Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is Ireland still Catholic?

Is Ireland still Catholic? That question is being asked following the publication in Dublin, April 12, of a major survey of the views of contemporary Irish Catholics.

The survey reveals that a majority hold views on sexual morality, celibacy, the ordination of women, homosexuality and several other issues that are in contrast with current Catholic Church teaching.

In response to the shortage of priests, 87% of Irish Catholics say priests should be allowed to marry, 77% support women’s ordination, 72% favor the ordination of mature married men. Even more significantly, 75% say the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality is not relevant to their own lives or to their families. The 25% that find such teachings relevant are frequent church -goers or people over 55.

An overwhelming 87% think that Catholics who are separated or divorced and now living in a second stable relationship should be allowed to receive communion at Mass. There was considerable disagreement regarding the Catholic Church’s teaching that any sexual expression of love between gay couples is immoral: 61% disagree, 18% agree, while 21% do not have an opinion.

At the same time, however, a majority of Irish Catholics think their Church should speak out on current issues that effect the nation: 80% say it should speak out on social issues, 63% on economic matters, and 54% on climate change

A majority too (56%) values the fact that the International Eucharistic Congress is being held in Dublin. They see it as an opportunity, first, to renew their faith and, secondly, to showcase Ireland to the rest of the world.

Almost two thirds of Irish Catholics told researchers that they want a greater voice in the selection of bishops, while 55% think a bishop should serve for a fixed term. Some 57% say their Church is “subservient to Rome”, while 12% hold that is still has “some independence”.

Asked whether the leaders of the Irish Catholic Church, including the bishops, understand the challenges faced by Irish Catholics, respondents divided evenly: 46% (those over 55% and weekly Mass goers) said ‘yes’, 45% said ‘no’.

Some 42% support the idea that local Catholic Churches at a national level should be allowed to develop their own liturgies with certain guidelines from Rome, 23% oppose this suggestion, while 35% don’t know. Many are unsure about the language used in the new Missal, while 53% founder the older version of the Missal more “user-friendly”.

The survey was commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland (820 of the country’s 3,400 priests are ACP members). Its aim was to assess the views of an estimated 4.5 million Catholics throughout Ireland (North and South) to changes in Church structures and to the relevance of contemporary Church teaching in key areas of their daily life.

It also sought to understand how Irish Catholics view the liturgy, especially the new translation of the Missal, and the International Eucharistic Congress that will be held in Dublin in June.

A robust sample of 1,000 Catholics was identified, giving due consideration for such factors as gender, age, social class, region, and frequency of attendance at mass.

A key factor in the survey related to mass attendance. Among the 1000 Catholics interviewed, 35% went to mass at least once per week; 36% went a few times a year; 27% less often (mainly for celebratory or religious occasions), while 5% never attended mass. Only those who defined themselves as Catholics were interviewed. The sample allows for a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

- Vatican Insider

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