Rorate Caeli

Apostolic Visitation to Ireland
Summary of the findings

The Summary of the findings of the Apostolic Visitation in Ireland, published herewith, offers a synthesis of the results of the Visitations to the four Archdioceses, to Religious Institutes and to the Irish Seminaries. It has been approved by the Offices which conducted the Visitation and it also contains some further observations from the Holy See, in addition to those that the individual Dicasteries communicated to the leaders of the respective Archdioceses or Institutes:

Now that the Apostolic Visitation to certain Dioceses, Seminaries and Religious Institutes in Ireland has been concluded, it is intended here, in accordance with what was stated in the Communiqué of 6 June 2011, to offer an overall synthesis indicating the results and the future prospects highlighted by the Visitation.

It should be borne in mind that the Visitation was pastoral in nature; the Holy Father’s intention was that it should "assist the local Church on her path of renewal" (Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, 19 March 2010). It was not intended to replace or supersede the ordinary responsibility of Bishops and Religious Superiors, nor to interfere "with the ordinary activity of the local magistrates, nor with the activity of the Commissions of Investigation established by the Irish Parliament, nor with the work of any legislative authority, which has competence in the area of prevention of abuse of minors" (Communiqué of the Holy See Press Office, 12 November 2010).

In communicating this summary of the Findings of the Apostolic Visitation, the Holy See re-echoes the sense of dismay and betrayal which the Holy Father expressed in his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland regarding the sinful and criminal acts that were at the root of this particular crisis.

* * *

The Visitation to the Dioceses was carried out in the four Metropolitan Sees during the first few months of 2011. The four Visitators, accompanied by qualified and authorized persons and in coordination with the Archbishops of the Sees concerned, met individuals from the various categories listed in the Communiqué of 12 November 2010, along with others who requested a hearing, including representatives of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. Special priority was given to the meetings with victims of abuse, who were assured of the particular closeness of the Holy Father. Some of the Archdioceses held very moving penitential liturgies in the Cathedrals, attended by clergy and members of the faithful, with the participation of victims of abuse in each case. These four Visitations included meetings with the suffraganeous Bishops and yielded sufficient information to provide an adequate picture of the situation of the Church in Ireland, such as to obviate the need to extend the Visitation to the suffraganeous Sees.

The Visitation to the Seminaries examined the situation of four Institutes: the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, Saint Malachy’s College in Belfast, and two Institutes in the Archdiocese of Dublin – the National Seminary, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and the Milltown Institute of the Society of Jesus. All Hallows College in Dublin informed the Visitator that it no longer offered a programme of priestly formation and consequently it was not included in the Visitation. Before visiting each of the Institutes, the Visitator was able to study documentation on the Colleges concerned. Upon arrival, with the assistance of several Bishops and priests, all previously approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Visitator examined, to the extent possible, all aspects of priestly formation, along the lines indicated in the Press Communiqué of 31 May 2010. The Visitator and his assistants held individual meetings with formators and seminarians, as well as others holding positions of authority in the seminaries, including those responsible for the protection of minors. Priests ordained within the last three years were also invited to a personal conversation if they so wished. It should be pointed out that the Milltown Institute, which is more an academic centre than a seminary, was examined only with regard to the theological formation offered to future priests.

The Visitation to the Religious Institutes took place after careful study of the responses to the questionnaire that was sent to all Institutes with Religious houses in Ireland. The questionnaire sought to elicit information on the current safeguarding measures and policies adopted by each Institute and the effect of the present crisis on the Institute's members. The Visitators then held various meetings with Bishops, Superiors and formators of the different communities and with any particular groups, including abuse victims, that requested a meeting, as well as representatives of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. Meetings were held with the members of the Conference of Religious of Ireland, both in the common assemblies and in regional assemblies throughout the country. The Visitators had the opportunity to conduct extended visits to 31 Institutes. They estimate that, during the visit, they had the opportunity to dialogue with a significant portion of Religious in Ireland.

With a view to promoting the work of renewal called for by the Holy Father, the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Catholic Education have carefully studied the information collected by the respective Visitators. Keeping in mind the provisions of the document Towards Healing and Renewal issued by the Irish Episcopal Conference, they have communicated their conclusions to the four Metropolitan Archbishops and to the Ecclesiastical Authorities of the seminaries visited, indicating courses of action. The Archbishops and the Ecclesiastical Authorities gave their responses. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life is likewise forwarding its conclusions to the Superiors of all Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life with houses in Ireland. A Summary Report will also be presented to the Apostolic Nuncio to be shared with the Bishops of Ireland.

