Friday, March 25, 2011

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on the state of the Church in Ireland

The ever eloquent and clear-sighted archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, recently delivered an address to Cambridge University on the state of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the radical transformation it is undergoing. The full address is available here. An excerpt:

"The paradoxical thing is that the farther the Church goes in adapting to the culture of the times, the greater is the danger that it will no longer be able to confront the culture of the time.   It will only be able to speak the language of the culture of the day and not the radical newness of the message of the Gospel which transcends all cultures.  It could become a type of civil religion, politically correct, but without the cutting edge of the Gospel.  There is a difficult path to tread between a fundamentalism which would pretend that the Church can have its own answer to all questions and a lack of courage to take up positions which may be culturally unpopular.  The conformism of the mid-twentieth century remained unchallenged because it had support.  Every generation has to allow the Gospel to challenge conformism, even a conformism which calls itself progressive....
When I was received by the Pope on the occasion of the ad limina visit four years ago, I arrived well prepared with all my statistics and my analysis of the bright spots and the shadows of Catholicism in Dublin.  I had statistics about priests, about institutions, about Mass attendance.  After greeting me the Pope started the conversation immediately by asking me “where are the points of contact between the Church in Ireland and those areas where the future of Irish culture is being formed”.  Instead of asking me about the number of parishes he quizzed me about the relationship between faith and universities, and media, as well as literature and the arts and the fundamental ethical issues on economy and society.

How can the Church in Ireland better foster interaction between faith and culture?  The Church has an undoubtedly a contribution to the improvement of society.  But that contribution cannot simply be that of being just a political commentator.  The principal contribution of Church institutions in an increasingly secular society is, as Pope Benedict noted in an interview of some years ago, “to witness to God in a world that has problems finding Him… and to make God visible in the human face of Jesus Christ, to offer people access to the source without which our morale becomes sterile and loses its point of reference.”"

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