Ireland: Mass Attendance Drops by a Third

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by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 15, 2019   

Wave of church closings announced amid plunging participation

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DUBLIN (ChurchMilitant.com) - Mass attendance in Ireland is down significantly but there is no consensus why.

On Friday, the Irish Independent reported that Mass attendance across Ireland has decreased by a third. 

Bishop Dermot Farrell of the diocese of Ossory announced that Sunday Masses in the diocese will go from 140 to 92 beginning Dec. 1 since the diocese has more churches than needed.

"They were built in a different era, when there were very poor roads and no transport, so people had to walk to church. And you had far more going," he said. "Everybody practically has access to a car. We're celebrating these Masses in all of these churches with sometimes small congregations."

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Farrell said that this has led to a shortage of resources across Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly parishes: "Therefore, you have a shortage of resources. You need ministers of the Eucharist, you need readers, you need collectors."

"It doesn't make sense to be splintering these things across multiple Masses that you don't actually need to accommodate people," he added. 

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Bp. Dermot Farrell of Ossory

Farrell speculated that other churches will be cancelling Sunday Masses in the coming future. 

Father Roy Donovan, who belongs to the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said: "There is a massive amount of churches, but some communities have no priests, which is going to happen more and more, and that's going to lead to churches closing, and that's very sad."

He attributed younger people not attending Mass because of the clergy being older. 

"It's not good having all older people leading liturgies or leading Masses, because when young people don't see any of their own age group involved and they actually don't know any priests any more, the connections are becoming weakened," said Donovan. "As long as they hold onto a male, celibate priesthood, it's not going to encourage younger people to become involved."

Donovan concluded: "We won't certainly in the future be providing Mass in every church on Sunday."

The salvation of souls is held to an absolute standard that cannot be diluted.

Church Militant spoke to Michael Hichborn, president and founder of the Lepanto Institute about Donovan's explanation for the sinking numbers.

"Fr. Donovan's view of sanctity must be pretty dim if he believes watering down the Faith will draw in the young," said Hichborn.

"And considering that the ACP has a number of posts on its website favoring women's ordination, decriminalized abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, it's clear that he represents not the True Faith given to us by Our Blessed Lord, but an earthly faith of humanism," he added.

Hichborn concluded, "The salvation of souls is held to an absolute standard that cannot be diluted."

Others have cited the country's overall moral decline as the main reason for dwindling Mass attendance, noting that Ireland legalized "gay marriage" through referendum on Nov. 16, 2015 and abortion through referendum on May 25, 2018 by repealing their Constitution's eight amendment that restricted abortion in most cases.

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