* * *

During their stay in Ireland, the Visitators were able themselves to see just how much the shortcomings of the past gave rise to an inadequate understanding of and reaction to the terrible phenomenon of the abuse of minors, not least on the part of various Bishops and Religious Superiors. With a great sense of pain and shame, it must be acknowledged that within the Christian community innocent young people were abused by clerics and Religious to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively. Indeed, "wounds have been inflicted on Christ's body" (Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland, 19 March 2010). For these faults, forgiveness must once more be asked: from God and from the victims! As Blessed John Paul II said: "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young" (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002).

At the same time the Visitators were able to verify that, beginning in the 1990s, progressive steps have been taken towards a greater awareness of how serious is the problem of abuse, both in the Church and society, and how necessary it is to find adequate measures in response.

The Visitation was also intended to determine whether the structures and procedures put in place by the Church in Ireland from that period onwards are adequate to ensure that the tragedy of the abuse of minors will not be repeated. In this regard, the Holy See has made the following observations:

1) Particular attention has been given to the assistance offered by the Church in Ireland to victims of past abuse. All the Visitators acknowledge that, beginning with the Bishops and Religious Superiors, much attention and care has been shown to the victims, both in terms of spiritual and psychological assistance and also from a legal and financial standpoint. It has been recommended, therefore, that, following the example given by Pope Benedict XVI in his meetings with victims of abuse, the Irish diocesan authorities and those of the Religious Institutes continue to devote much time listening to and receiving victims, providing support for them and their families.

2) Their meetings with the victims of abuse helped the Visitators to understand better various aspects of the problem of the sexual abuse of minors that took place in Ireland. The Visitators and the Church in Ireland are thankful for this contribution and want to assure them that their well-being is of paramount concern for the Church.

3) In their meetings with the chief officers of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and various diocesan officials, the Visitators were able to verify that the current norms of Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland (Guidelines) are being followed. The Visitators welcome the process, already initiated by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, of regularly auditing the implementation of the Guidelines. It is recommended that this process of covering all Dioceses and Religious Institutes by regular audits will be implemented in a prompt manner.

4) In recent years the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church has been thorough and far-reaching, for which reason it should be supported by the Bishops, Religious Superiors and the whole community of the Church in Ireland, and it should continue to receive sufficient personnel and funding.

5) The Archbishops of the visited Archdioceses gave assurance that all newly-discovered cases of abuse are promptly brought before both the competent civil authority and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

6) The norms contained in the Guidelines, as well as the procedures to implement them, must be updated in accordance with the indications published on 3 May 2011 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and also periodically revised. The Guidelines need to be amended in order to create a common model for all the Dioceses and Religious Institutes, and they should be periodically re-examined in order to ensure increasing effectiveness both in the work of prevention and in the response to cases of abuse in all the required aspects, for the good of everyone concerned.

7) In view of the shortage of personnel trained in canon law, the Visitators insisted on the need for a reorganization of Ireland’s ecclesiastical tribunals, to be carried out in cooperation with the competent bodies of the Holy See, so that the various cases still awaiting definitive resolution can be adequately processed.

8) The Visitators were struck by the efforts made throughout the country by Bishops, priests, Religious and lay persons to implement the Guidelines and to create safe environments. In the four Archdioceses, the results of these efforts were judged to be excellent. In addition to the large number of volunteers, they noted the presence of men and women within the various safeguarding structures who bring the highest level of professionalism to the service of the Christian community.

In the Visitation to the Seminaries, the following elements were examined: theological doctrine on the priesthood, seminary governance, questions regarding the admission of candidates to the seminary and assessment of them prior to ordination, the process of formation (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral), and possible ways of assisting recently ordained priests. Particular attention was given to the admission of candidates and to programmes of spiritual and human formation aimed at enabling seminarians to live priestly celibacy faithfully and joyfully. The Visitation to the Seminaries gave priority to issues involving the protection of minors.

In this regard, the Holy See has made the following observations:

1) The Visitation was able to establish that there are dedicated formators in Irish seminaries, committed to the work of priestly training. The seminarians themselves were generally praised for their human and spiritual qualities and for their motivation and commitment to the Church and her mission. Studies are taken seriously, and attention is given to human and spiritual formation.

