3/20/2008

We haven't lost our faith, just our faith in the Church

That seems to be the outcome of a recent survey. Over 3/4 of Irish people believe in God, heaven and the concept of sin. Despite the fact that we are a nation of believers the amount of people who attend mass or any other religious service continues to fall.



Am I surprised in the outcome of this survey? No, not in the least.

The child sex scandals did an enormous amount of damage to the Church. It wasn't necessarily the actual abuse that damaged the public confidence in the Church but the disgraceful way in which the Church handled the crisis.

Instead of casting these paedophiles and abusers out of the church and handing them over to the civil authorities for prosecution they sheltered them and covered it up.

They sent these abusers of the cloth on to other parishes where they destroyed even more young lives.

Then you have the abuse of power and privilege that the Church has engaged in for generations. Priests, Brothers and Nuns battered many of our men and women into submission. They also enjoyed an unhealthy amount of influence in the political arena.

All of these things have led to people feeling betrayed by the Church. When you consider the hardship and persecution that our nation has went through in order to show faith to the Mother Church it simply increases that feeling of betrayal.

Which nation on earth was more loyal to the Church than ours?

What is lacking from the Church is any sense of humility! The recent controversy surrounding Cardinal O'Connell's initial refusal to hand over documents did not help to heal old wounds.

This is a great pity because there are a great many good and honest priests in this country who must be repulsed by how the clergy have come to be viewed.

The trust that once existed between the clergy and the laity is now lost. Public attitudes have changed so much its scary. When ever you mention in company that you were once an alter boy you receive strange looks, gone are the days when to have a child on the alter was a day of great joy.

My youngest brother begins his alter boy duties this weekend, the most important weekend in the Church calendar, when he takes part in the Passion of our Lord on Good Friday and mass on Easter Sunday.

Does this breakdown in trust mean that our faith has also been damaged? I don't believe so. Just last week my parish hosted a mission from Sister Briege McKenna, a native of Dromintee and to say it was a massive success would be an understatement.

The Rocks (my Mothers family) and the McKenna families would be cousins so it was an event in which a great many of my family participated in.

I remember the first night of the mission focusing on sin and reminding the congregation that several of the commandments hadn't been removed the last couple of years. Fr Kevin reminded us that there was still a hell and that based on our choices we could end up there. This kind of refreshing honesty was a great example of what has been missing in the Church since the Second Vatican Council.

There must have been about 11 priests there that night offering confession, since I hadn't been to confession in almost 8 years I decided perhaps the time was right. Cannon law states that you must go to confession once a year, that was the first sin to confess.

It was an open confessional, something I loathe. Needs must though and the length of time that I spent in confession led to a few humorous comments from my mother.

The only part of the mission that disappointed me was the last night, a night which was dedicated to Priests. I had wondered would we be asked to pray for the children who suffered abuse at the hands of members of the cloth.

I was left disappointed, despite all of our prayers for members of the cloth the victims of church abuse were left out.

There will be no chance of a revival in mass attendance until the Church accepts the faults of the past and seeks forgiveness for them. They can't be swept under the carpet and the only word that the church should focus on is humility.

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