I’ve been reminiscing about the confident days of the Catholic Church in Ireland – forgot to mention the great Father McDwyer of Glencombkille who developed a remarkable co-operative movement in a remote valley in Donegal..
The Irish Times reports the slightly less confident sermon by the good and gentle Archbishop Sean Brady at Knock Shrine. He speaks of those who claim to have set Ireland ‘free from the shackles of religious faith’ and who are now silent ‘in the face of the real captivities of the new Ireland’. I wonder who makes that claim?
It seems to me he rather misses the point by getting caught up in talking about Tarot Cards, etc. But there is an important discussion – as appropriate in Scotland as in Ireland – about the contribution of churches to a society which has shaken off the ethos of a dominant church and moved rapidly to being quasi-liberal/secular. I’m not sure how useful it is to say that ‘many Irish people have not so much rejected their faith as become distracted from the faith. People are seeking to control their future rather than entrust their future to God’s promise and plan.’
I suspect that the horse is well out of the stable on that one – indeed today’s Independent reports that levels of personal debt in Britain now exceed the total size of the economy – suggesting that people actually have a blithe disregard for the future.
It seems to me that the point is much more to do with the danger that a secular and increasingly value-free society may actually become relaxed about freedom and justice issues – may become more individualistic and less community-minded. It seems to me that the issue is really about values and where they come from – when the position of a church and churches is no longer central to the ethos of that society.