2) Each seminary has clear child protection norms in place and the Irish seminaries are committed to educating future priests with a broad understanding of all that is involved in the protection of minors within the Church.

3) For the further improvement of the seminaries, it has been proposed, wherever necessary:

a. to ensure that the formation provided is rooted in authentic priestly identity, offering a more systematic preparation for a life of priestly celibacy by maintaining a proper equilibrium between human, spiritual and ecclesial dimensions;

b. to reinforce structures of Episcopal governance over the seminaries;

c. to introduce more consistent admission criteria – this would involve the seminary, in consultation with the Dioceses, examining and deciding admissibility of candidates;

d. to show greater concern for the intellectual formation of seminarians, ensuring that it is in full conformity with the Church’s Magisterium;

e. to include in the academic programme in-depth formation on matters of child protection, with increased pastoral attention to victims of sexual abuse and their families;

f. to re-evaluate the pastoral programme, ensuring that it is sacramental, priestly and apostolic, and duly concerned with preparing candidates to celebrate the sacraments and to preach;

g. to ensure that the seminary buildings be exclusively for seminarians of the local Church and those preparing them for the priesthood, to ensure a well-founded priestly identity.

The task entrusted by the Holy See to the Visitators to Religious houses was twofold: 1) ensuring that all Religious Congregations have adequate protocols for safeguarding children and are implementing them; and 2) encouraging members of Institutes and Societies to a renewed vitality in their life and mission as Religious or members of Societies of Apostolic Life. In a spirit of cooperation with the Bishops, clergy and lay faithful of Ireland, the Superiors and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are encouraged to develop the resources at their disposal, so that they may be better equipped to meet the needs of those still suffering the effects of abuse. In the light of the immense contribution they have made in the past to the life of the Church in Ireland and their remarkable missionary outreach across the world, consecrated persons should renew their commitment to building communities capable of offering their members mutual support along the path towards holiness and capable of contributing effectively to the renewal of the entire local Church community.

In this regard, the Holy See has made the following observations:

1) The Religious in Ireland will join Bishops in mutual reflection, planning and support, revitalizing the instruments of dialogue and communion that have been envisioned by the Magisterium (cf. Mutuae Relationes). The Bishops themselves will convoke and lead the process of renewing dialogue and concrete collaboration in the field of safeguarding children, while also seeking to bring about a more effective and deeper communion between different and complementary charisms in the local Church.

2) The Major Superiors of each Institute in Ireland should design a programme for focusing anew over the next three years on the Institute's fundamental sources, particularly the following of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, and contained in the Apostolic Tradition of the Church’s teaching, the living of their vows in a contemporary context, and the life, works and charism of the founder of the Institute (Perfectae Caritatis; Vita Consecrata).

3) All Institutes should perform an audit of their personnel files, if such an audit has not yet been carried out. As in the case of the Dioceses, every Religious Congregation, active and contemplative, should perform the regular audit monitoring the implementation of the norms contained in the Guidelines, in coordination with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

4) Major Superiors should develop, with the members of their Institutes, concrete means for revitalizing communities of prayer, community life and mission.

5) The Religious in Ireland are asked to consider developing a collaborative ministerial outreach to those suffering from the effects of abuse.

Based on the proposal of the Visitators and the observations made by various Dicasteries of the Holy See, it has been recommended that the Bishops of Ireland and Religious Superiors, in collaboration with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, should continue to examine and update the current Interim Guidance – Leave from Sacred Ministry and Apostolate for Clergy and Religious with a view to:

1) Formulating guidelines for handling the varied cases of those who have been accused, but in whose case the Director of Public Prosecution has decided not to proceed.

2) Formulating policies regarding the falsely accused and their return to ministry.

3) Formulating policies regarding the pastoral care of those who are convicted of abuse: the appropriate settings and the conditions under which such offenders should live.

* * *

The Visitators have been able to establish that, over and above the suffering of the victims, the painful events of recent years have also opened many wounds within the Irish Catholic community. Many lay persons have experienced a loss of trust in their Pastors. Many good priests and Religious have felt unjustly tainted by association with the accused in the court of public opinion; some have not felt sufficiently defended by their Bishops and Superiors. Those same Bishops and Superiors have often felt isolated as they sought to confront the waves of indignation and at times they have found it difficult to agree on a common line of action.

