Survey says: Irish Catholics are in a different place than their leaders

The Association of Catholic Priests recently commissioned a survey of Catholics in Ireland for their thoughts on the new translation and other controversial issues. (In Ireland, the new translation of the Mass was introduced last September for the people’s parts.) Respondents were limited to self-identifying Catholics. Margin of error is 3.1%. Among the interesting findings:

* New translation: 22% favorable/very favorable; 43% unfavorable/very unfavorable.

* 53% think old translation is more user-friendly; 12% think the new one is.

* 78% prefer “And also with you,” compared to 10% for “And with your spirit.”

* 67% favor “For us and for our salvation,” 16% favor “for us men and for our salvation.”

* Development of national liturgy within Roman guidelines favored by 42%, with 23% opposed.

* Church’s sexual teachers are relevant to 25%, not relevant to 75%.

* Homosexuality: 61% believe it is not wrong; 18% believe it is immoral.

* Communion for remarrieds: favored by 87%, with 5% opposed.

* Is the voice of laypeople heard about worship? 20% say yes, 46% no.

* Selection of bishops: 45% of clergy want more involvement of priests and laity, as do 63% of laypeople.

* Married priests: 87% support (90% of those age 35-54).

* Women’s ordination: 77% support (81% of women).

See the full report here.







  1. Jesus’ own “opinion poll” –“Who do people say that I am?”– produced interesting answers, all wrong. The ‘sensus fidelium” is invaluable so long as the ‘fidelii” remain rooted
    “in fidei”. But that faith must be more than just taught; it must be modelled.
    After the last Consistory I was with a group of adults watching news video/commentary about the new Cardinals. An attorney is our group wondered why the Cardinals promise not to do or reveal anything to embarras the Church when (in his opinion) it is Jesus and His Gospel that deserve ultimate loyalty. A remark about cardinals wearing red to symbolize their willingness to shed their blood for the faith elicited groans from most of the group. The feeliong was 1st world bishops can’t hold a candle to 3rd world bishops (and laity) who actually fo shed their blood for the faith. So the “rightness” or the “wrongness” of the desires expressed in the Irish survey will only be communicated effectively by those perceived to have a loyalty to something beyond their own ambitions

  2. Most will say this (or any similar) polling data is irrelevant, but I say it is very relevant if the leaders of the church in Ireland want to do something that will stop the great loss of members it portends. Church authorities should stop lumping in disciplinary and doctrinal matters as if no changes are possible. One can only wonder what kind of valuable information we could learn if the bishops got out in front and financed a survey of all practicing Catholics on matters such as these. They could even ask a question about women’s involvement in church leadership that didn’t advocate a change in the stance against women’s ordination. If we are against ordaining women as priests, are we in favor of them being ordained deacons? Could they be trained as “pastoral leaders” of parishes without priests? Might they be appointed as cardinals? The Bishops often seem terrified to trust the faith of the people. This can come across as religious superiority based mostly on the fact that they have more schooling in theology.

  3. Let us start with a premise that at a certain point in time, the Irish were devout Catholics in agreement with and respectful of the hierarchy. Now they disagree with the hierarchy on a multitude of subjects. Why would they have taken a different path? Is it because they are now wealthy and don’t need the Church? Is it disgust with institutional sins such as the Magdalene laundries? Or is it possible that they have moved forward in their pilgrimage while the hierarchy has not?

    1. “Why would they have taken a different path?”

      To a significant degree, in the modern world, the secular culture has more influence on them than does the Catholic Tradition. Personal feelings have become paramount. The past is increasingly irrelevant. People are much more familiar, and comfortable, with the modern, secular culture. It reinforces their pre-conceived needs and desires.

      In addition, modern Man has “interiorized” faith, leading to a self-centered core of belief, that is reinforced through the inclinations of the modern secular culture.

  4. It seems like many of the issues on which the hierarchy and the faithful disagree are ones that are open to interpretation and not based on teachings in the gospels – other Christian denominations have come to different conclusions about them. Why is it so important to the hierarchy that there be no women or married priests, that gays and lesbians are kept from full citizenship, that only Vox Clara gets to decide what makes a good translation?

    1. Why are individual, even relatively minor, moral truths of any importance? “For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it.”

      1. But the church does pick and choose … I think there are more prohibitions against usury, for instance, than homosexuality in the bible, yet the church makes a profit from lending money with its own bank.

  5. Having taken a quick look through the survey, it appears to have been well done.

    When a survey is undertaken by an interest group, whether the hierarchy or a reform group, it is tempting to dismiss the survey because obviously the interest group had some influence on which questions were asked. Such people are legitimate targets, and it is well to question their reasons for doing the survey and the uses they plan for the survey.

    However it is another thing to dismiss the respondents’ answers because they disagree with us. We should always be seeking understanding about why people think and feel the way they do. If we truly think they are wrong and perhaps their salvation hangs in the balance we should be even more interested in their opinions.

  6. As someone who received his religious and theological formation in Ireland in the 1970’s I am not really surprised by this report. Among my formation experiences were teaching religion in high school,and working with the student council – later becoming the student union in the face of still opposition from the then adminstration at Maynooth – and it was already obvious that the clergy of that era were out of touch with the young people of that era. Those young people are of course now the parents of the younger generation who have drifted away or are turning their backs on the Church.
    I moved out of Ireland after ordination, coming here to Japan, but in the intervening years I haven’t been impressed by what I saw or heard whenever I went back for home leave.
    My younger brother, who like myself was born and brought up in the UK, returned to Ireland to work there some years ago now. He is still, as they say, a “practicing” Catholic, but on those occasions when I have joined him in attending Mass on a Sunday, it has been a depressing experience. His own children are also showing signs of disaffection with the Church, and he is at a loss as to whom to turn to for help and advice.
    And we shall also pass over the drop off in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, leaving it to others to offer any suggestions on what now needs to be done.

