My sister sent me an email telling me: “A tour guide in Ireland said Northern Ireland 45% catholic and increasing- Kinsale was 50%. Catholic and all of Southern Ireland 95% Catholic- so you have a shot at still getting gold coins in your shoes on future st pat’s days.”
I replied to her that the statistics I’d seen showed a different picture in the Irish Republic with about 86% calling themselves Catholic but only about 18% attending church on a regular basis. It wasn’t like that a generation ago. In 1984 it was estimated 90% of the Irish attended church regularly.
The major reason for the great drop in attendance in Ireland is the sins of the fathers. Those many priests who were involved in sexual abusive situation and allowed the abuse by the nuns of the unwanted children and women in trouble who ended up slaving in the places like the Magdalene Laundries.
The sins of the priests though overlooked or justified by the older members of the Catholic Church had a resounding effect on their children. They fled from the Church as though it had contacted Ebola. Adding to the flight because of the sins was the increasing affluence of the Irish which goes along with the idea “there are no atheists in foxholes.”
People deprived of earthly treasures find comfort in the idea they will receive them in after life; those who find earthly riches forget don’t want to be reminded that they can’t take them with them.
The Irish experience is also being felt here in America. My son on a trip to New York City last sat next to a 93-year-old Irish-American woman with all her wits about her who lived in Cambridge. He had a delightful conversation with her. He told me how she said with sadness: “I’m a daily communicant and not one of my 12 grandchildren goes to the Catholic Church.
The mantra that most of the younger generation face is “how can you belong to a church like that?” What can one of these young people answer to their peers? They’ve seen how the generation before them was betrayed by some of its leaders. They don’t want to be in that situation.
What began in Boston in the later 1980s when the specter of widespread sexual abuse by the priests was first disclosed has resulted in the sluice gates being opened showing such abuse existed throughout the nation and in other nations of the world. It was not only the abuse that horrified the people it was the cover-up of it. That brought the evil from being that of the priests up to the bishops and cardinals. It was clear that children were being sacrificed to keep scandal from the church.
Ireland, the most Catholic, suffered the most. It had a bishop supporting a secret child and another going on vacation to Bangkok to engage in illicit activities. After all these years seeing the damage done to the Church one would hope that the Church had rid itself of the sinners wearing clergy cloth and had found a stable ground upon which to build up trust again. Then one hears of the top Catholic cleric in Britain, 77-year-old Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has stepped down because of allegations of sexual improprieties.
All these evil doers wearing Roman collars is disheartening especially to those others similarly placed who have not succumbed to temptation. Catholics believe their Church began when Christ told St. Peter he was the rock upon which His church was to be built. He also told him it was not going to be easy when he said “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” He was forewarning that there will be many who act in such a way to bring disgrace upon the Church and that things may look bad at times but that no matter what happens if the Church sticks to His teachings it will overcome the evil emanating through Hell’s gates.
So I’d say my sister’s right. The ship will be righted. We’ll again get those gold coins on St. Patrick’s day on some future day.