Ireland was once regarded as the most catholic Country in the World. That, though, is no longer the case.
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Mark Vincent Healy was sexually abused by a member of the Spiritan Order while at school during the 1960s and 70s. He says the sexual abuse he experienced destroyed his life.
“It had a profound psychological effect on me and the way that I made decisions in things that I wanted to do with my life, even more recently and obviously when this matter came forward and it surfaced in my life, everything changed,” he revealed to Euronews.
“It’s been now 16 years I have been seeking redress and justice but it hasn’t been an extension of justice for myself but an extension of justice to so many other survivors in Ireland.”
A ‘catastrophic’ impact on Catholicism in Ireland
Weekly Mass attendance which stood at 91% in 1975 was down to 36% in 2016 according to figures from the last Irish census.
According to critical members of the Church, there is only one way to sum up the effect that sex abuse scandals have had on Catholicism in Ireland.
“Catastrophic is the, really, the only answer for that,” said Father John Collins, from the Association of Irish Catholic Priests. “We always had an issue before the child sexual abuse scandals broke in this country.”
“There was an issue with the Church in a sense that many people who were coming forward [said] that the Church was too controlling and had too much control over their lives and people rejected that,” he added.
The behaviour of the Church in resisting to pay compensation and behaving as if nothing had happened has in the words of one catholic commentator, been detrimental to the Church in Ireland.
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“The sex abuse scandals have been absolutely devastating for the Church, not just the actual abuse itself which of course was horrific for the victims, but the fact that when the victims came forward, when they spoke to those in leadership positions within the Church, they were ignored, they were told that they were making it up, it was minimised consistently,” explained Michael Kelly, editor at the Irish Catholic Newspaper.
The Catholic church in ‘terminal decline’
The percentage of Catholics in Ireland is now just above 70% but falling. The average age of a priest in Ireland is now 70.
While sex abuse scandals have done huge damage to the institution in Ireland, it and a host of other factors suggest the catholic church is going to have to change just to hold on to what it has.
Patsy McGarry, Religious Correspondent at the Irish Times told Euronews “The catholic church is probably in terminal decline in Ireland but it’s not entirely due to the sex abuse scandals – though they have contributed enormously to what was a trend there anyhow since the late 1960s since free education was introduced into this Country.”
By all accounts, the Catholic church in Ireland is in serious trouble. The feeling is that unless the Vatican modernises or changes the rules very quickly, the church in this Country will effectively cease to be in the years and decades to come.
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