  7. It must have really shocked them to find out that most people think the Eucharistic Congress is a good idea, and by a ratio of 3 to 1 they think now is a good time for it. I wonder if the ACP will drop its anti-Congress platform?

    1. I think the support for the Congress is rather ambivalent:

      Almost 3 in 5 believe that there is value in the Eucharistic Congress being held in Ireland in 2012, with the opportunity for people to renew their faith the primary benefit, followed by show casing Ireland to the rest of the Catholic world.

      Slightly fewer believe that the timing is right for the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Ireland, with the expense of the Congress and the negativity surrounding the scandals which the Church are facing being cited as the primary reasons.

      Little awareness of parish laypeople being involved in the Eucharistic Congress with only 1 in 10 (13%) of Catholics being aware of their involvement. Just over 1 in 2 (54%) are not sure if local laypeople are involved in preparing for the celebration.

  8. I’d be curious about the result of a possible follow-up survey directed at the less-churchgoing portion of the survey pool: “If certain things changed (celibacy optional for priests, more women in ministry, more agreeable mass translation, toned-down pronouncements from the hierarchy about sexual morality, different procedures for selecting bishops…), would you be more likely to attend mass regularly and to be involved in the Church?”

    I mean that at face value—I don’t know what the respondents would say, and I’d be interested in the results. From the brief summary of the findings, I can’t tell whether people are keeping their distance because of policies they don’t like, or whether they are sniping at an institution they’ve checked out from.

    I’d be even more curious about how the hierarchy would react to the results of such a follow-up survey…

  9. Like Austria, it seems Ireland is no longer Catholic. These results simply show that people are more content to invent a new religion than change their moral behavior. Likewise, the new translation is simply too Catholic by being so challenging to their secular beliefs.

  10. You know, when you look at the poll and the questions what strikes me is that most of what is questioned is “baggage” that has been tacked on by the hierarchy over the years.

    Some examples,

    mandatory celibacy,

    elimination of the laity in choosing their bishops from their own diocese,

    national liturgies or removal of local liturgical influences

    the hierarchy’s obsession w/ all matters sexual to the point it seems almost prurient

    female clergy ie deacons (poor Phoebe must be turning over in her grave). Female priests up for discussion (the CCC states that only the bishop possesses full apostolic authority and succession, not the bishop’s assistant, parish priest).

    Time to clean house and return to when most of the above was not mandated. As they used to say, I like religion but without all the baggage.

      1. I am very ignorant about the letters of St. Paul. but is it not possible that St. Paul placed much more emphasis on other matters and later authors attached their own concerns about sexual mores to his letters?

      2. Brigid the point is that from the very beginning, the teaching of Christ as authentically presented by his Apostles in the Holy Scriptures has been concered with the prevention of sexual immorality among the faithful. It’s not some latter day obsession of “almost prurient” bishops.

      3. Can you show me Sam where St. Paul instructs his presbyters on the proper method of assessing vaginal secretions to determine if a woman can have intercourse without the risk for pregnancy?

      4. re: Samuel J. Howard on April 13, 2012 – 9:41 am

        Sam, the truths of the faith do not change. Still, sociocultural circumstances do change. Paul, the “deutero-Pauls”, and the authors of the pastoral epistles wrote within the reference-frame of the hellenistic-Roman familial and social structure. Indeed, the Roman emperor was styled the paterfamilias, the householder, of the entire empire. The paterfamilias of a clan (ideally) held life and death power over family subordinates (younger men, women, and children.) This social construction of complete and unitary male dominance over a family and society is foreign to citizens of today’s secular democratic republics. However, a number of clergy still claim a paterfamilial prerogative for themselves.

        Dale’s trenchant observation about the perceived hypocrisy of NFP highlights the way in which postmodern persons perceive injustice within institutional Church structures. “Father knows best” cannot hold in countries where persons are free to exercise other options. Similarly, given the high level of literacy in developed countries, it’s not surprising that individuals have developed their own conclusions about Paul’s vice lists. The presence of μαλακοὶ (malakoi) and ἀρσενοκοῖται (arsenokoitai) [the second word a Pauline neologism] in 1 Cor. 6:9 does not diminish the importance of the other vices on the list. In fact, clerical obsessions about sexual orientation and activity tend to create more sympathy, and not more disgust, for maligned persons.

        It’s time for a number of clergy to preach the Word outside the paterfamilial model regardless of institutional changes.

  11. I can’t summon to mind all of St. Paul’s exhortations about sexual morality, but the first instance that comes to mind is his condemnation of sexual relations with strangers in pagan temples. Without defending sexual sins, one would have to admit that such is a far cry from some of the sexual practices that draw attention of our church leadership. My parish’s own pre-confession examination of conscience encourages a level of specificity and scrutiny (and call to confess) that certainly borders on the prurient. It doesn’t include anything so detailed or directive involving, say, how one uses one’s money.

  12. I can’t summon to mind all of St. Paul’s exhortations about sexual morality, but the first instance that comes to mind is his exhortations against sexual relations with strangers in pagan temples. Without defending sexual sins, one would have to admit that such is a far cry from some of the sexual practices that draw attention of our church leadership. My parish’s own pre-confession examination of conscience encourages a level of specificity and scrutiny (and call to confess) that certainly borders on the prurient. It doesn’t include anything too detailed or directive involving, say, how one uses one’s money.

  13. I take all these replies as meaning that we are at the end of times. When something that was always considered wrong, now is considered right and blessed. Times change but morals should not change. Something is either beautiful or ugly, is the way I look at right or wrong. The move by many groups to rid the world of religion and the Bible seems to be gaining a hold in the young. Consequences are never mentioned. Let the world end.

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