Book Review: The End of Irish Catholicism? by Fr Vincent Twomey, SVD

Fr Vincent Twomey, Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at Maynooth, offers in The End of Irish Catholicism? a series of sober reflections on the condition of contemporary Irish Catholicism. He aspires to examine, from a theological angle, the historical origins of our present woes and to navigate a way out of them. It may be thought by some Catholics that such an examination is superfluous and that the crisis in Irish Catholicism can be adequately analyzed from the standpoint of secular sensibility. Yet several aspects of this crisis not only provide ample warrant for such an examination but even make it obligatory. The fallout from sex scandals, combined with resentment over the Church’s erstwhile hegemony, continue to perpetuate a haunting shadow over the Church’s pastoral mission in the changing Ireland of today. Moreover, in order for the Church to progress beyond her present paralysis, Irish Catholics need to understand clearly how we arrived at this juncture and consider ideas on how to best proceed. Fr Twomey is to be congratulated on associating himself with such a worthwhile initiative.
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Pope Francis I

The Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart, May, 1954

See also: The Messenger Question Box (No. 1 and 2)

More on Maynoooth

This is a post by uriah at the Irish Catholics’ Forum (re-posted here with his kind permission):

I was a seminarian in Maynooth from ’93 to ’98 and I can confirm much of what has been said on this thread. Apart from the initial spiritual month, the discipline in the place was quite lax. It became even less disciplined in my second year with the arrival of new deans and their ‘re-branding’ as ‘Directors of Formation’.

Quite a number of seminarians were in relationships with female students, including theology students, and many others were in relationships with men, including other seminarians. There was a real sub-culture of homosexuality within the place. A group of them began adding the letters ‘CSS’ (Confraternity of Saint Sebastian) after their names as a sign that they were homosexual. Apart from in my first year, when one of my fellow ‘Cherubs’ was kicked out over a relationship with a 2nd Divine, the college authorities seemed to tolerate it and turn a blind eye.

With many there, the drinking culture was quite strong, both within and outside the college. One group from my class even got into a pub brawl in the ‘Leinster Arms’ one night with a group of English lads.

A seminarian in the year behind me in ’95 left after a former girlfriend of his turned up and they went for a few drinks and later disappeared into his room and stayed there for two days, after which he left.

Obvious piety was looked on with some suspicion by both staff and students alike. The Saturday night Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was well attended while I was there, although some did not attend or during the two hours between the beginning and Benediction would disappear elsewhere. Not as many attended the recital of the Rosary, nor was it encouraged. The main form of prayer was the Divine Office, but again, in the higher years, when attendance in the Oratories was not obligatory, many could be hot and miss in reciting it and be quite happy to boast of that.

Having said all that, there were others there that were quite committed, prayerful, and disciplined men.

[…] There was one dean there at the time, that I met years after I left. He had moved on by then and was serving as a PP. He told me that while he was in Maynooth, he had been greatly concerned by the falling numbers of ‘manly’ men that were joining and the increase in effeminacy in the seminary. What he was really referring to is not difficult to understand.

Traditional Confirmations in Dublin; Irishman accepted as FSSP seminarian

From the September newsletter of the Dublin Latin Mass Chaplaincy:

It will soon be five years since the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum came into effect, and with it the Latin Mass Chaplaincy in the Diocese of Dublin. In order to mark this significant anniversary the Archbishop will visit us on the morning of the 16th of this month, both to confer the sacrament of Confirmation and to preside at Mass…

…I am delighted to announce that Mr Ciarán Egan, who has been serving Mass with us for the past two years, has been accepted as a seminarian for the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, and will be beginning his training at Wigratzbad in Bavaria at the end of this month. Please remember him in your prayers, and pray that many other young men from our congregation will hear, and answer, Our Lord’s call to follow Him.

Read in full here.

Inaugural Foreword of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, October, 1864

Cardinal Cullen was close to Pius IX and authored the draft definition on the dogma of papal infallibility at Vatican I

The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, established by Cardinal Paul Cullen in 1864, will be familiar to every serious student of the modern history of the Irish Catholic Church, for no other publication better reflects the internal temper of the flourishing, self-confident Irish Catholicism that existed from the post-Famine era right up until Vatican II. The Record embodied a forceful mix of unimpeachable orthodoxy, a high degree of literary skill and scholarly articles on theology, liturgy, Church affairs, international issues, literature, philosophy, history and Irish social and economic conditions. I have always found this distinguished journal a delightful read, and it significantly influenced my thinking. The Maynooth theologian Walter McDonald (1854 – 1920) reckoned it was the only European theological journal to remain entirely untinged by the spirit of modernism. (Fr McDonald is most famous for his fascinating but scandalous Reminiscences of a Maynooth Professor – which had to be published posthumously – but he also founded the more liberal Irish Theological Quarterly in 1909, which, although terminated after his death, was successively revived in 1951 and continues publishing to this day.) The Record‘s neo-scholastic orientation had become something of an anachronism in the iconoclastic post-Vatican II era and it ceased publication in December, 1968 (ostensibly because of commercial difficulties). The fact that Cardinal Cullen’s Record has vanished while Fr. McDonald’s Quarterly lives on is a sad metaphor of both the subsequent revenge of repressed early 20th-century modernism and the dramatic transformation of Irish Catholicism since 1962.

The following is the opening foreword from the inaugural issue of the Record from October, 1864. (Note how it seems so pertinent to our time!)

