There are pockets of religious vitality in Ireland, but secularization continues to transform the country. In America magazine (May 20), Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin writes that it is no longer the case of a “secularized, urban Ireland and a healthy, rural Ireland.
The same cultural processes are at work across the country.” In focusing on Dublin, Martin notes that recent research based on the 2011 census figures, which were matched to parish and diocese boundaries, found that the population of the diocese was increasing but the numbers of those registering as Catholic had remained at 1.2 million.
About one-quarter of the diocese registered as something other than Catholic, well above the national average.
“It is very clear that of the three quarters who ticked the ‘Catholic box’ on the census form, many would not be practicing or even in any real contact with the church. This gives a very different demographic picture than the one at times presented or presumed.
There are already parishes in Dublin [which are referred to as defining geographical areas] where Catholics are in a minority, and it is clear that the cultural Catholicism that today still exists will not continue forever,” Martin writes.
In parish life, at least in Dublin, Martin finds that Mass attendance is highest in middle-class parishes, “where parishioners are middleclass economically and liberal middle-of-the-road on matters of church teaching.” Where there are any signs of youth participation in church life, “it is among more conservative young Catholics,” although these movements are small and make “few inroads into the lives of their peers.” The New York Times (April 3) reports that there is an “improbable revival of the Dominican order of preachers,” even as other orders close their doors.
The Dominicans are growing in other countries as well, but its resurgence—drawing far more candidates than just the 12 men studying for the parish priesthood in the whole nation—is striking, since the order, like many others, has faced child abuse accusations. The order’s revival has coincided with Ireland’s economic crisis, though officials claim that most of the potential candidates were already in prospering careers and “came to the order because of a yearning for greater spirituality.”
Doreen Carvajal writes that it is partly the monastic garb (contrasting with traditional clerical collars) and traditions, including communal lifestyles and prayer, while allowing members to work in the outside world. The Dominicans have also recruited through the Internet earlier than other orders.