Posted by: Thomas Richard | May 27, 2015

Collapse of Faith in Ireland; Lesson for America

The collapse of Catholic Faith, in the historic stronghold of the Faith, Ireland, ought to send a shudder of shock through us Catholics of America. How did it come to this? How did 62% of the voting public of “Catholic Ireland” vote “Yes” to a redefinition of marriage in the Irish Constitution, to make marriage a union of two persons, and no longer “merely” a union of one man and one woman? This voluntary departure from Catholic Faith to be newly revised in their Constitution is even more stunning, and troubling, in the light of the beautiful and faith-filled Preamble to their Constitution:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,
Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,
And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,
Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

It is hard for an American to imagine a constitution written “in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity”! I would think I had died and woke up in the glory of the New Heavens and the New Earth! Many Irish I know would say with a twinkle in the eye that my dream would be close to the truth! But that was then, and this is now – a now that hurts deep in the heart of all faithful Catholics who mourn the fall of His Church anywhere in the world. Worse, the radical changes in the Church in Ireland have come fast. A helpful summary is found in a Crisis article “The Joyful Death of Catholic Ireland” – or a secular analysis in the Chicago Tribune, “How Catholicism fell from grace in Ireland.” As a brief summary, I would say that the collapse of the Church and her place in Irish society seems to have its origin in the growth of material success and in secular values, along with a decline in the traditional respect held for the Church (read: sex scandals).

The Tribune article includes an anecdote that seems very telling, and important, regarding the contemporary Irish Catholic reality. It is a comment from a priest in Ireland having a name that was surprising:

For the 8:30 a.m. daily mass at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, an imposing old church just off O’Connell Street in the heart of Dublin, you might expect to see Father O’Sullivan at the altar. Or perhaps Father O’Reilly or Father O’Flaherty. Father Owuamanam comes as a bit of a surprise.
But Remigius Owuamanam, a priest from Nigeria, is a good reflection of the changes that have overtaken both church and society in Ireland during the last 20 years.

Owuamanam, the Nigerian priest, joked that parishioners at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral measured his ability as a priest by how quickly he could get through the mass. “Here I try to be very fast. Twenty-five or 30 minutes. In Africa, a mass is two or three hours long,” he said. Anything less, he said, and people would feel cheated. “And in Africa, they don’t just sit and watch. They sing, they dance, they are included.” Owuamanam said he has concluded that the Irish are lacking in “spiritual energy.”

It ought to be a wake-up call to Church leadership, when an important measure of the quality of one’s worship of God is how quickly it is over. In a parish mission I attended recently, the mission priest announced that he asked the parish administrator what we parishioners wanted, and from what he was told, he thus announced to us that his mission talks would be short – out in less than an hour. Revival, in less than an hour. Renew your faith, in less than an hour. Refresh your personal relationship with almighty God, in and out in less than an hour. God have mercy on us.

The Irish Constitution first written and intended “in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity” has been most deeply violated, with a lie that would have been celebrated in Sodom and Gomorrah, and is now being celebrated in “Catholic” Ireland. Welcome to the modern, post-Christian West, with its culture and moral climate more fitting for pre-Christian paganism. The advancing culture of this hour is one called by Pope St. John Paul II “the culture of death” – a culture far from the culture of life and of love given us by Jesus and empowered in us by the Holy Spirit. This Pope wrote in Evangelium Vitae:

24. It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question, above all, of the individual conscience, as it stands before God in its singleness and uniqueness. But it is also a question, in a certain sense, of the “moral conscience” of society: in a way it too is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behavior contrary to life, but also because it encourages the “culture of death”, creating and consolidating actual “structures of sin” which go against life. The moral conscience, both individual and social, is today subjected, also as a result of the penetrating influence of the media, to an extremely serious and mortal danger: that of confusion between good and evil, precisely in relation to the fundamental right to life. A large part of contemporary society looks sadly like that humanity which Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans. It is composed “of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1:18): having denied God and believing that they can build the earthly city without him, “they became futile in their thinking” so that “their senseless minds were darkened” (1:21); “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (1:22), carrying out works deserving of death, and “they not only do them but approve those who practice them” (1:32). When conscience, this bright lamp of the soul (cf. Mt 6:22-23), calls “evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20), it is already on the path to the most alarming corruption and the darkest moral blindness.

It’s obvious, but it needs to be said: the Church must become light in this growing darkness! In America the increasing number of wholly secularized citizens of the City of Man, hostile to the City of God and to all that is of God, are a growing opposition to a culture of life, of reason and of truth. They are persistent and committed to their cause, while we in the Church seem lazy, sleepy, self-obsessed. We measure our spiritual life by how little it costs us. While they have been busy advancing their agenda, we have been busy dumbing ourselves down in the things of God, desensitizing our hearts to His gentle movements and quiet urgings, minimizing our time in His presence, and dishonoring the Name He put on our souls with shameful and hidden loves that ought not be among us. We have reduced our Church, not in all parishes but in many, to become one more large bureaucratic institution, many of our clergy merely business managers and official dispensers of ritual, many of our laity to part-time members of a nice, friendly social club, hopefully in and out in less than an hour.