“Christian is my name, Catholic my surname”, said one of the early Fathers, when he wished to give an adequate description of his religious belief. In the same way, the name and surname of this publication sufficiently indicate its character and scope. First of all, it is Ecclesiastical, by reason of its subject matter, of the class which it addresses, and of the sanction under which it appears. Next, it is Irish, because, to the best of its humble ability, it is intended to serve the Catholic Church of our native country. Father Segneri tells us in one of his sermons, that in his day men used to flock to the religious houses in Italy, eagerly asking: “What news from Ireland?” Those were the stormy days of the latter half of the seventeenth century. How often, on such occasions, in the cool cloisters of Roman colleges, where he had spent so much of his blameless life, was the name of Archbishop Plunket pronounced by the old friends to whom his worth was so well known! How many a listener went straight out from such conferences to pray for his stricken brethren of the suffering Irish Church! At that time the trials, the wounds, the sorrows, the triumphs, the hopes of Irish Catholics were the subject of many a discourse, the anxious care of many a heart. Today all this is changed in great part. No foreign preacher nowadays would allude to his hearers’ widespread interest about the Irish Church, as one of the signs of the times. And why? Not because due allowance made for changes our country has become less interesting; for surely our Catholicity, in the bloom of its second spring, is not less remarkable than it was when torn and beaten to the ground by persecution. And if fraternal love made our distant brethren look sorrowfully over the sea upon our Church when in ruins, surely the same love would teach them not to turn away their eyes from us now that we are once more setting in fair order the stones that had been displaced. Brothers share each other’s joys as well as each other’s sorrows. The reason of the change is, that Irish Catholic intelligence does not find its way abroad. There is much to be said about the Church in Ireland, there are many anxious to hear it, but there is no messenger to bear the news. It is not, perhaps, too much to say, that there is less known abroad about the state of the Irish Church in these days of telegraph and railway, than there was when Dr. Plunket had to borrow a name under cover of which to write to the internuncio, and when Irish news was not thought out of place among the Epistolae Indicae et Iapanicae of the Jesuit Fathers. The Irish Ecclesiastical Record will endeavour to meet this want. It will give some account of the necessities, the progress, the efforts of the Irish Church. Facts of Ecclesiastical administration, Episcopal letters of general interest, various documents that go to make up the history of a Church, shall find their place in its pages. By these means we shall have at hand a ready answer, when we are asked what are we doing in Ireland. Otherwise, our silence is likely to be taken as an admission that we have nothing to show worthy of the Insula Sanctorum et Doctorum.

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The Holy Angels of God

Some thoughts on Irish Catholicism and Liturgical Reform


Photo above from 1946 in Cork’s Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne: Aloys Fleischmann, distinguished musical scholar, conductor, musicologist, and professor, was organist and choirmaster.

The period from the beginning of the Second Vatican Council in 1962 up until the promulgation of the Novus Ordo almost a decade later, was characterised by an extremely rapid rate of liturgical disintegration, unprecedented in the history of the Catholic Church. However if we look at the state of the Irish Church just on the eve of the Second Vatican Council – i.e. in the late 1950s and the early 1960s – what actually did occur subsequently was far from inevitable or in any way pre-determined.

Throughout the first 60 years of the twentieth century there was an ever increasing consciousness in Ireland of the need to ameliorate and elevate the standard of liturgical worship; serious and industrious efforts were made in this direction. Interest in the liturgical movement in the Irish Church particularly takes shape after the Second World War and the primary stimuli by which this interest is aroused are: the release of Mediator Dei in 1947, the continued activity and progress of diocesan liturgical festivals, the founding of The Furrow and Doctrine and Life in 1950 and 1951 respectively, the inauguration of the Irish Liturgical Congresses in 1954 and the increasingly extensive impingement of continental and American influences on Irish Catholic culture. The necessity for progress in liturgical standards is enjoined in several episcopal statements, directives and pastorals, right up until a very late date. For instance, in 1959 (the year in which Pope John XXIII announced his intention to convene an ecumenical council) Bishop James MacNamee of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise used his lenten pastoral to exhort an advance in the liturgical standards of his diocese and chastises the reticence of some of his priests, who view congregational participation as superfluous:

It may be objected that it would be impossible to teach all this [i.e. the responses of the third degree – Shane] to children, especially as they must be said in Latin, and that it would be still more difficult to teach them to understand the meaning of the words they are required to use. The answer to this is that if a choir of boys or girls can be taught both to read these prayers and to sing them, it ought to be possible for at least the higher classes in our primary schools to recite them and understand them, and it should be still more easy for pupils of vocational and secondary schools. It is really a matter of considering the task worthwhile and then of settling down to it patiently and earnestly.

I have previously referred to the excellent paper read by the then Bishop (and soon-to-be Cardinal Primate) William Conway, auxiliary of Armagh, to the 1961 Irish Liturgical Congress as a heart-breaking example of ‘what might have been’. He showed himself entirely oblivious of what was just around the corner, reflecting a widescale ignorance in Irish Catholicism of the impending revolution. Commenting on Conway’s paper in 1963 (Irish Independent, 7th September, 1963), just three months before the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Louis McRedmond (who later reported on the Council for the Irish Independent and wrote a book on it) observed that:

Dr Conway’s point is that understanding must precede fuller participation. He plots a neat strategy by which we may be lured into accepting the new idea: in brief, hasten slowly. Some of the shorter responses, which are easily explained, should alone be required from adult congregations at first. The practice might be begun with Sung Masses. Meanwhile in the schools the children could be brought through the various stages. Thus, by acting over ten or fifteen years instead of overnight, we should achieve an enormously beneficial liturgical renewal without the strain on tradition felt in England and, apparently, on the Continent too.

Cardinal D’Alton’s lenten pastoral of 1960 – which in the course of an obituary Fr. Gerry McGarry (then editor of The Furrow and professor of Pastoral Theology at Maynooth) deservedly praised as “the finest document of the Irish liturgical movement” (Catholic Herald, 8th February, 1963) – treated at length the theological basis underpinning ‘participatio actuosa’ and envisaged a regular Missa Cantata in every parish of his Archdiocese. It was the fruit of considerable study beforehand: in the winter of 1959, he set himself the task of studying the proponents and sources (including Jungmann) of the liturgical movement.

It’s interesting to note that many of those who originally championed liturgical reform in pre-conciliar times were disillusioned by the liturgical reform that followed. In April 1974, Fr. P.J. Brophy, President of St. Patrick’s College, Carlow, wrote an article in The Furrow asking ‘Whatever Happened to Our Liturgical Dreams?’ In the 1940s and ’50s, he had been one of many Irish priests who dreamed of a revivified liturgy in Ireland and took inspiration from the pace of developments that he witnessed in local parishes during his Summer vacations to France. He tried his efforts with local communities of nuns in Carlow but encountered distrust and a lack of enthusiasm among practical-minded priests. He identifies the period 1954-1964 as a decisive decade of change. However, while he praises Sacrosanctum Concilium, the application of the liturgical reform did not live up to his expectations. For him the ‘hackneyed hymns’ and the aesthetical mediocrity of the reformed liturgy are a betrayal of the original intent of the liturgical movement.

