The decline of Catholicism in Ireland

Caoimhe Rooney

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The next national census is set for 2016, however the previous one in 2011 revealed that 84.2% of the population identified as Roman Catholic; 5 years previously, 87.4% of people said Catholicism was their religion.

Losing our Religion: The Decline of Catholicism in Ireland Image Credit: Author's Own
Losing our Religion: The Decline of Catholicism in Ireland
Image Credit: Author’s Own

Although this may seem like a minute shift in the religious landscape, Ireland has seen a sharp decline in weekly mass attendance: In 2011, only about 18% of the Irish population were attending mass regularly. This is a stark contrast to the figure 20 years earlier when 90% of the population were regular mass-goers.

The Catholic Church no longer has the control over the population it once possessed. The Church pervaded multiple facets of Irish society: Schools, hospitals and even families. As recently as 1982, a secondary school teacher was dismissed from her post for being pregnant and unmarried.

In 2011, only about 18% of the Irish population were attending mass regularly Image Credit: Author's Own
In 2011, only about 18% of the Irish population were attending mass regularly
Image Credit: Author’s Own

Perhaps even more disturbing was the need for a secondary school teacher to pixelate her face when entering a competition on a national radio station. The competition prize was a dream wedding for her and her same sexed partner, and in order to protect herself from a dismissal from the school she worked in, she pixelated her face in the video entered for the competition.

Amidst the slew of clerical scandals, belief in religion in Ireland has dropped from 69% in 2005 to 47% in 2012. The legalisation of contraceptives, divorce and general modernisation in Ireland meant the population grew gradually more and more disillusioned with the position held by the Church.

Church takes one step forward, it seems to take one giant step back. Image Credit: Author's Own
Every time the Catholic Church takes one step forward, it seems to take one giant step back.
Image Credit: Author’s Own

The number of men entering the priesthood has also declined. In 2013, only 14 men entered the seminary in Ireland. This could mean that by 2020, many parishes in Ireland could be left without a priest.

The Church is often seen as having backwards views when it comes to modern political, science and social matters.  Although, they have taken steps to combat this perspective, namely appointing Pope Francis who is seen as having more progressive views than his predecessors.

In 2013, only 14 men entered the seminary in Ireland Image Credit: Ireland's Own
In 2013, only 14 men entered the seminary in Ireland
Image Credit: Ireland’s Own

Pope Francis has taken a less controversial stance on issues like women in the church, families with LGBT children and has been criticised by conservative Catholics for his “liberal outlook”. However, the Pope does not support gay marriage, and as recently as February compared transgender people to “nuclear weapons”.

Perhaps Middle-East Editor with Newsweek, Janine Di Giovanni, said it best:

Every time the Catholic Church takes one step forward, it seems to take one giant step back.

 

Belief in religion in Ireland has dropped from 69% in 2005 to 47% in 2012 Image Credit: Author's Own
Belief in religion in Ireland has dropped from 69% in 2005 to 47% in 2012
Image Credit: Author’s Own

 

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Caoimhe Rooney