LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Ireland’s Catholic Church is “changing enormously,” and will have to address serious problems in the future, according to Dublin’s archbishop.
“You can’t whitewash it. The Church has to re-find its future,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said to the Irish Times in an April 22 interview marking his 74th birthday.
“The Church is imprisoned in its past – not just by the abuse thing – in a whole culture and that culture doesn’t respond any more to the realities. Therefore you’ve got to find creative ways of moving out and they’ll be very, very different. And they won’t satisfy a lot of people,” he said.
Martin has headed the Church in the capital since 2003, after a long career at the Vatican.
He will be required to submit his resignation to the pope on his 75th birthday next year, and he told the newspaper that he hopes it is accepted swiftly and a successor is quickly named.
“One thing I would not want is that there would be a vacuum or that there would be a prolonged period of speculation,” the archbishop said.
“Others might say that maybe a little time in which people can stand back and reflect and ask the questions: Where should we be going? What sort of bishop do we need? But I think there are too many serious problems that have to be addressed from the pastoral, personnel, financial situation – you can’t allow that to drag on.”
Martin also warned the answers to these problems will not be found in the past.
“Saying ‘let’s restore what we had before and let’s be there, let’s be aggressive and let’s close our ranks’ – that isn’t the answer.”
He said the changing realities in the country necessitate a changed relationship between Church and State.
Once the most Catholic country in Western Europe, decades of revelations about clerical sexual abuse and appalling conditions in Church-run care facilities have greatly damaged the image of the Church.
Last year, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to remove pro-life protections for the unborn from the country’s constitution. In 2015, another referendum legalized same-sex marriage.
Martin said Ireland needs “a culture of dialogue and respect within society in which nobody is demonized and where people bring a contribution that is recognized.”
He told the Irish Times there is “a tendency growing in Irish political life of removing the real role of civil society in general, not just the Church; that voluntary organizations who receive funding from the State end up working for the State rather than being an expression of citizens coming together in their own way.”
The archbishop also lamented the standard of education about their faith that the Catholics are currently receiving.
“We have a substantial number of believing Catholics who are feeling that the religious education they had received is no longer providing them with the answers or the ability even to enter a dialogue about the evolving reflection of what our world is,” Martin said.
“This is where we need a more vocal group of Catholics who can take part in the overall reflection of society precisely as believers, not as lobbying groups or bickering groups. Our schools should be doing that. We haven’t produced an intellectual Catholic leadership in recent times,” he said, adding that “Irish Catholicism was always a little bit cut off from the mainstream connections in Europe.”