In 1979, Fr. Eamonn Bredin, lecturer in Sacramental Theology at the Institute of Religious Education, Mount Oliver, Dundalk, wrote a four-part series in The Furrow on the progress of liturgical reform in Ireland since Vatican II. His criticisms of the new liturgy savour almost of traditionalism, criticizing it for its inherent artificiality and lack of beauty. He welcomes the transition to the vernacular as an obvious benefit, but laments the loss of sacrality which the Latin language had provided. He notes that older people are unenthusiastic about the new liturgy and pine for the past.

Seán Mac Réamoinn was arguably the most influential lay exponent of liturgical reform – even before Vatican II. In June, 1956, he wrote a quite scary article in The Furrow (and also in the Irish language magazine Comhar) welcoming the new order of Holy Week and speculating that it was prelude of things to come. Implausibly, James S. Donnelly cites him in an article in History Ireland (Autumn, 2000) to support his contention that “liturgical renewal inspired by Vatican II was generally a success in Ireland”:

Against the odds, however, Irish Catholicism did accommodate itself to some of the injunctions of Vatican II, though in other areas the response was incomplete or sadly deficient. Liturgical reformers had relatively little about which to complain. Writing in 1985 [in an essay in ‘Freedom to Hope: The Catholic Church in Ireland Twenty Years After Vatican II’ – Shane], the broadcaster and cultural commentator Seán Mac Réamoinn could declare expansively, ‘On the face of it, liturgical renewal has been the success story of Vatican II in Ireland’. From the beginning, Mass in the vernaculars (English and Irish) was thoroughly accepted. Mass attendance rates remained remarkably high overall (well above 80 per cent), especially in comparison with the rest of Europe. In addition, the participation of Mass-goers in the liturgy was generally much better than in the pre-council era. As Mac Réamoinn observed, ‘the days of the silent congregation are numbered, if not over, and the people’s voice is heard, even—mirabile dictu—in song!’ Common all over the country by 1985 were lay scripture readers, lay ministers of the eucharist, and communion in the hand.

That does not fully encapsulate Mac Réamoinn’s views. He certainly had more than “relatively little about which to complain.” In the same year the Sunday Independent (24th November, 1985) quotes him as mourning the ‘lost dimension of mystery’ that resulted from the liturgical reforms. (The same article quotes another writer’s view that one negative result of the Council was “the despoliation of the liturgy”.) Here is an extract from his Laylines’ column in Doctrine and Life of April, 1996:

An old friend who died last month had made it clear to his family that he wanted a sung Requiem in Latin for his funeral. Fortunately, with more than a little help from the Dominicans, his wish was granted. And I know that all who were present were considerably moved by the liturgy. For many of us it was a reminder not just of old ways, but of the power of plainsong to shape our worship. And for those to whom it was a new experience it was, I believe, no less affecting, if at times more obscurely so…

Some of us who joined in the singing were out of practice, to put it very kindly. I hope we didn’t damage the ensemble too seriously. And I believe we didn’t for, though the Gregorian discipline demands as much careful respect, if not more, than other musical forms, it can cover a multitude of imperfections…

[L]ast month’s experience was a sharp reminder of what we have lost, or rather mislaid or thrown aside. I have written here before about the appalling philistinism which has allowed us to neglect so much of our western Catholic heritage: it is as if the Orthodox world had suddenly decided to embrace iconoclasm as a way of living and praying, and thrown all those images — which are plainsong’s rival in their deep and direct communication of the spiritual — on the ecclesiastical scrap heap. And I shudder to think what the more enthusiastic among them would have adopted as substitutes, what glossy meretricious essays in neo-sentimentality would have paralleled some of our recent hymns, post-modern effusions of sentimental pietism…

When we ignore plainsong, or for that matter, classical polyphony, to the point of banishing this great music from our churches and denying it to our younger people, we are depriving them and us of a spiritual enrichment whose value is more, far more, than aesthetic — important as that may be. It reminds me of nothing so much as the pathetic way so many of our great-(great-) grandparents believed that they must not pass the Irish language on to their children….such was the crazy logic of the time, they thought that a knowledge of Irish and of English were mutually exclusive. We now realise, or at least I hope we do, what an injustice was done in those days, from the best of motives.

Mind you, it is harder to see what has been the motivation of ‘getting rid of the oul’ Latin’ over the past thirty years or so. How can anyone have possibly seen such stupidity as an aid to liturgical renewal? Certainly the composition of vernacular settings was, and is, to be encouraged, but not to the exclusion of work of a standard which it would be difficult to emulate or approach overnight. And interestingly, the simple O’Riada Cúil Aodha Mass seems to be the most generally popular of all the new settings, not least among congregations who would be hard put to it to provide translations of the texts…The ‘poetry’ seems to get through, in spite of any verbal problems. Is there a moral here?

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Brown on the future of the Church in Ireland

The papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, gave a sermon at Knock shrine this afternoon on the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The nuncio’s sermon strongly stresses the need for fidelity to Catholic doctrine. There are lots of subtle but unambiguous hints. It’s refreshing to note that the nuncio expresses a positive assessment of past piety. If it had been Archbishop Diarmuid Martin delivering the sermon, he would undoubtedly have used to opportunity to go on a Twomey-style rant about how deeply flawed it all was or to insult tradition-minded seminarians. Most hearteningly, the nuncio’s sketch of Irish Catholicism’s future does not include a restructure of Irish dioceses. Those who trumpet this lazy ‘solution’ as a magical panacea to the very grave problems facing the Irish Church will surely be disappointed.

