LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Rejecting an ecclesial culture that seeks political power, the Archbishop of Dublin warned that “a language of polarization that can be bitter and personalized” has infected the Church.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was speaking Oct. 2 at Mass for the General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth. Martin is the primate of Ireland, and the vice-president of the organization.
During his homily, he said language and the activity of the Church must always be marked by a style that reflects that love.
“Sadly, in the Church today, one encounters a language of polarization that can be bitter and personalized. It is a polarization that excludes and divides people and smothers true prophecy. The truth of Jesus Christ can only be spoken in charity,” Martin said.
The archbishop admitted that many people feel that the Church “should be more vigorous” in responding to the changing culture.
Once one of the most Catholic nations in Europe, public confidence in the Irish Church has been shattered after revelations of the sexual abuse of children by priests and religious over the past decades.
The latest European Social Survey, released earlier this year, shows only 54 percent of people between the ages of 16-29 identify as Catholic, and fewer than 25 percent claim to attend Mass weekly.
On May 25, over two-thirds of Irish voters chose to repeal Ireland’s pro-life amendment in the country’s constitution, with polls showing 87 percent of voters aged 18-24 casting their ballot to legalize abortion; three years ago, 62 percent of the voters chose to legalize same-sex marriage.
Church institutions have also come under scrutiny by the media and government, especially during the visit by Pope Francis to Dublin on Aug. 25-26.
Martin said that for some, “change causes uncertainty and even anxiety.”
“There is always a danger in such a situation that some close in on themselves and develop a siege mentality and rush for comfort to what is familiar, avoiding risk and perhaps failing to allow the newness of Jesus to enter into and challenge our hearts,” he said.
Martin said the Church has the right to “defend itself from unjust attack” but added it “does not need polemics.”
“People’s minds and hearts will be attracted to the truth not by polemics but by the coherence between our way of life and the message of Jesus Christ. The strength of the Church in our contemporary world will spring not from numbers or political influence but from that special strength which the Lord gives us in our weakness,” the archbishop said.
Martin also said there is “no place for arrogance or triumphalism” in the life of the Christian.
“The Church must be, and appear to all to be, the place where the weak, where sinners, where those who are struggling feel not just welcome but rather become an integral part of a loving community that supports, sustains and carries them,” he said.