Friendliness is not bad, but it does not save. Christ did not die on the Cross so that the world might become more friendly. Martyrs did not suffer death for easy truths that no one disputes or rejects. Indeed, He came not to bring peace but a sword! (Mt 10:34) And many swords drawn in this world today are aimed straight at the hearts of His followers. The Truth of Christ will draw men to salvation! And it will also enflame others in hateful and angry violence. But the Truth deserves to be proclaimed, and needs to be heard. If anything can save this world, and the men who lust to rule it, it is the Truth of Jesus Christ. If anything can expose the dark lies that infect human societies, and that can illuminate the way to lasting cultures worthy of human persons, it is the Truth of Jesus Christ. Ministers of the Church of Jesus Christ, you were entrusted! He entrusted you, and empowered and sent you! And many of you are drowsing and dozing and running out the clock on your careers. Many of you sing not anthems of truth but soothing lullabies to the people. You rock them to sleep, and they can hardly tell what is happening to them, nor what is not happening in them. Look at Ireland, ministers of the Church, and see the ugly fruit of a vineyard not cared for. See the harvest of hired men, who are not shepherds after the Good Shepherd who cares for His own. On that Day, every one of us will answer, will give account, for the fruit of his life. On that Day, all will know the immense value of the precious fruit that endures to eternal life.


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks for pointing to this sad news of present-day Ireland, and the lessons we may learn here in the USA and in other places. Our hope is always in God Who saved us, and not in man without God. In your conclusion you stated:

    Indeed, He came not to bring peace but a sword! (Mt 10:34) And many swords drawn in this world today are aimed straight at the hearts of His followers. The Truth of Christ will draw men to salvation! And it will also enflame others in hateful and angry violence. But the Truth deserves to be proclaimed, and needs to be heard.

    Your words made me think of the concluding chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which he urges the Church to be “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might….And take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”( cf Eph. 6:10 -20). We cannot know the Truth of God if we do not listen to His Truth given to us in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills to know the Truth, love the Truth and live the Truth.

    Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and He promised to send His Holy Spirit to bring us into the complete Truth. May we open our hearts to receive Him as Mary did and daily keep His Word, pondering it in our hearts. Mary knew the anger of those who hate the Truth. She and St. Joseph fled from Herod to protect the Child Jesus, and when His time came and Jesus willingly gave Himself for us, she stood beneath His Cross faithful to the end. Mary and the Church continued His Mission of Good News after He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father. His Mission, given to His Church, is ours. By His Grace may we run the race and finish well. He promised the gates of hell will not prevail. Mary, Mother of the Church pray for us.

    • Thank you, Deborah, for adding your comment – and especially this statement:
      “We cannot know the Truth of God if we do not listen to His Truth given to us in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills to know the Truth, love the Truth and live the Truth.”

      Amen to that. It is no coincidence that many, many Catholics are, shall we say, less than fluent in Scripture – and also have difficulty locating books, chapters and verses of Scripture in order to look them up. Many of us simply do not invest much if any free time reading, praying and pondering Holy Scripture. The piercing words of St. Jerome painfully come to mind:
      “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ!”

      It is one of several crucial areas of reform desperately needed in the Church to day: Catholics must become Biblically literate! The Word of God is foundational to a vibrant living Faith.

  2. Thomas, you have hit the nail on the head! Too many priests and ministers, today, are preaching the “feel good” message. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good and we should feel good about our relationship with God. HOWEVER, feeling good does not cover the whole truth! The reality is that there is a Hell, and dying with even one mortal sin on our soul will take us straight there! When is the last time you heard a priest give that message in his homily? Maybe never. We all know right from wrong, but in my own words, “once in awhile we need to get hit over the head with a 2×4 to get our attention.”. Priests and ministers must get this message to their congregations if they are going to save souls. Just feeling like you are a good person is not enough. You must be willing to sacrifice and even be persecuted to follow the teachings of Christ. And, if Mass or another Church service goes on for an hour and a half or even two hours, so be it. If the Spirit is moving, we should be rejoicing in it!

    • Thanks for your comment, Theresa. It reminds me that the primary call of the Gospel – Repent and believe the Good News – begins with the need to repent. A definitive NO to a life of sin and death must come first, before a life of trust in a loving and forgiving God can be meaningful. And in the Lord’s ways, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” The “2 x 4” message that, “Yes, there is a hell and maybe I am heading straight for it!” can be a very teachable moment.

  3. Wow, Tom, wow. You are so right. It does my heart good to hear the word spoken with love, truth and passion. I had to come back to our church because I missed hearing the truth. I pray America does not fall like Ireland did.

    • Yes, and hello Susan. Truth is beautiful, and good, and is the food that our souls were created to seek, to find, and to live. We all need to pray fervently for this country, and for the many persons here – including especially the many who know not their right hand from their left, nor up from down, nor right from wrong. And we need to pray for the Church – for all the Catholic parishes throughout the country and the world – that we embrace holy Truth and nothing less than the full revealed Truth of Christ, that we can be witness in this dark and darkening culture.


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