One third of Irish Catholics may attend mass every week, one of the highest numbers in Europe, but they strongly disagree with the Church’s teachings on sex.
Commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests, the Contemporary Catholic Perspectives survey was carried out among 1,000 Catholics throughout the island of Ireland over a two-week period in February.
It found that 75% thought that what the Church had to say on sexuality had “no relevance.”
87% said that they believed that priests should be allowed to marry, 77% believed there should be women priests and 72% believed that older married men should be allowed to become priests.
61% disagreed with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. Less than a fifth thought that homosexuality is immoral.
Divorced and/or separated people in a second stable relationship should be allowed to take Communion, according to 87%, with just 5% saying they should not.
According to the United Nation’s 2010 Human Development Index, Ireland has the world’s largest percentage of married women under 49 using contraception.
A survey carried out in 2008 showed that 84% of Irish people supported civil marriage or civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples, with 58% supporting full marriage rights in registry offices.
The Catholic priests’ association is regarded as ‘liberal’ and one of its leaders, Fr Tony Flannery, is being disciplined by Rome by being sent to a monastery where he might “pray and reflect” on his liberal views and his role with the association as well as being blocked from either writing or talking to the media. Flannery’s association described the Vatican’s move against him as “an extremely ill-advised intervention in the present pastoral context in Ireland.”
The move against Flannery is being seen in the context of the recent slamming by the Pope of a call to disobedience by Austrian priests and laity on celibacy and women priests. The Vatican’s actions have been “designed to create a climate of fear among liberal clerics,” critics charge.
One of the Catholic priests’ association’s other leaders, Fr Brendan Hoban, told the BBC that the numbers the survey found were “startling” but reflected Irish priest’s experience.
“We had the feeling all along that the way lay Catholics were being presented – as a very traditional, a very conservative group of people who weren’t open to change and were happy with the way things were and – we felt anedotally from our own experience in parishes around the country that that wasn’t the case.”
“The perception that Rome has of the Church in Ireland is very different from the perception on the ground,” Fr Hoban said.
84% of Irish people describe themselves as Catholic. In an Editorial, the Irish Times said that the Church had suffered a loss of authority “caused by sex abuse scandals and extensive cover-ups, along with the emphasis placed on personal conscience by Vatican II.”
“Rome may not be listening to the views of ordinary Irish Catholics. But there is nothing new in that,” the Times said
Photo credit: Father Ted screengrab by twm1340