”I think it is a shock still to people. There are a lot of lay people and priests who are still in denial about the reality of the situation that we are in.”
Due to the aging clergy and lack of new admissions into the seminary, the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin is bringing in new measures, including appointing priests to oversee multiple parishes and sharing assets volunteers and finances. They may even allow lay members of the church to preside over funerals.
There are 207 parishes in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Reports show that since February 2020 34 priests have died. Only one student entered the seminary during that time to train as a Catholic priest. While sharing parishes may be a solution now the archdiocese has warned that this is just a stopgap that would solve the problem for perhaps five or 10 years.
“Anybody who works in parishes can see the structures are collapsing around us. We are at a crossroads. The time for talk is over – concrete action needs to be taken,” Fr Duffy said.
Fr Duffy said that due to this crisis parishes could rely increasingly on lay-led liturgies. He said even now parish priests could perform 500 funerals per year in two parishes.
“There is no way one priest can do 500 funerals the way we do them now. So we have to go down the road of lay people being trained to lead funeral services and burials.”
He added, “People will get very upset by that and will give out, but that is the reality of the situation that is about to hit parishes…
“I think it is a shock still to people. There are a lot of lay people and priests who are still in denial about the reality of the situation that we are in.
“This crisis has been coming for many years, but Covid has pushed us further over the cliff. The crossroads we are at now will determine the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland.”
As the reality begins to hit home, Fr Duffy said that Catholic Church at a higher level will be forced to face deeper questions.
A few people have wondered about using more deacons in Ireland — a subject that goes unmentioned in this story.
Here’s what I found:
In many ways the Church in Ireland has been slow to roll out the permanent diaconate which has been a feature in other countries for about half a century after Vatican II’s decision to bring it back in the 60s.
It was in 2000 that the Irish Bishops’ Conference made the decision in light of the pastoral needs of the country: following red tape, the to-ing and fro-ing of documents and three years of formation, 12 years later 14 of Ireland’s first deacons emerged from the Archdiocese of Dublin and Elphin diocese.
There are now more than 100 ordained deacons in Ireland, with dozens more on the path of discernment or formation.
A recent report entitled A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: 2020-2021, published by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations on June 1, gives an idea of the state of the permanent diaconate in one of the first countries to adopt it after Vatican II.
While Ireland is a latecomer in many ways, trainee deacons were already beginning their journey in 1969 in the US. The report estimates there are now up to 19,000 deacons and provides a plethora of information including percentages of those involved in various Church ministries, diocesan information on formation and post-formation and other demographic facts.