2013 Speaker and Speech Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ,

Speaker: Fr Tony O’Riordan S.J.

Fr Tony O.Riordan became a member of the Society of Jesus in 1993 and was ordained to priestly ministry in 2003 and has degrees in Law and Politics, Philosophy and Theology.
For many years Tony has worked and lived alongside Peter McVerry in Ballymun. He is a founding member of the Peter McVerry Trust (PMVT), its first chairperson and currently a PMVT Director. Like McVerry, Tony too has extensive experience of prison ministry and supporting young people on the margins.
In 1996, along with others from Dublin 15, he founded the BOND Project an innovative scheme to assist young people returning to the community from prison. He was appointed the Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in 2005 and he is currently Parish Priest in Corpus Christi Parish Moyross Limerick.

He is a regular contributor in print and broadcast media on topics of faith and justice. A native of West Cork agus ta suim agie sa Ghailige


Theme: What is the Future for Faith?

Speaking notes 2nd March 2013 by Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ

Thank you for your invitation here today, you have given me a good reason to decline an invitation to that other important gathering of the church in Ireland this weekend – the FR TED FEST on the Arran Islands..

Of course the whole Fr Ted phenonomen is itself worthy of reflection as a commentary on the topic under consideration by you today. However the farce captured so well by Morgan and his colleagues did not touch on the more sinister, criminal and shameful reality inflicted on children by priests and religious and the culture operative in chains of authority that have since come to light. Since Fr Ted appeared in 1995 our understanding of the Church and Faith has undergone serious challenge and change.

Resignation of Bishop Casey 1992 –

Death of Fr Michael Cleary and revelations of private life 1993 –

Collapse of Government over Brendan Smyth in 1994 States of Fear Documentary 1999

Establishment of Ryan Commission in 1999,

Publication in 2009 Cardinal Sins Documentary 2002

Establishment of Murphy Commission /Report 2009 Ferns Report Oct 2005

The conviction of several priests and religious in the intervening years for henious crimes against children,

The McAllese report into the Magdalens Laundries..

All these events and related events highlight to us the crimes of some, the particular failure and courage of some individuals and it reveals a sickness in our widen church culture where to varying degrees we all feel implicated. These scandals – are they reason that is often offered why many people feel disillusioned, angry, mistrustful and have walked away from church.


PEOPLE WHO DESCRIBE themselves as not religious are now the second largest grouping in the state behind Catholics, the 2011 census has found. Just under 270,000 people defined themselves as being of no religion, an increase of 44 per cent on the 2006 census.

The same census highlights thought that Ireland remains predominantly Catholic despite large increases in other religions in recent years.

Just over 84 per cent of people – 3.86 million – define themselves as Roman Catholic, a slight decrease on the 87 per cent who did so in the last census in 2006.
In fact the actual number of Catholics increased by almost 180,000 due to the overall population increase. Much of the increase came from non-Irish nationals with most coming from other parts of Europe.

Three counties had more than 1 in 5 of the population as non-Catholic: Fingal and Dún Laoghaire in Dublin, and Galway City. Offaly had the lowest percentage of non-Catholics with 8.6 per cent.

Total numbers for religious groupings in 2011:

Roman Catholic: 3,861,000
Church of Ireland: 129,000
Muslim: 49,200
Orthodox: 45,200
Other christian: 41,299
Presbyterian: 24,600
Apostolic or Pentecostal: 14,000
Other: 81,000
No religion: 269,000
Not stated: 72,900

So despite the radical change in Ireland, from a statistical point of view, we are still a religious country, and christian country, even if the mix is more complex from former years.

There are lies, dam lies and statistics. .. I think we need to be cautious about what these CSO figues tell us and what they do not tell us… You know too well from you children and your grand children the complex reality behind the census statistics. Story of ALFA Programme.. Nicky Gumbel conversation with the Catholic Bishop, who was urging the Adoption of the ALFA Programme, As a final strategy against a less that an enthusiastic Bishop Gumbell apparently said .. well you know nearly 2 million people in this country have undergone the ALFA programme… To which the Bishop replied… ‘Looking at British Society, you would never know!!’