On the other hand, this time of trial has also brought to light the continuing vitality of the Irish people’s faith. The Visitators have noted the exemplary way in which many Bishops, priests and Religious live out their vocation, the human and spiritual bonds among the faithful at a time of crisis, the deep faith of many men and women, a remarkable level of lay involvement in the structures of child protection, and the heartfelt commitment shown by Bishops and Religious Superiors in their task of serving the Christian community.

These are just some of the signs of hope that the Visitators have identified, alongside the various difficulties, in the life of the Church in Ireland. It is vitally important that, at a point in history marked by rapid cultural and social transformation, all the components of the Church in Ireland hear in the first place a renewed call to communion: communion among the Bishops themselves and with the Successor of Peter; communion between diocesan Bishops and their clergy; communion between Pastors and lay persons; and communion between diocesan structures and communities of consecrated life - communion that is not attained merely through human agreements or strategies, but above all by listening humbly to God’s Word and to what the Holy Spirit gives and asks of the Church in our day. Only a united Church can be an effective witness to Christ in the world.

Among the pastoral priorities that have emerged most strongly is the need for deeper formation in the content of the faith for young people and adults; a broad and well-planned ongoing theological and spiritual formation for clergy, Religious and lay faithful; a new focus on the role of the laity, who are called to be engaged both within the Church and in bearing witness before society, in accordance with the social teachings of the Church. There is a need to harness the contribution of the new Ecclesial Movements, in order better to reach the younger generation and to give renewed enthusiasm to Christian life. A careful review is needed of the training given to teachers of religion, the Catholic identity of schools and their relationship with the parishes to which they belong, so as to ensure a sound and well-balanced education.

Since the Visitators also encountered a certain tendency, not dominant but nevertheless fairly widespread among priests, Religious and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium, this serious situation requires particular attention, directed principally towards improved theological formation. It must be stressed that dissent from the fundamental teachings of the Church is not the authentic path towards renewal.

The Visitation also placed in question the present configuration of Dioceses in Ireland and their ability to respond adequately to the challenges of the New Evangelization. The Holy See and the local episcopate have already initiated a joint reflection on this matter, in which the communities concerned are to be involved, with a view to adapting diocesan structures to make them better suited to the present-day mission of the Church in Ireland.

Finally, the Visitation attested to the great need for the Irish Catholic community to make its voice heard in the media and to establish a proper relationship with those active in this field, for the sake of making known the truth of the Gospel and the Church’s life.

* * *

For its part, the Holy See recalls the ongoing importance of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, which proposes an overall vision that can shed useful light on the pastoral priorities of the Church in Ireland, and on the special attention that must be given to the younger generation. The forthcoming International Eucharistic Congress will surely represent an important stage in this process, as will the subsequent National Mission, which it is hoped will provide all the members of the Church community with a fruitful opportunity for prayer, common reflection and instruction on the content of the Christian creed, in harmony with the Holy Father’s vision for the approaching Year of Faith. As Pope Benedict said in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland: "Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, the Church in Ireland can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all Bishops, priests, Religious and lay faithful."

In the name of the Holy Father, heartfelt gratitude must once again be expressed to all those who worked so generously to ensure a fruitful outcome for the Apostolic Visitation – firstly, to the Visitators and their assistants, then to the entire Catholic community of Ireland: the lay faithful, including the various victims of abuse, the Bishops, the clergy and the Religious communities who have responded so well to this concrete sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter for the future of the Church in Ireland.

Consequently, the Apostolic Visitation should now be considered completed. The Holy See entrusts its conclusions to the responsibility of the Bishops, clergy, Religious and lay faithful of Ireland, in the hope that they will bear fruit worthy of that process of healing, reparation and renewal which Pope Benedict XVI so eagerly desires for the beloved Church in Ireland.


New Catholic said...

Yes, we know some signs of the Irish crisis date from before the Council - but have you, dear readers, ever noticed that, when the news is seen as "positive", we can't hear enough of "the Council", its innovations, its great improvements; yet, when the news is seen as "negative" (such as these findings), it seems that the Council and the post-conciliar experiment never took place?