Here is the text of the sermon in full:

When Blessed John Paul II came here on September 30, 1979, to celebrate Holy Mass, he began with the words: “Here I am at the goal of my journey to Ireland: the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock” and, in a certain sense, his words are true for all of us here today, as we celebrate the conclusion of the National Novena; we too have come to the goal of our journey. We come as pilgrims to pray at the feet of Mary, the humble girl of Nazareth, the glorious Mother of God, the “Woman clothed with the sun” who appeared here in 1879 to comfort and console the Catholic people of Ireland. The passage of time tends to make us forget what things were like in Ireland when Mary appeared. Ireland was not yet a free and independent nation; close to a million people had suffered and died during the Great Famine thirty years previously, and in the year 1879 when Mary appeared, hunger had returned to the West of Ireland. Huge numbers of Irish people had been forced to leave as emigrants, never to return, so much so that the population of Ireland plummeted by something like 25 per cent.
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The Scandal of Maynooth (1973)

click above to read in full (pdf)

This superb special issue of Approaches magazine from October, 1973, was given over by its founding editor Hamish Fraser to ‘The Scandal of Maynooth’ and detailed the descent of Ireland’s National Seminary into modernist anarchy. It was widely reported in the Irish newspapers at the time and provoked a lively correspondence in the Irish Independent’s letters section. A copy was sent to every Irish bishop, who predictably (and tragically) ignored its warnings. I am immensely grateful to Hamish’s son, Tony Fraser, for very kindly sending me this copy on my request. Tony is editor of Apropos, which is the successor magazine to Approaches. Please consider subscribing or donating to the magazine here. Good traditional Catholic periodicals such as Apropos deserve our support.

See also: Leading Maynooth Theologian Decries Disintegration of the Irish Church

Note: This Maynooth magazine from 1951 published an article (pp. 75-80) by Hamish Fraser entitled ‘Where is Britain Going?’. The magazine gives an insight into a very different Maynooth (and a very different Ireland).

1966: Fr Charles Davis Writes on the Weakening of Faith

Many thanks to Fr. Augustine Hourigan C.P. for sending me this stimulating piece by Fr. Charles Davis from America magazine, January 29th, 1966. Fr Davis was one of England’s most famous theologians and professor of theology at the Jesuit-run Heythrop College. He left the priesthood a few months after this was written, but was subsequently reconciled to the Church in his later years. He died in 1999.

Much speaking in different places on themes of renewal has brought me into contact with many people seeking to revivify their faith.  I have found a sense of emptiness, but together with it a deep yearning for God.  There is an emptiness at the core of people’s lives, an emptiness waiting to be filled.

They are troubled about their faith; they find it slipping.  I am not speaking about those who are worried about recent changes.  These people are not.  But they are looking for something to fill the void in their lives, and what they hear does not do that.
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Irish Spirituality

click above to read in full (pdf)

See also: Our Mass, Our Life: Some Irish Traditions and Prayers
The Integral Irish Tradition
What is An Réalt?

Book Review: ‘Swords Around the Cross’

Many thanks to Jaykay for this very interesting book review:

“Swords Around The Cross”
Timothy T. O’Donnell S.T.D., President, Christendom College VA
2001, Christendom Press, Fort Royal, VA

I first became aware of this book some months ago due to the posting about it on Shane’s blog. I indicated interest, and having failed to source it through Amazon Shane kindly forwarded other sellers to me. I finally received it, some 4 weeks later in March. Shane had asked me if I would do a review of it and I agreed: too long an interval later, here it finally is. Cunctando regitur mundus and all that (or at least that’s my excuse!).

Anyway, the reason I had indicated interest is that, although I studied history at school and initially at University, the courses we followed covered the 18th to 20th centuries, except for the first year or so of secondary school, and so my knowledge of the 16th and 17th centuries is woefully sketchy. I must also confess that, in relation to Irish history of this period, there was a major “turn-off” factor as well: it just seemed to comprise an endless series of hopes raised and dashed, followed by crushing defeats and the reduction of the Gaelic Irish to virtual slavery in their own land. Not to mention the truly dreadful quality of the books we were required to use (thank you, Folens) circa. 1972/3. However I always realised that turning my back on this period was not a very healthy view, since one has to examine the past in detail to understand the present, and that I was always going to have to grasp the nettle in some way at some time or other. So the notice of this book on the blog seemed to provide the opportune moment to fill-in, or at least to commence the bridging of, that gap that I had left yawning (in both senses) for far too long.

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Yet another prominent dissident Irish priest censured (Open Thread)

Wow this is quite a trend. From BBC News:

Media priest Fr Brian D’Arcy censured by Vatican

Fr Brian D'Arcy
Disciplined: Fr Brian D’Arcy

Father Brian D’Arcy, one of Ireland’s best known priests, has been censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, according to the Tablet newspaper.

Fr D’Arcy, a broadcaster and newspaper columnist, is making no comment.

It is understood that his column is now run past a church censor, though none has been changed as a result.

The disciplining of Fr D’Arcy brings the number of Irish priests silenced by Rome to six.

The action against the priest was taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) last year after an anonymous complaint.

Fr D’Arcy has spoken out against mandatory celibacy for priests, church teaching on contraception and has been a vocal critic of the handling of clerical sexual abuse. In the wake of the Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin Fr D’Arcy called for reformation of church structures and accused the Holy See of using legal procedures to shield itself from criticism over its handling of abuse.

The action came after Fr Ottaviano D’Egidio, the Passionist Superior General, was summoned by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the CDF, 14 months ago.

“Some time ago the CDF was in touch with our General about some of Brian’s views and since then Brian has been co-operating to ensure that he can continue to make a contribution to the religious journalism that he is involved in,” Fr Pat Duffy, the Irish provincial of the Passionists told the Tablet.

Five Day Traditional Retreat for Men in Donegal

From the Ards Friary Retreat Programme:

Sun 15th – Fri 20th July

Five Day Silent and Guided Retreat for Men

Guided by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of Saint Joseph.

These five-day retreats are a shortened form of the full Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The Exercises are a synthetic and practical presentation of the central truths of the Catholic faith—God, the meaning of life, the eternal destiny of mankind, the life of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race—in the form of meditations, examination of conscience and prayers, to find peace of heart, rid oneself of worldly attachments and discover the will of God for the salvation of the soul. On the purely practical level, the day consists of 4 or 5 talks given by one or other of the two priests who are guiding the retreat. After each talk there is time for private prayer, and then free time to converse with the priests. There is of course daily Mass and Rosary, as well as opportunity for Confession.

