces are always welcome and all ‘new’ arrivals bring something of their own, and of course this is welcome. But let’s not forget the moved man.
More than once, I have developed deep and precious personal relationships with priests; I have worked with them and for them and firmly believe that I am better person for listening to them and watching them in action in liturgical and parish work. And then, come June, there is a question mark over the location of their ministry and, if we’re unlucky, they get posted to a new parish. Good luck to the new parishioners, but it leaves another parish deflated and perhaps a priest or two thrust into a new and lonely situation.
There is no easy answer, I know. But at this time of the year, let’s remember the priests who are required to walk from their lives and begin fresh ones elsewhere, all for the sake of their people and of their God.
It can’t be easy for any of them.
Donnycarney, Dublin 9.