What a remarkable coincidence. The elephant in the room, and how it and its "spirit" affected the Church in Ireland, go unmentioned.

ben ingledew said...

History is written by the winners, but the "meek will inherit the earth" don't you worry.

“ It may almost be said, "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat." ”
—Winston Churchill.

Tom Esteban said...

"It should be borne in mind that the Visitation was pastoral in nature" - and right there is the key to understanding why nothing will come of it. At a time when a good spring cleaning is needed in seminaries, Churches and Religious institutes; instead of a good Apostolic Visitation with intent to overhaul everything we get instead the weakness and sycophantic, feminist apologies that has over and over again failed to do any good because it means absolutely nothing and shows the authorities to be weak and unable to do their jobs with any kind of belief in that authority.

This document was filled the with same "Spirit of Vatican II" nonsense that has become so tiresome. It's unfailing. Words like "self reflection" and all those catch-phrases need to be completely removed from Catholicism forever. What Ireland needs is not self-reflection - which is just leftist mumbo-jumbo for a new-age brainstorming session of how to excuse the latest heresy or evil (which is only expected, since self-reflection is aimed inwards rather than towards Christ). It needs a swift, immediate, and strong injection of Christ and His Church in all it's glory. Give them a few FSSP parishes. Send in some traditional orders to give missions, build monasteries. Appoint a hardline Bishop. Watch Ireland change. [Easy for me to say!]

On a brighter note: there is a lot, too, that has come to light in this document that needed to be. I think some good will come of this, but it all depends on implementation. The sorry state of affairs in Ireland means that weak documents with mere 'pastoral recommendations' will be ignored and twisted for whatever ends the liberals see fit.

It's not rocket science. You don't give a naughty child 'options' and 'self reflection' time. You give them discipline, stern warnings, concrete plans, strong rebukes and tell them to pull up their socks 'or else'. Try as they might, the Pastoral approach doesn't work.

Shane said...

This bloated nonsense is nothing more than a whitewash and goes nowhere near addressing, or even highlighting, the cancers that are progressively killing the Irish Church. The Apostolic Visitation has clearly been a waste of time. What a disgrace!

New Catholic said...

If you think this was a waste of time, wait till the findings of the Apostolic Visitation of the houses of Women Religious in America are made public...

Shane said...

Tom, I'm not so sure that would have the success you envisage. I think things have gone way too far at this stage. After all there are several parishes in Ireland offering the Old Mass. Some of them are well attended but it's not like any of them are overflowing, is it?

It might be said that in fairness to the Apostolic Visitation team their failed attempt at seeing the problem reflects to a certain extent the failure of 'conservative' (for lack of a better word) and traditionalist Catholics in Ireland to articulate our own analysis of the problems in the Irish Church, leaving liberals and secularists free to present their own narrative as unquestioned dogma. (According to this version 'clericalism' and excessive regard for orthodoxy are to blame for all the woes of Irish Catholicism.)

There is of course one exception to this and not a pleasant one. (The fact that he's a former student of the Pope means he gets more attention among orthodox Catholics than he really deserves.) Incidentally this happens to be why we hear so much about the 'need' for wholesale amalgamation of Irish dioceses - which is just a stupid idea that has been uncritically appropriated across the ecclesiastical spectrum and is distracting attention from the real problems.

See this (if you can stomach it) for a frightening example of the blind alley that so many 'conservative' Catholics are being led down and why I have so little hope for the future.

CredoUtIntelligam said...

Since the Visitators also encountered a certain tendency, not dominant but nevertheless fairly widespread among priests, Religious and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium, this serious situation requires particular attention, directed principally towards improved theological formation. It must be stressed that dissent from the fundamental teachings of the Church is not the authentic path towards renewal.

That ought to take care of things.

jeff said...

"Among the pastoral priorities that have emerged most strongly is the need for deeper formation in the content of the faith for young people and adults;"

IOW, my generation have deserted the faith in droves. Sorry guys, but the damage is done. You've lost 'em and you aren't going to get them back.

Sean said...

Whoever decided that Cormac Murphy O'Connor was to play a role in this Visitation was obviously resigned from the beginning to the fact that the fruits of this venture would be rotten. The man has always wrecked everything he ever touched. The Irish College in Rome is still a hive of decadence and perversion.

JMJ Ora Pro Nobis said...

