A group of Irish faithful has warned the country’s bishops that a lack of lay leadership is of “serious concern”.

Driving the news

The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) raised the alarm after carrying out a pilot study of 36 parishes across the island to assess the role of non-ordained people in Church life.

Go deeper

The ACI survey found, among other things, that:

  • 67% of Irish Catholics had parish pastoral councils but 54% regarded them as ineffective;
  • Only 41% had adult faith development activities, though limited;
  • 50% reported no encouragement for family catechesis;
  • Only 52% had lay-led prayer services in the absence of a priest;
  • Lay parishioners prepared the Prayers of the Faithful for Mass in only 17% of parishes but were read by laity in 54% of parishes.

Why it matters

On the basis of its study conclusions, the ACI warned “the survival of the Christian ethos in parishes across the country” is at risk.

Urgent problems for the Irish Church to look into, the ACI continued, include the “diminishing numbers of priests” and an “ageing cohort of lay faithful attending church on a regular basis”.

To address those issues, and others, the ACI called on the Irish Bishops, first, to commission “a countrywide comprehensive professionally designed and administered survey” to understand the scope of the problem.

The ACI also pushed for Synods “in every Diocese across the country”, and said “the natural ‘next step’ would be to call a National Synod with the full involvement of the baptised lay faithful to discern a way forward”.

What’s next

That the Irish Church is in a deep crisis is a fact few people dispute, with some even warning the sacraments could disappear from parishes in a generation or two due to the lack of priests.

Ideas for how to stop the rot, however, are varied.

Earlier this month, Father Roy Donovan, of the Association of Catholic Priests, said overturning the Church’s ban on married male and female priests could be a solution to the vocations drain.

Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell, however, is sceptical of that idea.

Also in mid-November, Farrell expressed doubt that there are even enough married men and women in the pews to plug the priest shortage.

Next on Novena:

For Irish priest, “the clerical Church is dying and it’s not such a tragedy”

Irish priest warns “shuffling deckchairs won’t do” in “Titanic” times for Church