ACP Survey into Irish Catholicism

Irish? Catholic? Have Irish Catholic family? Heard about this?

At a time when so many are moving closer to Rome; SSPX, Anglo Catholics, Orthodox, and despite the well documented problems in the Church in Ireland, which some have postulated, is a direct result of the fact that the rule of Canon Law has ceased on the Emerald Isle, the ACP- Association of Catholic Priests (820 of the country’s 3,400 priests are ACP members) have commissioned a survey demonstrating once again, for all the world to see, their incredibly blinkered parochial attitude as to what should constitute the Catholic faith. 

This poll, the result of result of 40 years brainwashing for Liberal Catholicism from RTE & the newspapers, combined with a total absence of catechesis, authentic dialogue and proper philosophical grounding, tells us one thing more than any other: that most Irish Catholics don't know their faith.

87% of Irish Catholics say priests should be allowed to marry, 77% support women’s ordination, 72% favour the ordination of mature married men, 75% say the Church’s teaching on sexuality is not relevant to their own lives or to their family's, 87% think that Catholics who are separated or divorced and now living in a second stable relationship should be allowed to receive communion at Mass, 61% disagree that any sexual expression of love between gay couples is immoral.

These results serve to confirm my diagnosis that Ireland, the land from whence I inherited my faith, that Christian, holy, Island, the land of saints and scholars, has come to a position where the Faith is prevalently cultural and superstitious, rarely genuinely orthodox (which, by the way, means "right thinking", not blinkered or controlled) liturgy is abysmal and an authentic intellectual apologia is missing from the general narrative. Instead, the people are fed disinformation and heterodox positions on a broad spectrum of religious issues. God only knows who would choose to represent this quagmire of quasi-religion, but those brave few who are called also appear to be confused and uneducated about what the Church actually teaches:

This confusion is evidenced by none better than the Redemptorist 'priest' Tony Flannery who has been screaming heresy for as long as I can remember moaning that religious life is dead and that the Church is woeful. It must be so depressing for him and his ilk to see the Church growing and a resurgence of orthodox, intelligent Catholicism.

The constant bleating  from the likes of Flannery and his cohort Moloney (who's main aim in life seems to be to facilitate a slagging off of the New Translation, there being four pages of this in the Redemptorist magazine, amusing titled Reality, which he edits) takes no account of the universal nature of the Church, which is καθολικός "concerning the whole, universal". Their attitudes show no thought of issues like ecumenism with the Orthodox churches? What about African attitudes? They only consider the Church in Ireland, and repeat mantras like "church is about people, not power" (a direct quote from the ACP website). 
What a narrow ecclesiology, and what a blinkered understanding the documents of Vatican II they cling too so desperately. Documents which specifically address this, expounded an ecclesiology which has both a horizontal and a vertical dimension and consisting of the faithful and a hierarchy cf. Lumen Gentium.

Basically, I'm amazed that despite the clear problems, leaders of the Irish Church continue to condemn orthodoxy as some kind of submission to Rome, as if adherence to the Magisterium would somehow render them impudent as theologians. They thus continue to erode the faith of Irish Catholics...Soon there will be nothing left.

A couple of pertinent comments, the first from the Irish Catholics forumThis is good take on the survey if a bit over analytical, but the point made on the structure of questions is a valid one I think:

The major problem with this sort of survey is that it discounts the idea of truth in favour of relevance - i.e. if the majority think the earth is flat, young-earth creationism is true, etc that would not make these statements true in fact. The implicit message is that the teaching should change to fit public opinion, not that the public should be evangelised to help them understand the teaching.

Although the survey is professionally done, a couple of the questions strike me as extremely biased:
In the question on "Relationship between Irish Catholic Church and Rome" the ends of the scale are "independent" and "subservient" on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is completely subservient and 5 is completely independent. This betrays an underlying assumption that Roman authority over the Church in Ireland is undesirable/to be minimised, and will shape the response since people do not want to describe themselves as "subservient". (A traditionalist equivalent would be to have the ends of the scale as "faithful" and "unfaithful" to Rome.)
They would have done better to include two questions in this section - the first asking how close the respondent thought the Irish Church should be to Rome, the second asking how close in the respondent's opinion the Irish Church actually is to Rome.

