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DUBLIN (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new survey is revealing that Sunday Mass attendance and Catholic sentiment in Ireland are rapidly declining.
Irish analytics and data company Amárach recently conducted a survey that found only about 14% of Irish Catholics regularly attend Sunday Mass. Before Ireland's bishops went along with the government's draconian COVID lockdowns and church closures, only 24% of Ireland's population attended weekly Mass. And only 59% of that 24% has returned, yielding an abysmal 14% Mass-attendance rate.
The Amárach survey also found that among those who used to attend Mass but no longer do, nearly one-third (31%) said their faith simply "isn't as strong" as it used to be. Additionally, only 28.5% of respondents expressed satisfaction with Pope Francis' leadership, while only 16.5% said they believe Satan exists. A staggering 39.5% said they believe Ireland has "lost her soul."
Although shocking, these aren't the only worrying numbers in Ireland. There are currently only 56 seminarians studying to serve the faithful of the Emerald Isle, and a survey last year revealed that the majority of Irish priests are elderly, with 15% still working past the typical retirement age of 75. In addition, Islam is on the rise, threatening to replace the native Catholic population.
The numbers from Amárach indicate the Catholic Faith in Ireland is waning. Father Jim Murray, parish priest at St. John's church in County Sligo, told Church Militant:
As a country, we now have a generation of people who no longer practice their faith except at baptisms, weddings and funerals. During the pandemic, people lost the habit of attending Mass on a weekly basis — combined with the widespread introduction of web cams in churches. For many, it is easier to sit at home and watch the Mass on the television or iPad. The difference is that now those who are going to Church are making a conscious decision and choice.
Faithful Catholic and Irish Freedom Party President Hermann Kelly faulted poor catechesis and the failures of those meant to shepherd their flocks. He told Church Militant:
The Irish bishops are reaping the results of preaching religious indifferentism for decades. They clearly need to start teaching on the uniqueness of Christ and the necessity of belief in Him. A steady diet of post-Vatican II religious indifferentism and related cultural relativism causes the undermining and destruction of Ireland.
Irish Freedom Party Chairman Michael Leahy, another devout Catholic, told Church Militant that he believes the real number of those attending Mass is actually lower. Leahy described an experiment he conducted in years past. He conducted his own poll and determined that Mass attendance stood at 28%, when "official" sources claimed between 50–60% of the population regularly attended Sunday Mass. Leahy added:
At that time, I remember speaking to a priest in Dublin who estimated that Mass attendance among Catholics was approximately 5% in his parish. Some five years ago, he estimated that it has dropped to between 1–2%. ... [O]n the basis of my previous survey, I would consider that regular Mass attendance is well below 10%. Given that this could be expected to be one of the higher figures compared to the urban areas, I consider that the figure of 14% given in recent surveys is a huge exaggeration, and I very much doubt if Mass attendance is much over 5% nationally among baptized Catholics in Ireland.
While most studies, such as a recent poll from Poland, attribute dwindling Mass attendance predominantly or entirely to COVID church closures, the lockdowns seem simply to have been the final nail in the coffin of an already-dying faith. Michael Leahy faulted the leadership (or lack thereof) of Ireland's bishops:
Certainly, the immediate rush of the Catholic hierarchy to close down all of its churches when faced with the COVID panic, before the government had even looked for it to do so, sent a clear signal to the Catholics in the pews that the hierarchy does not regard physical presence at the liturgy, or public worship of the Lord in the church, as being a particularly important thing. Most religious practitioners would regard a time of crisis as precisely the time when prayer and dependence on the Lord are most important. Apparently, that is not the opinion of the Irish Catholic hierarchy. ... Not surprisingly, when churches were reopened, the level of Mass attendance was approximately halved from what it had been before. As the hierarchy clearly demonstrated their lack of belief in Catholic practice, they can hardly be surprised that their flock have imbibed the lesson and are staying away.
While the decimation in Mass attendance numbers certainly coincides with limp-wristed bishops' COVID closures, it also coincides with a renewed clerical sex abuse scandal and the leftist "synodal" ideology promoted by Ireland's bishops.
Ireland's synodal synthesis document, published last summer, promotes heterodox ideologies, including the LGBT agenda and hints at female ordinations. Over 500 Catholic youth in Ireland signed a letter to the bishops decrying the synodal report:
We have concerns that following the presentations at the Pre-Synodal National Gathering in June, the emerging synthesis risks presenting a false conclusion, namely that the Sensus Fidei is in conflict with current church teaching and practice. This relates in particular to human sexuality, marriage and ordained ministry. ... As young faithful Catholics we fully accept and joyfully embrace Church teaching and practice, and do not wish for Church teaching to be changed or reformulated.
For their part, Ireland's bishops don't seem overly concerned at the decline in Mass attendance, nor overly eager to rectify the issue and save souls. Church Militant reached out to the Irish Bishops' Conference for comment on the decline in Mass attendance. Martin Long, spokesman for the Irish bishops, noted that since "this research you refer to was independently undertaken and was not commissioned by the Irish Bishops' Conference" the bishops have no comment. He added that the topic may come up at the bishops' summer meeting in June.
In addition to the bishops' failure to shepherd their flocks, once-Catholic Ireland has also been plagued by major cultural shifts. The nation's cultural and political elites rabidly promote homosexuality and transsexualism, along with abortion.
At least in part, Hermann Kelly, blames the decline in faith on the elitist cultural onslaught: "It is the leftist stranglehold on the Irish hierarchy (ecclesial, political and media) that the Irish Freedom Party are confronting. We need all the prayers, support and money we can get to help us."
Father Jim Murray also noted the influence of a degenerate culture on the practice of the faith: "It is evident that Ireland has changed much in the last number of years, long before the pandemic. As a country, we have become more secular with many values which are anti-Christian and European in origin."
While this is true, the Irish are not without their inherent thirst for the truth of Christ. Ex-Catholics and secularists alike are flocking to Protestant churches because their Catholic shepherds won't feed them.
However, Fr. Murray also offered a solution to the spiritual and cultural ills presently plaguing the Emerald Isle:
As a Church, we need a new evangelization and a new realization of the value of forming a relationship with God. We need to renew the value of our spirituality, rooted in St. Patrick and our rich Christian heritage. We need to promote the value of the gospel, not only lived in actions but celebrated in the rich Catholic liturgy of the Church. Most importantly, we need education, reflection and renewal in our faith.