Putting the Fun Back Into Fundamental

The Irish Times, that bastion of journalistic integrity, has printed an article in today’s edition by a priest of the Clogher diocese maintaining that ‘fundamentalist Catholics are turning people off Church in Ireland’.  The author of the article, Fr. Joe McVeigh, never specifies what he means by the label ‘fundamentalist’ but it is quite clear that he is not all that keen on such people.  He accuses them of having “eccentric religious practices”.  He has the answer to the multifarious problems present in his dying diocese though, and explains;

“During a recent discussion about the future with the other priests in our parish in Enniskillen, it occurred to me that the most urgent need in our church is not for deacons or priests but for qualified catechists who would lead the people in reflecting on the scriptures.

It could be done along the lines of Lectio Divina, but with a strong emphasis on reading the word from the viewpoint of the poor and marginalised. That is how I saw it being done in parishes on a visit to El Salvador. This is the only way that renewal will take place in the Irish church in my lifetime.

The truth is that Ireland is now mission country and an effective missionary strategy along the lines of the church in Latin America offers the best hope for reenergising the Irish church.

There is so much richness that has not been explored. The emphasis has been too much on the sacraments and fulfilling duties. There was little emphasis on adult faith formation, based on reflecting and praying the scriptures in small groups.”

What I read here is a priest who is utterly clueless regarding the Catholic Faith.  I have no problem with adult catechesis but the idea that leading people in bible study is going to reverse what appears to be a terminal process of decay within Clogher diocese is laughable.  The truth is that what Clogher needs (along with every other diocese in Ireland) is classes in Catholic doctrine.  The Bible has to be read and interpreted according to the mind of the Church and it helps to know what the Church teaches.  Any other approach to catechesis will end in more cluelessness.  The article seems to reflect the attitude to religion common amongst the mass media and I also hear echoes of the present pontiff’s candyfloss philosophy.

More than anything else the article describes the direction being taken by the Church as a whole in Ireland.  As the author of the article states;

“The scarcity of priests in our diocese of Clogher has hit home in Enniskillen. There used to be five priests. We now have one parish priest, one full-time curate and one semi-retired priest for 3,000 families and 9,000 parishioners”.  

As the old saying goes “Never let a good crisis go to waste”, and those in authority in the Catholic Church in Ireland are slowly making use of the collapse of priestly and religious vocations to usher in a lay operated Church.  Truth to tell this effort to Protestantise the Church has been on going since the sixties.  The work is almost done.  The present pontiff is slowly making people realise that one has to choose between the perennial teaching of the Church or the personal and frequently heretical opinions of Churchmen.

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