Concerning Factors

The abuse scandals were just one indication of a church in crisis; many other factors were relevant, including the decline in Marianism (devotion to Mary, mother of God), a loss of credibility in relation to contraception, decline in mass attendance and religious vocations. Between 1990 and 1998, ordinations to the priesthood fell by 66% and by 1998 deaths and departures from the priesthood outnumbered ordinations by a factor of almost five to one. The decline of its authority also raised questions as to the church’s continuing ability to staff the schools and hospitals it had managed for so long.

There were also calls for the cutting of historic links between church and state. When the Ferns Report was published, its contents prompted some of the most explicit denunciations of the church from Irish politicians regarding its role and status in Irish society. Politicians gradually came to reject, in the words of Barry Desmond, former Minister for Health, the idea that ‘the common good’ was the same as ‘the Catholic good’ But others also wondered about the gap left; in 2003, former Taosieach Garret FitzGerald wrote about the decline of the influence of religion in the Republic and the “inadequacy of any alternative lay or civic ethic, especially in the face of the double hazard of the siren call of individualist liberalism on the one hand and the off-putting face of fundamentalist Catholisicm on the other.”


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