Daily Mass is generally offered according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Priest, retreatants, celebrate Mass privately according to the form of their choice.

Commences: 5:30pm
Concludes: 5:30pm
Cost: €285

Contact: Monks of St Joseph Abbey – Fax 00 333 80 96 25 29 or email

The Brandsma Review on modern Ireland

The Brandsma Review is a bimonthly Irish Catholic periodical that has been running since 1992. Peadar Laighléis, president of the Latin Mass Society of Ireland, took over as editor of the publication from Nick Lowry at the beginning of this year. The March-April edition should be out at the end of this month and can be purchased in Veritas on Lower Abbey Street in Dublin. The Review is always a stimulating read and is one of the few organs in Irish society articulating an orthodox Catholic perspective on all important aspects of social life.  It needs and deserves the support of every Irish Catholic interested in a renewal of the faith in Ireland.

Peadar sketched an outline of his editorial policy in this year’s January-February issue:

Like most Brandsma Review readers, I am sad to see Nick Lowry’s retirement, but whatever gifts Nick has, eternal youth is not one. As a result, the BR must either replace him or fold. I know Nick’s last editorial (as editor — he is not about to vanish from the Review) enumerated how far the situation in Ireland deteriorated since the first Brandsma in June-July 1992. It is because the situation has got worse that this magazine has to keep going.

I have been a reader of the Review since its first issue and a contributor since the fourth. I have been involved in the editorial team since 1997. This is the experience I am bringing to the BR. My editorial policy is very simply summarised in the masthead “Pro Vita, Pro Ecclesia Dei et Pro Hibernia”.

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Abortion Bill Protest

There will be a protest outside the Dail at 1.30 p.m. today (Thursday) in opposition to the pro-abortion Private Member’s Bill tabled by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly.

Even if you are not able to attend, please pray fervently for the defeat of this proposed legislation and all future attempts to legalize abortion.

Brilliant Collection of Old Irish Postcards

The Linen Hall Library in Belfast and the Belfast Telegraph have put up a fantastic collection of old Irish postcards from over 100 years ago. There are selections from almost every county in Ireland. If you want to see a postcard of a specific town, click on the Province in which it is located and then the county. Click on the covers of each postcard to expand them in full.

Another dissident Irish priest silenced

Following similar, recent treatment of Fr Tony Flannery, the Irish Independent reports that Ireland’s most prominent dissident moral theologian Fr Seán Fagan S.M. has now also been silenced:

The 84-year-old Marist priest was ordered to stop writing and commenting in public after he had called for an inquiry into clerical sexual abuse in all dioceses of the State.

All available copies of a theological book written by Fr Fagan were also bought up by his religious order and he was required to give an undertaking not to write again.

The move came after he had advocated allowing women and married men to be ordained as priests.

Read it all…

Notice how the Irish Independent reporter contradicts himself. He suggests that Fr Fagan is being silenced for calling for an inquiry into clerical sex abuse but later admits that this move has been prompted because of Fr Fagan’s advocacy of the ordination of women. Is this just another example of journalistic incompetence in religious reporting, or is the Irish Independent deliberately trying to mislead its readers over the motives behind this move?


My apologies to all for the delay in approving your comments. Unfortunately I cannot seem to access the WordPress dashboard on my home computer (my laptop is in repair). Extremely frustrating!

Standards in Sacred Music

The following letter by Fr Patrick J. Doyle, P.P. was published in The Furrow in April, 1953. Fr Doyle was parish priest of Naas, Co. Kildare, from 1938 until his death in 1962.

Dear Father Editor,

In the March number of The Furrow Sir Shane Leslie (see here – Shane) asks “why does Catholicism attract so few Irish Protestants?” He assures us that in England they are attracted by “the liturgy, music and beauty of Catholic services.” He expresses the opinion that “many Protestants could be drawn by real Church music, but what do they hear? Far less melody than their own hymns.” We cannot deny that the average of our Church music, apart from some outstanding exceptions, falls far short of what is desirable, even of what Church discipline requires. One cause is the lack of competent musicians with sufficient knowledge and training to know what, and how, to teach our choirs, and train them to adequate performances. There seems to be little hope of filling this educational lacuna, until a national School of Church Music subsidised by all our dioceses, similar to those of the Continental countries, has been established. Can Catholic Ireland not do what, for instance, half-Catholic Belgium has done? Even if competent choir directors were available, for many parishes there would still remain the financial problem of providing an adequate salary. Musicians cannot live on audible notes alone; the other species, palpable and expendable, is a grim necessity. This problem could be solved, partly by an appeal to the religious generosity of our people, explaining what the Church expects and deserves in the domain of music, insisting on the clear teaching of successive Popes in this matter; and partly, by having a regular quota of young priests from each diocese trained in the national School of Church Music, who would be thus equipped to take control of the choir, each in his own parish, and give fraternal advice and assistance to his fellow priests in his neighbourhood.

It is possible that Sir Shane, in his commendable zeal for reform, takes too depressing a view of the situation in Ireland (see Church Music in Ireland – Shane), though it is a healthy and honest reaction to face the worst in any plea for reform. He asks — “Do you ever hear Gregorian of Plain Chant in our parish Churches?” May I reply from my experience of the church I know best? I have just returned from the High Mass on St. Patrick’s Day in our parish church in Naas, Co. Kildare. The whole Mass, Proper and Common, was sung in Plain Chant by a choir of men and small boys. At the Offertory was sung a polyphonic motet — Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, by the 16th century Vittoria. At the conclusion of the Mass we had the rousing Maynooth Hymn to St. Patrick (1) — Dochas Linn Naomh Padraic, in a setting by Michael Van Dessel, the first verse being sung a capella, while the last is in unison with a massive organ accompaniment. At an earlier Mass a children’s choir had sung three-part polyphonic music with refreshing aplomb.

