Priest sociologist says Irish 'still Catholic, but on their own terms'
Leading US Catholic academic Fr Andrew Greeley has said that the Irish are no longer Catholic if acceptance of church teaching is the measure of faith.
But, he added, 'if the proper measures of Catholicism are faith and devotion, then the Irish are still Catholic'.
Fr Greeley, a prolific author who lectures in sociology at the universities of Chicago and Arizona was writing in the US Catholic journal America.
He pointed to the social and economic changes that have taken place in the Irish Republic, suggesting it is no longer the rural, agricultural, pious Catholic country it one was. Now, as the 'emerald tiger', it has one of the highest standards of living in Europe.
The leadership of the Catholic Church might have seen that this would create religious challenges, said Father Greeley.
Instead, "serenely confident in its absolute power", the Irish hierarchy was content to issue solemn warnings about the dangers of secularism and consumerism.
Fr Greeley said the research showed that 94% of the Irish believe in God, 85% believe in heaven and miracles, and 78% accept there is life after death.
"Like many other Catholics all over the world, the Irish are still Catholic, but now on their own terms," Fr Greeley argued.
The feeling that the church has too much power had increased, and the Irish were caught up in the emerging conviction, among devout Catholics all over the world, that the church had no right to try to control their private lives.
"If sex and authority are what Catholicism is about, and many will contend that they are, then the Irish are no longer Catholic," said Fr Greeley.