US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Irish church on the ropes: Now what?

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Catholic News Service has a troubling story about a forthcoming report on Catholicism in Ireland. The report of the Vatican visitation to Ireland--sent in response to that country's devastating clergy sex abuse scandal--will warn that the Irish church is near collapse, with only five- to 10-year window to salvage it. The CNS article coincides with a pretty damning New York Times Magazine article about the failures of the Irish hierarchy and current condition of the Irish church after the scandal.

It would be a profound loss indeed if the "mother church" of many American Catholics became so diminished, but the Vatican must look beyond Irish shores. Germany, another still-strong church, is reeling under a scandal of its own, prompting serious calls for reform from the nation's Catholic theologians. Sexual abuse by priests is again on the American agenda, with deeply troubling accusations in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

It is unfortunate that the bishops and especially the Vatican seem to be playing the long game on sexual abuse. A crisis of this kind demands bold action, and it should probably begin with the "dialogue without taboos" German theologians are asking for. And yet there seems to be little appetite in places of power for the kind of reform that would not only restore our Catholic credibility but equip us to move forward.

As the psalmist put it so many centuries ago: "How long, O Lord?"