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Holy Week in Spain (1911)

Fr Michael James O’Doherty, then Rector of the Irish College of Salamanca (later Archbishop of Manila), wrote a fascinating series of articles on Spanish Catholicism and society in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record in 1911. Here is his report on Holy Week from April of that year:

Outside Oberammergau with its Passion Play, there is no place in the world where the story of Calvary is brought so vividly home to one as in the streets of the Spanish cities during the days of Holy Week. Spain is famous for its beautiful processions, and amongst them those of Holy Week easily hold the first place. For the subjects of a Protestant government, especially where the Catholic religion has been banned for centuries, it is difficult to form an idea of the magnificence of the public manifestations of an entire Catholic people, their importance in the religious life, or the enthusiasm evoked on the occasions of the great anniversaries.

During Holy Week in Spain many well-to-do country families change their residence to the cities, in order that they may take part in the more important religious functions which are held there; the poorer folk who live near a city pass the days or part of them in it, and the villagers in the remote districts celebrate their own ‘Holy Funeral’ in a less ostentatious manner.

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Vatican moves against dissent

From today’s Irish Times:

Vatican moves to quell internal dissenting voices


The Vatican has moved to suppress dissent in the Irish Catholic Church by clamping down on two well-known liberal Redemptorist priests as well as the congregation’s monthly magazine, Reality.

Restrictions have been placed on Fr Tony Flannery, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, whose monthly column in the magazine has been discontinued. A clampdown has also been imposed on the magazine itself and its editor, Fr Gerard Moloney, who, it is believed, is no longer allowed to write on certain issues. Neither priest would comment when contacted by The Irish Times yesterday.

Fr Flannery, a brother of senior Fine Gael adviser Frank Flannery, is well known around Ireland through retreats he has conducted in Galway, Limerick, Belfast and elsewhere.

Yesterday Pope Benedict delivered an unusually direct denunciation of dissenting priests and laity in a sermon at a Holy Thursday Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. Responding specifically to a call to disobedience by Austrian priests and laity on celibacy and women priests, he said they had challenged “definitive decisions of the church’s magisterium”.

Irish SSPX District says faithful should not attend ‘Motu Proprio Masses’

This is from this month’s newsletter (p. 6) of the SSPX in Ireland:

Motu Proprio Masses: One thing is to encourage priests to celebrate the true Mass, but it is another thing to encourage our faithful to attend such Masses. The reason being that in addition to the Traditional Liturgy, sound doctrine is also required, and this latter is called into question when a priest, albeit in good faith, accepts the doctrinal rectitude of the NOM in theory or in practice.

This development certainly does not augur well for the reconciliation process between the Vatican and the SSPX. While I love traditional liturgy, identifying the ‘true Mass’ so narrowly with the 1962 Roman Missal does seem suspicious, to say the least. (What would eastern Catholics make of that?) As for priests “accepting the doctrinal rectitude of the NOM”, I am no theologian but I do not see how it is possible for a Catholic to take any other view without repudiating (at least implicitly) the indefectibility of the Church. Is it even possible for the Church to promulgate heretical liturgical rites? And advising the faithful on which Masses they should and should not attend does seem needlessly paternalistic, and indeed offensive. Does Fr Paul Morgan genuinely fear ordinary Catholics will be corrupted by those dangerous modernist heretics like…errr…Fr Gerard Deighan or Fr Gabriel Burke?

Communism and Religion

Breaking News: Pope Benedict announces 3-stage plan for ‘gradual replacement’ of Novus Ordo

This is just shocking. Has the Vatican considered the resistance this will arouse? Many priests and laity will be outraged. Though the first change isn’t due for another year, I think the next few months will be very interesting. I wonder if it will provoke a schism?

If you’re interested in the details, you can read the full report here.

Holy Week: A Guide to the Ceremonies

I posted this pamphlet last year but I am re-posting it again for those attending the Holy Week ceremonies.

Fidel Castro: A Traditionalist?

This is from yesterday’s Washington Post:

After the Mass [in Havana] the pope met with Fidel Castro at the Vatican Embassy, where the ailing former leader quizzed Benedict about the changes in the Catholic liturgy since the long-ago days when Fidel was an altar boy, educated by Jesuits.

One assumes that Castro, now an atheist, has not been to a Mass since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. He must have got some shock! Let this be a reminder of how important good liturgy really is in witnessing to non-Catholics and those raised in the faith but who have subsequently lapsed. Unfortunately that is something Benedict’s three predecessors never realized, with disastrous results. It is also the reason why the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin this year will be a failure, and why I would encourage you not to waste your money donating to it.

Article in the ‘Irish Times’ on new Irish traditional Benedictine monastery

This is from today’s Irish Times:

US order to open monastery in Meath

The former Visitation Sisters' convent at Stamullen, Co Meath, which is to house the new monastery.The former Visitation Sisters’ convent at Stamullen, Co Meath, which is to house the new monastery.Photograph: Picasa

SET IN spacious grounds overlooking the Irish Sea, a new monastery will be home to a community of 10 Benedictine monks and four candidates who are considering a monastic life.

For hundreds of years, Ireland sent missionary priests and monks all over the world. Partly in a gesture of gratitude for the thousands of religious people who went to America, a US community of Benedictine monks from Tulsa, Oklahoma, are establishing the new monastery in Co Meath.

Run by American religious of Irish ancestry, the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle will be based at the former Visitation Sisters’ House in Stamullen, Co Meath. It is set to open in the coming weeks.

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Centenary of the Church in New Zealand: Letters of the Bishop of Auckland to Cardinal MacRory and Éamon de Valera (27th April, 1938)

NB: See also Centenary of the Church in New Zealand: Irish Hierarchy’s Letter of Felicitations (1937)

Your Eminence,

Our Centenary celebrations have come and gone, leaving us with the happiest memories and a lively sense of God’s blessing over them all. Bishops, priests and people alike feel that the presence of his Grace of Tuam, representing our Mother Church, and the gracious inspiring letter of the Hierarchy of Ireland gave our commemoration of thanksgiving a spiritual quality and significance all its own.

The letter, read from the Cathedral pulpit on the opening day, Sunday, February 27, was heard over the radio by all Catholic New Zealand, and a large part of non-Catholic New Zealand, and gave us all deep joy.

