The Catholic Church in Ireland has never been in as tenuous a situation as it is now. As with much of the world, the people of Ireland are tired of the Catholic Church being intrusive into the nation’s politics as well as the manner in which they covered up the sexual abuse of children. Some 20,000 Catholics, mostly from outside of Ireland, gathered for the open-air Mass held in a Dublin stadium to mark the start of the Eucharistic Congress, which is set to last a week.
The gathering has been held every four years since 1926. Prior to that, it was held ever year from its inception in 1881. It was last held in 2008 in Quebec.
The Church is facing problems with some of its core beliefs. A recent poll of Irish Catholics found that two-thirds of them do not believe in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine during Mass. They do not believe that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. The polling also found that just 38% of Irish believe that the nation would be in worse shape without the church being in dominance. What is worse, only three-fifths of Catholics knew that the Eucharistic Congress was even going to be in Ireland.
What is more, protests greeted the open-air Mass. Back in 1932, the last time the Eucharistic Congress was in Dublin, more than 1 million people packed into Dublin’s Phoenix Park for the Mass. This time, the Catholic pilgrims passed protesters from Survivors of Child Abuse, which is a group dedicated to helping the victims of pedophile priests.
What is more “Ireland’s opening soccer match Sunday in the European Championship is dominating public attention and excitement. So much so that the congress blog had to point out to visitors that all the Irish flags on display on buildings, shops and taxis represented excitement about the football, not the faith.”
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the President of the Eucharistic Congress, stated that he does respect the right for the protesters to gather, and said that he and the other church leaders would address the sins of the Church during sermons this week. They started by unveiling of a symbolic “healing stone” which features a poem written by a victim of a pedophile priest.
Still, Marin did not shy away from the fact that the Church is facing huge problems. He stated
“The church is in crisis in Ireland, and that crisis is very, very deep. But … we’re turning the corner to be a very different church to the one we were. The difference will be reflected perhaps in the Eucharistic Congress. It won’t resemble the 1932 congress in any way.”
The Irish Times stated that:
“The return of the Eucharistic Congress offers an escape from the trauma of a decade in which the moral standing of the institutional church has been ravaged by its systematic collusion with the abuse of children. … But most of those who will come to celebrate at the congress will be fully aware that the identity they cherish cannot be sustained by dreams of a return to the triumphalist Catholicism of 1932. That world is dead.
“Ireland will never again be a monolithic culture in which a single hierarchical institution can enjoy such power and prestige. And nor should it be. The darker consequences of that culture are now all too well known.”
Part of the problem is that the Catholic Church refuses to realize that the world of today is not the world that it was back in 1932, or even 1432. The policies from Pope Benedict have reflected this lack of comprehension when it comes to the modern world.