Catholic Ireland’s collapse shows dire need for deep formation in our battle to restore culture
Fr. Shenan Boquet
October 4, 2016 (HLI) -- Ireland really is a beautiful country. Even if you’ve never been here, you could guess what the weather is like in the early Fall—some light showers, mostly cloudy, temperature hovering around 60 degrees.
The weather can be harsher than this, but we’ve been blessed on this trip, and not only with the weather. The environment here helps explain the sturdy character and warm heartedness of the Irish people. They’ve dealt with great hardships over the years, but have developed a resilience and humor that helps them abide. And since the island was converted to the Catholic faith long ago, their national character has been associated with the faith, still evidenced in the ancient churches and monasteries, the names of streets and neighborhoods, and the fact that Irish priests spread the faith all over the world in the last couple of centuries.
The Irish character is, however, being tested these days. After years of secularist assaults from Britain and more recently the United States, the Church has faltered. Even those Irish still here seem uprooted in a way, almost anxious to distance themselves from their own traditions. Last year Ireland became the first nation to redefine marriage by popular vote, and its pro-life laws are under constant attack, with some setbacks in recent years. The fact that attacks on Ireland’s traditional Christian values are funded by foreign “progressive” billionaires like George Soros is not lost on anyone, but truth be told, the famous Irish fighting spirit isn’t what it used to be.
Except in a precious few. During these mission trips I get to meet many people, and I am blessed to have real conversations with a few individuals and groups who see Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, as their exemplar. What I’m hearing is pretty consistent.
For most, it appears, the Faith slowly became merely cultural. After forty years of indifference and inadequate catechesis, unchecked dissent from Church teaching (particularly concerning contraception–even from the pulpit), almost two whole generations have lost the faith. When the corruption of the abuse scandal hit Ireland, the remnants of cultural Catholicism were not enough to shore up people’s faith, and there has been a mass apostasy.
If this course remains unaltered and people continue to reject God and His commands, our friends say, a third generation will be lost, followed by Ireland herself.
To paraphrase a conversation I had with a local leader: We are known as the land of saints and scholars who sent missionaries around world, but we have rejected this rich legacy, embracing instead the way of Europe and America. And at what price? The death of our Catholic faith, our families, and our children.
When will we learn as a Church? There is a world of difference between a faithful and fearless Catholic who does all he can to meet the culture where it is and bring the Faith in creative ways, and a Catholic who thinks that where the world and the Church disagree, the Church must change her ways in order to appear “relevant.” The former is the life of the Church, the latter, a slow death.
We clergy and leaders of the Church must be about souls. We must preach the love and mercy of Our Lord. This Love isn’t merely the love of a buddy: it is the love of a Man who died for our sins in the most brutal manner. He was relevant—and is relevant—precisely because He could not care less about being relevant. His love was sacrificial and complete. It is THIS love, THIS Person, that is our model.