Has Archbishop Diarmuid Martin gone bonkers?
Speaking at the Mater Dei Spring Lecture Series on ‘Reform in the Church in Ireland’ the Archbishop of Dublin seems unwarrantably optimistic about the prospects facing the Irish Church. Perhaps he’s in denial?
In 1962 Clonliffe College was not an exciting place but in the years that followed it became an exciting pace. There was great interest and ferment in theology. The Vatican Council broke down walls of an over institutionalised Church and the new air generated new vitality. Today there are those who feel that the Irish Church has failed the vitality and hope that the Vatican Council had engendered; there are others who would say that opening the windows of the Church so widely and indiscriminately without noticing the contamination of the outside air, let in viruses that we would have been better off without. I imagine that future historians with the light of hindsight will probably say that there are elements of truth on either side.
There have always at the same time been reasons of hope and reasons of concern in the Irish Church. To imagine otherwise would be do be totally a-historical. As always at times of change, the hope of one side can quickly become the anxiety of the other. In times of change each side sticks to its side and we Irish when we get stuck into a position are not always that good on the subtlety thing. In time of change – like today – we always need the light of historians who remind us of the ups and downs of Irish Catholicism over the centuries and who recall that the winds of reform and renewal often come not from those debating on the different sides but from unexpected quarters and take unexpected paths.
[...] These are difficult times in the Church; day after day there are those within the Church and outside it who prophecy the end of the Church as a significant factor in Irish society. There are others who feel that the Catholic Church in Ireland is on a suicide path created by its own internal culture. We must realistically recognise the critical situation of the Church, but we should never give in to pessimism and negativism.
[...] There have always at the same time been reasons of hope and reasons of concern in the Irish Church. It will always be so. We have to prove wrong the doomsayers both inside and outside the Church, both conservatives and traditionalists. Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: gloom about the Church and its future – from whatever side – can very often be a sign of a faith that is weak.
[...] The Church of tomorrow will not be created tomorrow or next week or next year but I believe that slowly the Church in Ireland is turning the corner. I say “is turning the corner, not ”has turned the corner”. History teaches us that hope and challenge will always be present together in the Irish Church. We have to get the balance right. The crisis today is however much greater than in the past and we have only one chance to get it right. Burying our head in the sand or making a mistake of discernment, especially any return to triumphalism or self-satisfaction, could turn renewal back irreversibly.
That said I am with Pope John: the Catholic Church in Ireland “must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster”.