This document is reasonable enough in its essentials but it seems that yet again the Pope has forgotten he is Pope. He is the vicar of Christ, Gods representative on earth! And rather than carrying out a proper investigation with full powers to punish those guilty of any crimes and implement the necessary plan of reform he has performed a 'pastoral visitation' that spends more time apologising for treading on the toes of bishops (whose failings caused this whole scandal) and making 'proposals'. Proposals?! Proposals?! The Church has had enough proposals and such nonsense since V2 as Tom rightly says what we need is ACTION, like for example deposing the hierarchy in Ireland wholesale, assuming direct control of the seminaries and expelling those unfit to become priests.

This entire sordid affair is a result of poor formation, priests and religious forgetting what their vocation is and superiors not acting like superiors. In short it is in a way a fulfillment of what St Joseph Cafasso said would happen if priestly formation was negelected.

Seminarian said...

The report is poor response to the issues involved. Prior to the Visitation in the seminary. I was given an Instrumentum Laboris. Very little of the questions contained therein, which I answered honestly and frankly were addressed in the report.With regard to the amalgamation of dioceses I agree with Shane. It is a media fuelled campaign that if carried out becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy on the part of the media. Its intellectual basis is to be found in a book entitled 'The END of Irish Catholicism', it was offered as a suggestion - before any of the recent fall out from reports. We need to ask ourselves what renewal will come if the liberal agenda is given free reign to dictate any change, let alone structural change - which must come from above, from Rome. However, more than just a heretical pastoralism has hit a Neo-Con fever has gripped Ireland, as it did America leading to a laxity and quasi-pontiff worship. This type of ultramontanism is not the type of ultramontanism that is required for Ireland. Many Irish Catholics have been looking to Rome for the past two years - I will continue to look to the Holy Father, to his guidance and not to any delegation - even if purporting to act in his name. Loyalty will be our harness in these windy days.

Mar said...

Another name for 'self reflection' is navel-gazing.

Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap said...

I do not despair. There should be no room for despair where there is faith in Christ. I myself did not expect much from this visitation. Still this is the summary. The full report has gone to the Holy Father. Much of the criticism (if there is any) may very well be communicated in private. The Church does not wash her linen in public.

The idea about amalgamating dioceses does not come from the media but from Rome - hence we have Irish clergy with strong Roman links talking about it. Rome has about 160 dioceses to fill - many vacant for a number of years and that's just the ones since 2000. Check out if you don't believe me. Some of these are Irish (Limerick, Derry, Kildare and Loughlin etc.,) and the Church is short of trustworthy candidates. In addition some of our dioceses (perhaps many European dioceses as well) are way smaller than those elsewhere in the world. It can makes sense for Rome to start pruning the tree.

I recommend a reading of von Hildebrand's 'Trojan Horse in the City of God' with its excellent analysis and critique both of progressivism and false conservatism within the Church. Those who are orthodox can only work to renew the Church when we truly understand our enemy.

Shane said...

Br. Tom, the reason Rome is making those noses is because an Irish theologian and former student of the Pope proposed the idea (in that disgraceful book Seminarian refers to) as if it were a solution to the problem. They are simply mindlessly latching on to it.

Small dioceses are superior (at least in theory) to larger ones. They facilitate greater pastoral care (which has never been needed more than now) and allow bishops to exert greater supervision over his diocese (the lack of which clearly contributed to the negligent handling of abuse in the first place). They also make the bishop less remote from the lives and needs of his parishioners and could potentially be very useful in re-evangelization. The size of Irish dioceses is still considerably larger than in many other countries, such as Italy (where over a hundred dioceses were amalgamated in the 1980s, with no noticeable benefit --- Italian Catholicism has declined significantly since then). The theologian in question takes Germany as his model, but this is rather dubious given that its huge dioceses are exceptional and date to the missionary provinces of late antiquity. Futhermore the size of Germany's dioceses has not prevented the revelations of abuse that have been flooding out of that country for the last two years. Indeed a far stronger argument could be made for decoupling already amalgamated dioceses.

I would regard the plan for wholesale amalgation of Irish dioceses as nothing short of institutional suicide. I suspect historians in future will see it as inaugurating the very death of Irish Catholicism.

I have to say I am both frightened and horrified that the theologian who proposed it seems to wield so much influence and is taken seriously by so many. I cannot understand this at all and I think it is a very sad reflection of how far the Irish Church has fallen in the last 50 years.

