Friday, November 20, 2009

Mass Appeal - Church Attendance in Ireland

It's not all about numbers but no one could argue that measurements of weekly mass attendance are not, despite their limitations, of some value in assessing the state of the Catholic faith among the Irish people.

The Iona Institute has just released details of an opinion poll conducted on its behalf by Red C. Red C is the company which conducts the monthly Sunday Business Post political poll.

The new poll is best read as one in a series over the last number of years. The goal of this update is to provide a one-stop-shop for those polls.

My Conclusion:
Mass attendance in the nineties fell at the rate of about 3% per year. [From 85% in 1990 to 60% in 1998]

Towards the end of the nineties into the early years of the new millennium, the decline continued at the rate of about 2% per year. [From 60% in 1998 to 50% in 2003].

Since 2003 the rate of decline appears to have slowed to about 1% per year. [From 50% in 2003 to 45% in 2008].

Warning:: One must readily concede that these polls are of limited comparative value for several reasons- different interview methodologies; some companies poll 15-18 year olds, others poll only 18+; some figures refer explicitly to mass attendance among the Catholic sample whilst other refer to mass attendance in the general population, whilst others refer to general church attendance in the general population. All of these can influence results by a point or two when contrasted with other polls. Thus trends over a good spread of years is about as much from which one can draw conclusions.

Digest of Church Attendance Polls since 1972.

1972/3: Weekly Mass attendance among Catholics: 91%
(source: A Survey of Religious Practice, Attitudes and Beliefs in the Republic of Ireland 1973-1974, Research and Development Unit, Catholic Communications Institute of Ireland, 1975). 2.6% said they "never attend". 3.4% said they attended more than once per month.

1981: Weekly Mass attendance among Catholics: 87%
(source: European Values Survey)

1984: Weekly Mass attendance: 87%
(source: not available, quoted on pg. 250, Louise Fuller's "Irish Catholicism since 1950"; Gill and MacMillan 2002")

1988/9: Weekly Mass attendance among Catholics: 82%
(source:Religious Practices and Attitudes in Ireland 1988-1989, Micheal Mac Greil, Survey and Research Unit, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, 1989.) A further 5.6% claimed to attend more than once per month and 2.5% reported "never".

1990: Weekly Mass attendance: 85%
(source: European Values Survey)

1995: Weekly Mass attendance: 64%
(source: Sunday Independent/IMS)

1996: Weekly Mass attendance: 66%
(source: Irish Times/MRBI)

1997: Weekly Mass attendance: 66%
(source: Council for Research and Development, Maynooth/IMS)

1998: Weekly Mass attendance: 60%

2003: Weekly Mass attendance among Catholics: 50%
(source:RTE/MRBI; to commemorate 25th anniversary of Papal Visit)

2005: Weekly Mass attendance among general population: 44% Or
Weekly Mass attendance among Catholics: 45%
(source:The Sunday Tribune/IMS: 1100 people interviewed at 100 locations, age 15+, face to face on 11th April 2005 (3 days after the funeral of Pope JP2). 7% never attend, 12% once per month or more.

2006: Weekly Mass attendance: 48%
(source: RTE/Amarach. 19% monthly attendance.)

2007/8: Weekly Church attendance among population: 42%
Weekly Mass attendance among Catholics: 44%
(source: ESRI in The Challenge of Indifference, Micheal Mac Greil, 1000 18+ face to face interviews, Nov. 07 - Mar. 08, published 2009).

2008: Weekly Church attendance among population: 45%
(source: Irish Examiner/Red C; telephone interview of 1005 people, 18+). Figures refer to attendance at mass, church or other services. 13% never, 11% monthly.

2009: Weekly Church attendance among population: 46%
(source: Iona Institue/Red C; telephone interview of 1000 people, 18+). The question is slightly different to other polls. In this case, people were asked "When was the last time you attended a religious service in a place of worship?" as opposed to the more typical "How regularly do you attend a religious service?"

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beware of Burn Out

It's no surprise that many teachers and people involved in ministry are prone to occupational burn out. RTE Radio's DriveTime programme recently addressed the issue. Here is clinical pyschologist, Marie Murray, discussing the topic with presenter Marie Wilson.,null,209

Progress We Can All Celebrate...

For the past 15 years Church personnel have been working hard to develop and implement vigorous and robust child protection policies. It has been a long, long road but it appears as though those who have devoted huge time and resources to this issue are at last receiving some recognition.
Here is the Front Page article from The Irish Examiner, 24th October 2009 and also the Editorial of the same date...

Praise for Church over child protection policies
By Claire O’Sullivan

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THE author of the damning investigation into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne has applauded the Catholic Church for having undertaken "a truly remarkable" journey to a place where it could yet become a champion of child protection.

Chief executive of the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), Ian Elliot robustly defended recent efforts by the Church to right its dismal record describing an "increasingly evident" sense of purpose and commitment to child protection.

"There are champions for children in the Church that deserve the highest praise. They are at all levels of the Church and many are within the hierarchy. The aim of establishing the Church as an exemplar for best safeguarding practice has gained major support. We are in a very different place to where we were two years ago."