His Grace walked right into our hearts, and everywhere his presence and his words made us understand more than ever the privilege and greatness of our Irish inheritance. In the name of us all, New Zealanders and visitors alike, I offer, with a full heart, thanks to Your Eminence, and through you, to the Archbishops and Bishops for the joy and inspiration you have given us on this occasion.

I sent copies of our Zealandia Centenary issues to all the Bishops, and his Grace promised to give his impressions of his visit here.

Our own Catholic people entered into the celebrations with enthusiastic fervour, and non-Catholics were cordial and respectful to a degree. The daily Press was excellent in every way. We feel that as God blessed our Centenary so richly he must have some special purpose in it for us and our country.

Renewing our heart’s gratitude to Your Eminence, the Archbishops and Bishops,

I am with deep respect to Your Eminence,

Yours Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop of Auckland.


Dear Sir,

I wish to thank you from my heart in the name of all who took part in our Centenary celebrations for the message of greeting to us from yourself and the Government and people of Ireland. The message was received with joy and enthusiasm at our first public gathering of 6,000 people, and was read next day with delight throughout New Zealand.

Along with the letter from the Irish Bishops and the presence of their representative, his Grace the Archbishop of Tuam, your own letter renewed in our hearts the sense of our immense debt, past and present, in things spiritual and temporal, to Mother Ireland. We pray that we may not be unworthy of all that we have received.

I feel that you will be interested to know that the celebrations were notable for the fervour of our Catholic people, and the cordial good feeling of our non-Catholic fellow citizens.

The Archbishop and Bishops of New Zealand, along with our priests and people, join me in this expression of our heart’s gratitude to yourself and through you to the Government and people of Ireland.

Believe me, with deep respect and regard,

Yours Sincerely,

Bishop of Auckland.

The Guile of the Communists

Christian Worship: The Teaching of Pope Pius XII on the Sacred Liturgy

What is Sin?

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin welcomes secularization of Irish society

This is simply unbelievable. In his address yesterday to the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association Conference, the Archbishop of Dublin spoke positively about the decline in Catholic influence over Irish society:

The change in Irish society and the change in the life of the Church in Ireland are linked together. There is a growing secularisation in Irish society.  This is not entirely a bad thing, if we understand the complex phenomenon called secularisation correctly.  Very few of us would wish to return completely to the type of society many of us grew up in, where the Church dominated so much of Irish culture, and where the bishops and the clergy dominated the Church. Irish society and the Church in Ireland have changed and it must be said that the change has in great part been good. (emphasis mine)

Shamefully His Grace also takes it upon himself to impugn the faith and piety of past generations:

What I wish to affirm is the fact that in many ways our older culture was not always one which in the long term really strengthened the Church.  We may have thought that it did.  In many ways we felt that the strength of the Irish Church was in its numbers.  But those numbers at times hid a faith and a commitment that was not as strong as many had imagined.  They hid the fact that the faith was not being nourished sufficiently. They hid the fact that the faith was not being nourished in the best possible way to address the changing culture.

This is not only scandalous, it is also arguably sacrilegious. Who the hell does Archbishop Diarmuid Martin think he is to set himself up as a judge over the religious sincerity of our faithful forebears? I am outraged at this sickening arrogance! He would be lucky indeed to witness again the immense popular devotion and packed churches (that long-forgotten spectacle!) presided over by his predecessors.

His Grace returns to his pet theme of hope, confusing his sentimental and exaggerated optimism with the eponymous theological virtue. Yet again he also singles out traditionalist and conservative Catholics for criticism, repeating almost word-for-word his previous comments at Mater Dei:

 I am not an advocate of unnecessary pessimism about the future of the Church.  Only last week I was speaking about the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and I reminded my listeners of one of my favourite homilies, that given by Pope John XXIII on that occasion on 11th October 1962.

Pope John’s first words to the Vatican Council at the beginning of his homily were Gaudet Mater Ecclesia:  Our Mother the Church rejoices.   Polarisation in the Church can and has led to a loss of the sense of joy which should be a mark of the community of believers.  Reformers and traditionalist alike can all too often be men and women with a mission, but also men and women with gloomy and stern faces. Polarisation leads to a lack of common purpose. The Church at all times has reason to rejoice.  Jesus loves his Church and will be with his Church.  The Church’s agenda is driven by Jesus and it is from his fidelity to the Church that we draw hope.

[…] 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 – is most often a sign of a faith that is weak.

With bishops like this, who needs atheists?

Four vocations for new Irish traditional monastery

Dom Mark Kirby OSB posted the following letter from David Craig on his blog:

Dear Friends of Vultus Christi and of Father Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B.,

Saint Patrick, all the great Irish saints, the thousands of contemplative monks of ancient Ireland, and the tens-of-thousands of Irish missionary priests and religious who left Ireland must be well pleased today, Saint Patrick’s Day. They know a new monastery under the Rule of Saint Benedict has begun this month at Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. And, the founding is by a small group of Americans! Love is being returned to Ireland. My name is David Craig and I am writing to ask you to financially help this new priory and new community.

In addition to publishing the popular Catholic blog, Vultus Christi, Dom Mark Daniel Kirby has brought his monastic vision to Ireland: a life of liturgical prayer, adoration, reparation, and intercession for priests. In continuity with the age-old Benedictine tradition of hospitality, the new monastery will welcome priests in search of silence and spiritual refreshment for days of recollection and retreats.

Just prior to the his move from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Stamullen, Co, Meath, Ireland, I spent two days with Father Prior Dom Mark at his former monastery in Tulsa. I have volunteered to take an unpaid position to help find supporters for this new monastery. Dom Mark needs our support for this vital work of adoration, reparation, and intercession for all priests, but especially for those wounded in spiritual combat or tempted to lose hope.

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The Passion II: Thoughts for Lent

Archbishop McQuaid on Higher Education for Catholics

See also: Archbishop McQuaid on Catholic Education: its function and scope

Apostolic Visitation to Ireland: The Blind Leading the Blind

Regarding the just released summary report of the Apostolic Visitation I’ve basically said all I wanted to say here at Rorate Caeli.  How on earth can these churchmen be so blind?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Communism and the Home

See also: Communism from the Inside

The Plight of Latin

click above to expand and read in full (pdf)


I would like to acknowledge with immense appreciation a bundle of old Catholic pamphlets which Kieron Wood kindly sent to me. I will scan them in over the next few days: the first one will be an excellent pamphlet of his own from 1992 entitled The Plight of Latin, the last one will be on Catholic Schools (1974) by Cardinal Conway.