Shane said...

lol..."making those noses" should be "making those noises" of course.

Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap said...

Shane - I agree on the benefits of small dioceses but as to where the idea actually came from one would need to be an insider to know. It might've begun with our friend in Maynooth or he might be floating an idea already circulating in Rome. After all, as you point out, Italy has had dioceses amalgamate without any benefit to the Church. I too see no real benefit to the local Church in amalgamating dioceses. Though a religious I work for and in the Archdiocese of Dublin and I've never met the Archbishop and know only a handful of the clergy. It could be argued that Dublin should be split into two but then again who is going to service the parishes? Where are the clergy? In my community I am the only one under 65!

I wouldn't want to be in the position of the Pope or the curia when it comes to trying to find replacement bishops. Even quite orthodox men can be committed to principles that, once linked to the power to make a difference, can be quite destructive. Religious orders at least replace their leaders every few years and they still suffer the effects of a bad choice. A bishop once in his see is moveable only upwards until he retires, resigns, dies or commits an act of heresy or moral depravity. I think too that the Vatican seems fearful of splitting the Church. It is supposed to have prevented Bl. John Paul II from extending his liberalisation of the use of the EF. He had intended to do what Pope Benedict has done but there were too many liberal bishops. There are still many and they are still being appointed. Quite simply put a majority of the clergy, cleric and religious, are of a progressive leaning mentality and finding orthodox, pastorally experienced, morally sound and psychologically suited men must be a nightmare. Pick the wrong man and you might have a Hunthausen, a Casey, a Weakland, or even a Nestorius or a Luther (ok he was never a bishop but you get my meaning) on your hands for God knows how long.

No wonder it is rumoured that Bl. John Paul II whipped himself before he consecrated bishops.

Matt said...

Ben Ingledew said, "The meek will inherit the earth.

Well, Ben, is the earth going to be worth inheriting when the time comes?


RE what JMJ Ora Pro Nobis said. I second the statement.


Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap said, "The Church does not wash her linen in public."

Nor, Brother Tom, does She wash them at all; proof in that bad bishops, bad priests and false teachings still abound, still doling out their nonsense. At what point does any of this get resolved until a decisive declaration is made? The modernist Church thinking is that anything bad eventually goes away, or forgotten about. I think they may still be caught up in the mentality like that of the plague of yesteryear. Yes, the plague eventually did go away. Is that how we should handle our problems today? At least back in the day there were Novenas, processions and the most serious of devotions and petitions to alleviate the plague because they could nothing else about it. Today, they can do just everything about matters, but choose to do NOTHING at all. Again, behavior means more than words.

As far as Rome being fearful of splitting the Church, split it! Let the chaff, the slough, be winowed and let the good bear fruit. Those who are truly hungry for the True Faith will come and take their place. The Holy Father has said the Remnant Church is already at hand, the Creative Minority, which will endure and shine forth from the tribulation to come. Pope's words, not mine.


Seminarian said...

I must agree with Shane. His analysis of the end result of the amalgamations of Italian dioceses is an eye-opener to all of us here in Ireland. Having lived in Italy for some time, and after getting to know some Italian seminarians and priests I can conclude after hearing their opinions that it is a road we should not go down. It will be the death of Catholicism in Ireland.
The liberal agenda, or rather the Neo-con mindset that has gripped our seminarians our 'young' Catholics - not to mention our so called Catholic Press is an utter abortion. It is calling for the suppression of dioceses in the hope that it will lead to greater efficiency in decision making, and to an increased orthodoxy in the Irish Church as a whole. But to what end.

To call for this amalgamation, which must come from the will of the Episcopacy and not from any other source - clerical or lay is as irrational as calling for the abolition of celibacy, or for the ordination of women because the dictates of Rome are not in accord with cultural context that exists in Ireland.

A courageous bishop with a small diocese will effect more renewal than a Neo-con impeded with a large See. The large Sees as they stand - Dublin, Cloyne, Ferns have already proved problematic. While not denying problems in smaller dioceses there is, it seems a greater fraternity among priests in the smaller dioceses eg. Clonfert, Killala and Achonry. It goes without saying that the latter is a better model if renewal is to have an impact on ecclesial life throughout our country.

It is time for us to stop deluding ourselves and realise what is at stake.