In this week’s blog Fr Paddy writes about the struggle of the Catholic Church in Ireland to respond to an overwhelming need for renewal and reform.

Fr. Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist papers.
This column appeared in the edition published 25th May 2010.

One year after the publication of the Ryan Report the Catholic Church in Ireland struggles to respond to an overwhelming need for renewal and reform. Pope Benedict, during his recent visit to Fatima, suggested the grave problems within the institutional Church, comes from its ordained members within and not outside forces. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin courageously spoke recently of his anxiety and burden, since the publication of the Murphy Report, regarding the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland because of Strong Forces. While not naming such people, he pointed to how the culture of denial, cover up and upholding the institution continues at many levels to prevail within the Irish Church. He prophetically longs for rejuvenation for all our faith communities, reclaiming the Kingdom and Gospel values, so badly needed in our finding new pathways of renewal and reform.

Cardinal Sean Brady, reflecting on the reasons why he wishes to continue to lead the Catholic Church in Ireland, accepted publically how discredited his position may be perceived. The Cardinal stated,

I know that this is painful, even if I am a lame duck cardinal, it is the right thing to do and that is what I am prepared to do even if it costs me great personal sacrifice.

A reflection, I believe, in stark contrast to the resignation statement of Bishop Jim Moriarty who resigned from his leadership role, because he put victims before his rank and office,

I did not challenge the prevailing culture.

In a time of such crisis, is it good enough, to have a shepherd, prepared to lead and yet being pragmatic enough to recognize himself as a Lame Duck?

These are really turbulent times for the Irish Catholic Church. Its initial response rightly, to the Ryan and Murphy reports, was in establishing and continuing absolute best practice when it comes to safeguarding children. Putting in place in all our parishes, excellent child protection procedures and making sure that the dreadful darkness of the past will never be visited on children again, now or in the future. Many listening meetings have taken place in our diocese and across the country, reflecting on these shocking reports and the publication of Pope Benedicts pastoral letter. Many people including religious and priests have spoken of their disillusionment, hurt and anguish when considering the terrible reality published in the Ryan and Murphy reports.

The last year will be remembered as a time of great pain, not just to the heroic survivors of these reports, but for all within the Church. There is in a time of crisis an appetite for change and renewal. We can never just Get back to normal again. There is a need for a fundamental reform within the Catholic Church. Its not just good enough, as we struggle to look forward, to realize that lay leadership is necessary because in 10 years time we may have less than 50 active priests in the diocese. Reform begins with our own personal conversion. Embracing the freedom of Gospel values and letting go of the heavy dark baggage of an institution discredited and failing to connect where so many find themselves to be.

A Church enthused by the Spirit, celebrating Christs compassion and hope, is the pathway that leads to renewal and reform.