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Written by Michael Fones   
Saturday, 26 May 2007 05:46
My friend Pat, a lover of all things Irish, was lamenting the loss of Irish traditional culture under the tidal wave of cash generated by the "Celtic Tiger" the other day. The next day, she sent me an interesting link to a BBC article on the influence of immigrants from Poland, of all places, on the Irish Catholic Church. It's quite a change for Ireland to become a destination for immigrants. You can link to the article by double-clicking the title of this post (which was Pat's comment in her e-mail to me!)

The Irish Catholic Church has lost influence in Irish society due to sexual scandals similar to those that occurred in the U.S. immigrants often leave their homeland in search for a better life elsewhere, as millions of Irish men and women did when they came to this land. I wonder if Polish immigrants to Ireland are holding on to their Catholic faith and Polish Catholic traditions as a way to hold on to their identity in a new, foreign culture.

A few paragraphs got me thinking, too -

"The Polish mass lasts 90 minutes and many of the faithful remain afterwards for a separate service remembering the late Pope John Paul II. It is reminiscent of an Irish Catholic Church of 20 years ago. Vibrant, busy, dedicated.

The Bishop of Cork and Ross, John Buckley, drops into the service to greet this new congregation and to urge them to support Cork in upcoming sporting events. He readily accepts that the immigrant community is a lifeline for the Church, with many Irish Catholics having left following a difficult period of public scandals.

'We have had problems in the Church, but we have dealt with them, unlike secular society,' he told the BBC News website.

'I believe Irish people still have an affiliation with their Catholic faith. The Sunday obligation to attend mass may no longer be relevant in people's lives, but on the big occasions like weddings, funerals, baptisms, the faith is still there and evident.'"

1) It's disheartening to hear a bishop to sound like he's accepting a mere "affiliation" with the faith on the part of the people of his diocese. Can he truly be comfortable with a kind of cultural Catholicism? A living faith is more than Church attendance, particularly when it's only on "big occasions."

2) The American Church has experienced the same kind of scandals. I don't know if the sexual abuse by clergy was more widespread in Ireland, but why has participation in Church and a decrease in those claiming to be Catholic decreased in Ireland, but not in the U.S.?

3) The Irish Church of 20 years ago may have had busy parishes, but something was missing if it could be in collapse so suddenly. Perhaps the missing piece was a more intentional discipleship in which the faith was lived throughout the week, and informed decisions made at the workplace, home, and even the pub.

I welcome any comments and insights you may have.

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