Listening to those ‘Estranged and Disaffected’ from the Irish Catholic Church

I’ve blogged previously about the ‘listening process’ in the diocese of Down and Connor. Launched with a commissioning service in February, for the last two months there have been lay-facilitated discussions at Catholic parishes throughout the diocese. I attended one at Clonard Monastery in West Belfast.

This part of the process comes to a close tonight with one last discussion, ‘for those estranged and disaffected,’ at Belfast’s Wellington Park Hotel at 7 p.m.

‘Living Church: Down and Connor 2013’ also now has a Facebook page, where there has been some discussion around the two main questions that are posed at the sessions:

  • What would our parishes and diocese look like if the Catholic faith was being fully lived?
  • What do we need to do to make it a reality?

People can also submit responses to these questions to the diocese via email.

The results of the Listening Process will be disseminated at a Diocesan Congress at Pentecost 2013, where a ‘roadmap for the future’ and ‘pastoral priorities’ will be set out – hence the ‘Living Church: Down and Connor 2013’ moniker on Facebook and in a special section of the diocese’s website.

The Facebook page is worth a visit, even if only for the entries on the ‘info’ page. These drew a wry smile from me:

  • Employer: God
  • Univeristy: University of Life
  • Gender: Female
  • Activities and Interests: Discerning and Repenting

I have a prior commitment this evening so am unlikely to be able to attend tonight’s session, but I am curious about what will be said and how many will turn up to say it.

  • I will be there.

  • The Word

    The Church has always functioned as an indication of happiness and as an expression of happiness or contentment.

    Attendance falling indicates less happiness in its parishes and this fall in attendance has come at a time when “the world” has strengthened its influence. This has been an international phenomenon.

    A return to wholesome values being validated by commerce, industry and the individual, serving the people rather than exploiting the people or their weaknesses purely for profit, which will arise alongside a general increase in happiness will lead to effective changes in our parishes.

    What do you need to do to arrive at this destination?

    You must recognise that the social democratic model, as expressed in the SDLP with its non-violence, is the natural partner in this journey.

    Like the Church in its reliance on attendance, expressions of voting allegiance and support for the SDLP is in itself an expression of happiness. That might not be apparent in the context of the SDLP seeking to change the world we live in, and seeking to address material needs, but change is needed and people are certainly crying out for change in this world now.

    But the cry is for happiness to be restored, a return to ethical values, values that are implicit to Christianity, to happiness itself, and for life on this planet to be ordered on a sustainable basis.

    Sinn Fein may say that they now stand for the same things as the SDLP but to endorse their route would be to endanger the world by suggesting that violence gets results, something that is not sustained by the events of these Troubles.

    Were the Hunger Strikers allowed to win?

    What did IRA violence achieve?

    What did loyalist violence achieve?

    What did British violence achieve?

    I’m sure even an amateur historian will realise that what signal was sent out to each of these sources of violence and it was contrary to what each of them thought they had achieved. You’ll see that response run through Irish history.

  • ThomasMourne

    On the main issue – the Catholic Church has obviously employed a PR firm to get them out of their present mess and this ‘listening process’ has clearly been proposed as a way of deflecting negative publicity.

    Nothing worthwhile will result from this as the Catholic Church has to remain a male-dominated, dictatorial and hierarchical organisation, otherwise it would no longer be the Catholic Church.

    I am really puzzled by the response from ‘The Word’. His first sentence baffles me completely. By then moving on to the Catholic Church in politics, viz the SDLP, I’m sure he is doing that party no favours in reminding people about its sectarian leanings which it has done so little to change in the ‘new’ N. I.

    I agree with his final comments about SF. Unfortunately, a high percentage of the ‘catholic’ population of N. I. support these apologists for murder, especially now that they have supposedly left their dirty past behind them.

  • The Word


  • The Word


    If you don’t undestand the message then its time to leave whatever you’re doing and start to look for something meaningful in your life.

    The Catholic Church, like the SDLP, is universal and expresses a strong social conscience, and the only reason unionists see it as hostile is because their value system has been corrupted by the materialist gospel they learned when the British government of that time dumped them over here to further their materalist interests. They’re not used to their Churches bering taken seriously. Instead they drone over the businessman.

    I’m glad you feel free to express your comments about SF, but their are other things there that are aimed at people like you. Care to comment?

  • It was interesting. Thanks to Ms Ganiel for reminding me of it.

  • I Bleed Orange

    What is this SDLP rubbish. When did this become a place for free political advertising. Your initial post sounded like it was straight out of a can.

  • Hi FJH, Glad you were able to go along. I’d be interested if you had more detailed comments on what was said at the meeting.

  • Not really.
    It seems I was expected. LOL.
    After the meeting I told the main facilitator that I regarded the matters discussed as inappropriate for a wider public forum.
    Previous discussions have not brought out the best in people on Slugger O’Toole.

  • The Word

    I see the Church as a reflection of contentednes in society in general. A contented person is in his nature meek to the extent that he’ll listen to wisdom and guidance from the priest and take communion from the priest, rather than argue that it is what “inferior” people do, because in his heart he knows what good is, and he’ll know that to the extent that he will not be available for any other cause.

    The good man is incorruptible because, as has been proven over history, God makes it that way.

    Anyone who feels that the Church misled them, misunderstood the nature of the Church, which is an expression of contentedness. Unhappiness was not being taught in our Church, but the conscience will always want to help.

    Unhappy people need to be directed to the true source of their unhappiness, and rarely is that material in nature.

    I’m not saying anything that won’t be said all round.

  • FJH,
    When you say that the matters discussed were not appropriate for a wider public forum …

    Is that because they strayed from the two main questions that were meant to be discussed?

    Or do you take issue with discussing those questions?

  • Just less than an hour on each question.
    I was involved in the discussions so I have no problem with discussing these matters.
    I just think it would indulge voyeurism. It can be of no legitimate interest beyond the people for whom it facilitated.

  • I Bleed Orange

    “Unhappiness was not being taught in our Church, but the conscience will always want to help.”
    I don’t know if victimhood can be considered unhappiness, but I know your churches teaches a sh*te load of it.

  • FJH, oh, I see what you mean now.

    I don’t necessarily think it indulges voyeurism to talk abut what went on or was said at these events … I thought the listening process was supposed to be public so people could hear different views … whether in the small group, face to face event discussions or in online forums such as the Living Church facebook page or other blogs. Yes, protect people’s confidentiality if that is what they want, but my reasoning is that the greater variety of ideas and perspectives are heard, the better.

  • I’m sorry but you say “Irish Catholic Church” yet you seem to be referring to the Roman Catholic Church alone.

    Does the Church of Ireland not recognise itself as part of the Catholic Church any more and does it deny the Eastern Orthodox congregation in Belfast as not being Catholic either?

    I view myself as a part of the Irish Catholic Church yet I am not in communion with the Roman See… and find it not only disappointing but sad to see a lecturer at Trinity dishonouring those many Anglicans who suffered persecution by Church authorities for defending the historical catholicity of Anglicanism by limiting the term catholic to the Roman Church alone.