Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Church in Ireland (II)

More news from Ireland, where support for the Catholic church is collapsing. After a century of being the most Catholic country in Europe, Ireland is experiencing the most rapid decline in church attendance ever observed. As recently as 1990, 90% of Irish Catholics attended mass regularly, but now the figure is around 50%. Once an exporter of priests, Ireland is now facing a drastic shortage of new clergy; last year 160 priests died and nine were ordained. Part of this is probably just the result of economic growth and the greater integration of once-isolated Ireland into Europe, but the immediate cause is the enormous scandal over the abuse of children. Every leading figure of the Irish church is implicated in covering up a forest of sexual crimes and the sadistic punishment of children in church-run boarding schools. Even the Irish Catholic has called for the Archbishop of Dublin to resign.

The whole mess is the sick result of an obsession with secrecy and obedience within the church, coupled with attitudes toward sex that probably attract guilt-ridden perverts.

As an essentially secular person, I ought to celebrate the decline in what I think was the excessive power of the church in Ireland. But this crisis just makes me sad. Imagine how honest priests and kind nuns feel now when they stand up in front of people they know are imagining the worst about them. Imagine how betrayed many loyal Catholics must feel. And the victims, some of whom, we now learn, were forced as children to sign oaths of secrecy about what was done them.

No comments: