The 500-strong Association of Catholic Priests are riding high right now for all the reasons that I mentioned in the last post. They are conscientious priests who probably do not spend all their time on the golf course, or else they would not be getting so generally upset over these issues. They do actually care and want real solutions to the terrible problems that they see in the Irish Church.
On the whole, they see the problem as being largely one of a conservative Vatican reining in on all the good things that the Second Vatican Council had brought and returning to a model of 'you will take what we give you, and you will like or or lump it'. Hence their opposition to the new translation of the Mass, and hence their outrage at the insufficient reaction of the hierarchy to the pædophilia crisis.
Here the reader will not be surprised to learn that I part company with them. Not all the way: in the last post I too deplored the way that the bishops have been left undisciplined.
The trouble is that you can't keep your cake and eat it as well.
• You can't abolish sin (original and actual), hell, penance, confession, and the rest, for forty years and then reinvent them for the special case of pædophiles and complacent bishops.
• You can't (in the spirit of collegiality and Vatican II) for forty years protest Rome's interference with local bishops, and now complain that it hesitates to interfere and discipline them.
It really is all of a piece. The Church has two millennia of experience of dealing with sin, but if you are going to tie her hands behind her back and then expect her to deal decisively with a wolf when it descends on the fold, then you are going to be disappointed.
That is why I think that what the Church needs is not bishops like Willie Walsh, much-loved and kind man as he is, but men like Charles Chaput who really get it.
There are not a lot of places in Ireland where what is sometimes called the New Orthodoxy has been attempted. Parishes on the whole are very much what they were in 1970, only not quite so full. Young people have not received the opportunity to encounter the genuine faith and see its power. They just find the 1970s model unconvincing, and its strictures incomprehensible in the light of the fact that it would appear to have so little else to offer them.
I wonder whether something like World Youth Day might not do some good if it were held next in Ireland.