He said over the past two years, those in authority within the Church had learnt that "vital lesson" that "the safety of the child must be put first before all other considerations".

Mr Elliot cautioned however that this was "a positive start" and that the Church has a "great deal" more to do. He also admitted there "was an element" of the Church "being forced" to address its failings in the face of public anger. "I don’t think this change is happening just because of the inquiries. They have slowly recognised this problem is solvable. The NBSC is also trusted now by the Church. They now see it will treat them in a fair way."

"I do feel we can achieve the aim of being seen as an exemplar for best practice in the field of safeguarding children."

Mr Elliot said that earlier this year, one of the cardinals and up to 12 bishops immediately signed up for a child protection training course he organised. "This would not have happened two years ago," he said.

The former social worker told those gathered at the Biennal Children Protection and Social Work Conference at UCC that the NBSC’s document ‘Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance for the Children’ was a groundbreaking document as all the 184 constituent parts of the Church agreed they would implement guidelines fully and agreed to auditing and review by the NBSC.

"Nothing of this nature had ever happened before and this achievement represented the single most valuable development that has taken place during the short but eventful life of the national board, and also for me as its chief officer."

Noting that the Church had previously attempted to develop a uniform approach to child protection in 1976 he said the new guidance had to be supported by a verifiable commitment to implement it or else it would suffer a similar fate.

Describing the enormity of implementing uniform child protection he said small and poor dioceses often suffer due to a lack of resources and said he wanted to ensure resources were directed at them.

He also called for further recruitment of experienced child protection professionals across the Church and a continued effort to "build trust" with abuse survivors, priests, the faithful and all members of the hierarchy.

Editorial, Saturday, October 24, 2009:
Protecting children - Progress we can all celebrate

"The journey over the last two years has been truly remarkable. There are champions for children in the Church who deserve the highest praise. They are at all levels ... There is a sense of purpose and commitment which is increasingly evident ... We are in a very different place to where we where two years ago." - Ian Elliott, CEO, NSCC

AS we await, with considerable dread, the publication of the report into how allegations of child sex abuse by priests in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin were dealt with by the State and church authorities it is wonderful that we have reached a point where members of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy can be described as "champions of children".

That they are so described by someone with the record of impartiality and integrity of Ian Elliott, chief executive officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, is doubly reassuring.

Coming so soon after the publication of the harrowing Ryan report it is wonderful that we might begin to believe that the future will not be like the past.

The pace of change within Irish Catholicism has, according to Mr Elliott, been remarkable. Indeed it has, this time last year he had not published his report that exposed the failure of the Diocese of Cloyne to pass on abuse complaints to the HSE or gardaĆ­.

The 15 years since the Fr Brendan Smyth case have been extremely painful for Catholics. Very many individuals were denied the comfort of their faith.

Just as many victims were scarred for life Irish Catholicism has paid a very heavy price for its behaviour. Its influence has been greatly diminished and its active membership has been decimated.

Vocations have collapsed. Just last week Bishop of Kerry William Murphy predicted that, within a year, some parishes in his diocese might not have any priest.

Though Mr Elliott’s primary assertion is very welcome he made several points yesterday that we should embrace with equal enthusiasm.

He acknowledged that for the first time all 184 constituent parts of the Catholic church in Ireland had given power to an independent body to monitor their practice. This is an exceptional change for a church once so aloof and hostile to intrusion much less supervision of any kind. He pointed out the obvious but not always recognised fact that protecting children is a matter for us all, not just the church.

It would be foolish too if we focussed all of our efforts to safeguard children on events in the past. The Catholic church has lost influence in this society but that influence has been assumed by others. Maybe we would be wise to be as suspicious of those forces as we were forced to become of the Catholic church.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Power of Prayer

A thank you letter to the people of Ireland for their prayers

From Sharon Commins

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the prayers throughout the very difficult and dark time experienced by my dear friend Hilda and myself. We both survived because we had the strength and willpower and love of our families stored in those deep caverns of our souls. And we had the love of God.

We now know that we were the beneficiaries of thousands of mass cards, novenas, candles and prayers in churches across Ireland, which consoled my family, and helped to ease the heavy sadness and worry which had descended on our home. I have since become aware of the many thousands of people who just prayed in their own special way and hoped for our safe return, and I am so grateful to them.

Hilda and I sought sanctuary in prayer during our 107 days in captivity. Prayer gave us the strength to cope with the despair and loneliness on the mountain. Prayer sustained us when virtually all hope was gone, and protected us from the crippling fear and deep sadness.

Every morning we prayed for the strength and courage to get through the hours. We and knew the God we shared would help reunites us safely with our families. After our first failed exit attempt, we said novenas to Saint Jude patron of hopeless cases and Saint Therese, "the little flower". We prayed to Saint Anthony, patron of lost items, that we would soon be found. Before settling in to sleep, we prayed that guardian angles would remain with us throughout the night and watch over us until daylight. We are both safe today - and I have no doubt in my mind that our combined prayers made a difference.

Out thoughts and prayers are now with Fr Michael Sinnott. And I will also remember the many people who took huge risks and showed so much courage, patience and determination to assist with my safe return. To them I will be eternally grateful.
Bless all our hopes for the future.

Thank you
Sharon Commins