These old pamphlets are of incalculable importance, for both their religious and historical character.

The Dialogue Mass in Ireland: Letter of Fr. Clifford Howell, S.J. to Alfred O’Rahilly (1953)

The following letter was sent by the noted liturgical scholar Fr. Clifford Howell, S.J. to Irish Catholic academic (later Monsignor) Alfred O’Rahilly, then recently retired president of University College Cork. It is dated 22nd December, 1953.

Dear Professor O’Rahilly,

Many thanks for your letter. That is good news indeed, that the Archbishop of Dublin has given permission for the dialogue Mass. And I hope very much that His Lordship of Cork will follow suit in due course.

It occurs to me to add a few points that might be of use to you later on. (It would be too precipitate to attempt them at once.) The real value of dialogue Mass is that it restores externally to Mass that social nature which is intrinsic to it but which, with the present Low Mass liturgy, has been totally obscured. De facto the Mass is the sacrifice of all; in appearance it is a one-man show. But when the liturgy was devised, before the accidents of history had petrified it, the Mass was in appearance also a social sacrifice. Moreover its social nature was visible according to the intrinsic nature of the sacrificing community which is hierarchic. The community consists of members of different rank: priest, deacon, subdeacon, acolytes, schola, people. In High Mass all these still have different and mutually subordinated functions (though the matter has become obscured by the priest doubling-up on jobs which are not his — for he now recites what the choir sings, what the deacon announces, etc. etc.) The goal in dialogue Mass is, I maintain, the restoration of this social and hierarchic form by differentiation of functions within the community. And at the same time to make it intelligible so as to give to the worshipping community the spiritual riches which the liturgy enshrines.

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Dublin Institute of Catholic Sociology: ‘Red Week’, January 1st-4th, 1963

click above to expand and read in full (pdf)

See also: Dublin Institute of Catholic Sociology: Manual of Social Ethics; 1956

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Refers to this Blog

At the Irish Bishops’ Media Briefing on 7th March His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin was asked by a reporter:

And in the week that’s coming up to St. Patrick’s Day, what is your response to the American-Irish media’s description of you as the greatest living Irishman?

He responded:

Well, I can go to two other blogs, one which said that the Archbishop of Dublin has gone mad*, because of the article I wrote in, I gave to Mater Dei, and the other one (this refers to The Heeler’s Diaries – Shane) which regularly says that I’m actually, along with my brother, a spy for the former Soviet Union. So I take all these blogs very seriously.

*This refers to this post: Has Archbishop Diarmuid Martin gone bonkers?

You can listen to the whole interview here. Go to Part 2, and fast forward to 16.13.

Nice to know that the Archbishop is a reader of Lux Occulta!

Do keep it up Your Grace, it’ll do you the world of good!

Perfect Contrition

See also: How to Make an Act of Perfect Contrition

Abuse scandals: Is the Irish medical profession next?

From the Irish Independent:

Scale of sexual abuse by medical practitioners worse than Catholic Church scandals – claims

THE SCALE of sexual abuse by medical practitioners against patients could be far worse than scandals that rocked the Catholic Church, it was claimed today.

Dignity4Patients, which is supporting more than 250 alleged victims, has demanded a state inquiry into the abuse of patients after allegations were made against male and female consultants, doctors and nurses from all over the country.

Bernadette Sullivan, executive director, warned medics are able to abuse more than other professions, with most privately seeing a new patient every 10 to 15 minutes.

“The scale of numbers a doctor can abuse as compared to a priest are huge,” said the former nurse-turned-whistleblower.

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Bishop Michael Browne on War Sacrifice

The following letter from the Most. Rev. Michael Browne was read out in all the churches of the dioceses of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora on 13th Dececmber, 1942:

My Dearly Beloved in Christ,

The pressing needs of the existing situation urge me to address you on the duties of Catholics in the present crisis.

‘Though shalt love thy neighbour’ is, next to the love of God, the greatest commandment of our religion. It binds us to help all men, but in a special and particular way it binds us to love those of our nation. With them we form one family, one community. At all times it is a duty of conscience for every Christian to co-operate with his fellow-countrymen in promoting the peace, welfare and security of their common fatherland.
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Heart of St Laurence O’Toole stolen

From RTÉ News:

Relic of St Laurence O’Toole stolen

The 12th Century preserved heart of the Patron Saint of Dublin, Saint Laurence O’Toole, has been stolen from Christ Church Cathedral.

His heart was preserved since the 13th century and has been a major pilgrimage site

His heart was preserved since the 13th century and has been a major pilgrimage site

The Cathedral was opened at 9.30am, to no alarm activation and no sign of any break-in.

The heart was believed to be stolen between last night and noon today.

The Heart of St Laurence O’Toole was kept in a wooden heart shaped container sealed within a small iron barred box.

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While Catholicism dies in the West, Orthodoxy is flourishing in Russia

Catholicism in western Europe seems to be on its last legs but Orthodoxy is enjoying a ‘colossal’ revival in Russia.

I seen this encouraging news today on Voices from Russia:

Russians are Becoming “More Orthodox”

According to a poll taken by the all-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), over the past 16 years, the proportion of Russians attending services increased from 57 percent to 71 percent. VTsIOM said that the results indicate that 7 percent attend services at least once a month, 30 percent attend occasionally, and 34 percent go sporadically. The number of those who never attend services fell from 42 percent to 26 percent. Amongst those baptised Orthodox, the proportion of those who attend services is 83 percent. At the same time, 11 percent of unbelievers said that they occasionally went to church. According to VTsIOM, 33 percent of respondents received charitable aid at one time or another, whilst 29 percent donated money to the church. VTsIOM took the poll on 18-19 February 2012; they interviewed 1,600 people in 138 locations in 46 Russian oblasts and republics.

1 March 2012

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