Responses to the question on whether priests and laypeople should be more involved in choosing their bishop than at present is presented as showing "clear requirement for more involvement with minimal support for less involvement" - but the poll findings show that among priests the two "conservative" options - less involvement and status quo - has more support than "more involvement". By treating the "conservative" position as "less involvement" and overlooking "status quo" the presentation minimises "conservative" support. It also noticeably fails to define what is meant by "more involvement" (or for that matter, "less involvement" - lotteries with the Pope drawing names out of a hat?). "More involvement" could mean anything from a return to the nineteenth-century terna system (the priests of the diocese hold formal elections and the three names with most support are sent to Rome) to lay election of bishops without Roman confirmation.

In the question on "Addressing the Shortage of Priests" the only options which are offered are ordaining married men (i.e. the Eastern discipline), allowing priests to marry (a la Protestant denominations), ordaining women, and clustering parishes. The implication is that the only alternatives to the priest shortage are the "liberal" options. Now conservatives/traditionalists would argue that there are other ways of addressing the priest shortage:
(a) Placing greater emphasis on priestly identity and the specific graces of priesthood, in order to inspire more men to come forward/persist - this is based on the argument that no-one will make sacrifices for what is unclear/undervalued.
(b) More determined recruitment, including targeting younger candidates rather than telling them to "go away for a few years and come back when you've experience of the world". (There are even some conservative/traditionalist groups who want to return to the old system of minor seminaries, selecting candidates aged 12/13 and educating them towards the priesthood.)
(3) More structured seminary education with a greater emphasis on orthodoxy, so as to reduce drop-out from seminary/subsequent defection by those ordained.
Obviously cases can be made against these views (for example, the minor seminary system was highly problematic as it tended to produce emotionally-retarded delayed adolescents, and it posed problems both for those asked to make such a major commitment at such a young age, and for its tendency to attract some candidates who used it to gain an education at the church's expense without ever intending to be ordained) - but this is not intended to measure what would actually work but what people think might work. The way the results are presented implies that the only possible solutions to the vocations crisis are "liberal" ones.

Furthermore presenting the issues of clerical celibacy and women's ordination ONLY in terms of "addressing the shortage of priests" ignores the possibility that there might be substantive theological questions involved in these matters. 

The question on liturgical attitudes doesn't discard those self-identified Catholics who never attend Mass (!), implicitly treats "Don't Knows" as agreeing with the "liberal" view, and doesn't ask WHY those who prefer the old translation do so (which would differentiate those who find it more familiar from those who object in principled grounds). This contrasts with the Eucharistic Congress questions, which go to some lengths to differentiate respondents' attitudes.

The question about whether national churches should develop their own liturgies "within guidelines laid down by Rome" seems intended to maximise support by its reference to Rome (even though the ACPI's views imply that Rome would have no power to enforce these guidelines, which would mean they would rapidly become a dead letter in practice). Presenting a direct choice between having it determined by Rome and at national level might produce a different result.

The second is from the consistently erudite Richard Waghorne:

Should the poll have found that a majority of Irish Catholics reject the ordination of women, would the ACP have accepted the result? Let us rephrase the question to exclude speculation about what the ACP might or might not do in certain eventualities. Ought the ACP to have accepted the result, we should say, were a majority of Irish Catholics to reject the ACP’s own campaign?
We answer this question using only the ACP’s own implied ratio decidendi. Their referral of doctrinal matters to opinion polling demonstrates a belief that polling data is doctrinally authoritative. To be consistent, this must be true whatever opinion polling might return by way of a result.

The most obvious observation is that opinion polling, which is to say public opinion, is not stable. Results obtaining today may not obtain in the future, and may contradict the past. This would mean that the Catholic Church was correct not to ordain women in 1900, is correct to ordain women in 2012, and will be incorrect in ordaining women in 2100, should opinion polling then show settled opposition to the ordination of women. This is absurd.

Or, we may ask whether the ACP’s referral of doctrinal matters to the judex of opinion polls has any limiting principle built in. At no point has the ACP stated that in which, on their account, the core of Catholicism consists; that is to say, never has the ACP clarified that which, in their account, is not up for negotiation or alteration. If there were no such core, anything particular to the Catholic Church could in principle be altered or discarded. No core means that the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, or the doctrines of the Resurrection and the Eucharist, or the authority of Sacred Scripture, would all, and much else besides, in principle be liable to be discarded at the point when a majority of lay Catholics should renounce them, whether through the mechanism of a priest-commissioned opinion poll or otherwise.

If that were in principle possible, there could be no Church in the sense of a claim to embody transcendent truth. In other words, if everything is negotiable in principle, nothing is stable; no basis exists on which Catholicism could with any intellectual honesty assert its self-definition as being a religion rather than merely a volunteer community group with a rich artistic and architectural heritage.

Let us presume that the ACP would indeed, if it spoke to the question, agree that there is a core of Catholicism that is beyond negotiation, or alteration according to the vagaries of what a scarcely catechised laity might tell pollsters over the telephone. If this non-negotiable minimum exists, it necessarily, according to no more than the rules of logic, remains non-negotiable even if it is someday contradicted by an opinion poll. Indeed, it remains non-negotiable even if contradicted by the settled opinion of Catholic laity over a protracted period of time. If the ACP were to accept that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ never has been, is not, and never will be something the Catholic Church can be required to deny, that would remain true for centuries. No quantity of centuries’ worth of opinion polling would overturn the Catholic Church’s requirement to uphold that doctrine, even if polling results throughout the centuries returned a contrary viewpoint. The consequence is unavoidable from the admission that in principle there must be a non-negotiable core doctrine of Catholicism: ultimately, no number of opinion polls could ever prevail against it. We can by now see the intellectual fraud perpetrated by the Association of Catholic Priest. Their method of proceeding to address the question of the ordination of women and other questions requires the Church to deny its right to make any claims to truth, in other words, to remain a religion rather than an unnecessarily-vested liturgical counterpart to secularism denial of the possibility of revealed truth.

"While some reactionary fringe groups have contrived to portray our association as a small coterie of radical priests with a radical agenda, we have protested vehemently against that unfair depiction. We are and we wish to remain at the very heart of the Church, committed to putting into place the reforms of the Second Vatican Council." ~Association of Catholic Priests

If opinion polling is a legitimate vehicle for deciding the future of Catholic doctrine, we may ask by what right the Association of Catholic Priests constitute themselves as the spokesmen of Irish priests. Their membership is a very small fraction of the number of priests in Ireland. In other words, an overwhelming majority of Irish priests have rejected the option of becoming members of the Association of Catholic Priests. Logically, according to its own rules of adjudicating such decisions, the ACP should bow to the majority opinion and either disband itself or speak the doctrine of the Catholic Church as stands.
The defensive tone in the above quotation is striking. A small number of petulant Irish priests have undemocratically appointed themselves as spokesmen for Irish clerics in defiance of their own rules of reasoning, while proceeding in such a manner as would catastrophically dissolve any teaching authority on the part of the Catholic Church by asserting what could be termed the hermeneutic of majoritarianism.
Here is the truth. Ready? Liberal Churches are failing. As the quote on Richard's page intimates, those where their every ‘remedy’ has been introduced are not thriving. Worse than that, why have they shrivelled up even faster than the churches that have not altered their teachings. Catholic religious orders who have retained their authentic catholicity continue to attract vocations. The SSPX constitutes over 40,000 souls, the Latin Mass Society in this country continues growing and Summorium Pontificum has facilitated a renewal of interest in all things liturgical. 

Lex orandilex credendi; authentic Catholic teaching, proper sacred liturgy, the eternal truths of the faith constitute an objective reality which continues to appeal to people, whether or not it is 'counter cultural'. The APC position is merely what's referred to in philosophical circles as an argumentum ad populum and does not constitute truth because they have failed to pass on the authentic teaching of the Church. 

These are their death throws. The 40 year experiment into liberalism is over and it has taught us that relativism cannot defend anything, not even itself.

I would like to thank Humphrey Canniffe (@rareauldfool on Twitter) for directing me to some excellent sources for this blog.

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