ACTS 7. 15 – 17

But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to arrest them and bring them out to the crowd. When they didn’t find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials and shouted, “These fellows who have turned the world upside down have come here, too.

I find the comments of the Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, in an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Sunday programme, appeared to say that he was not convinced by the notion that secularisation lies at the heart of the Church’s decline in Europe.

He said: “I think the Church has a problem in its own proclamation of the Gospel and you wonder why you’d set up this office for evangelisation anyway, because the whole mission of the Church is evangelisation, the proclamation of the Gospel. I don’t think we’re doing that terribly well.”

Bishop Conry said that the Church had become “simply irrelevant” for many people.

He said: “My own personal opinion — I would stress that this is a personal opinion — is that I am not entirely convinced by this secularisation argument. It suggests that the Church’s problems are external, in other words society has gone wrong, but the Church is fine.”

The Church, he said, had “failed to put across its own message in a way that’s accessible enough”, because many people in Britain felt “spiritual”, but not “faithful”, and did not “have a belief in a personal God”.

Bishop Conry said: “It’s authoritative. It’s intolerant. It’s demanding. It’s exclusive. I think the Church has got to re-present itself rather than simply blame everything on the ills of society.”

He said he thought it needed “to become a little more tolerant, accessible, welcoming, compassionate. All the things that, for many people, it is not.”

I think here we have a very important distinction that we need to keep constantly before us. Society or the World around us and then the church..

Society – Rapidly changing society..

I am somewhat a fan of the 1960’s.. It seemed to be a optimistic decade, a creative decade.. Perhaps the intervening decades – have taught us to be more cautious about the progress of humanity at the hands of the forces, impulses and culture at work..

Rwanda genocide –

At home we can think of the madness of the Celtic tiger days, where consumption and wealth led to a society where much seemed wrong… The Letter Prosperity with A Purpose..

But there is much too right with Society.. Think of the advancement in medicines.. Think of the response to Charity and Humanitarian Work… remember that in the post Tsunami Appeals charities asking that no more money be sent it.. Think too of the advances in Womens’ rights, the goods that have flowed from a liberal society..

So we need a more complex attitude to reading the winds in our contemporary society.. It needs to go beyond a simple boooh – horrah approach..

There is much wrong in the Church too…

One way into this discussion of the problems of the Church is provided by CJ publication ‘ The FIVE WOUNDS OF THE CHURCH…

CRISTIANISME I JUSTÍCIA is a study center dedicated to reflecting on social and theological issues.
At the urging of the Jesuits of Catalonia, the center was created in 1981 as an attempt to respond to the important mission of “serving faith and promoting justice.” The center brings together an interdisciplinary team of more than 80 professors of the social sciences and theology, as well as other professionals and experts who are direct contact with concrete social realities.


No Longer the Church of the Poor

The current situation of our world with regard to the numerous poor and starving people and the select few, far from being a natural accident is a situation that goes radically against the will of God. It is a a document from the Jesuit general Congreation of 1974.. A denial of God in Practice!

We as a church offer the poor a radical love that would translate as a Sacrament of God’s Love. Instead we behave as the rest of the world does – We treat them likely warmly and merely to ease our own conscience in the hope that those excluded wont bother us too much.. Put Bluntly we are much more a church of the insiders than a church of the outsiders..

The Focus on Hierarchy

We could describe this wound as saying that it undid the vision of Chapter 2 and 3 of the Cosnsitution of the Church .

The starting point of Vatican Two as the Church as the people of God – This was the true mystery of the Chruch – the communion of all people.. Only once the people of god been established can various ministries begin to flourish from them, which all the people need, among these needs being authority….. It avoided the notion that the Church hold power, while thre rest remina little more than a training ground on which power is exercised.

Cadrinal Congar… page 13.. Rome has practically….


Not able to be a servant to the World…

Page 19

The Division Among Christians

The Hellensation of Christianity.

There maybe well other ways of articulating the problems or wounds of the church… I can only draw hope from the fact that Benedict seems to be all too aware, and that some utterances from Cardinals in recent days also suggest that we are not alone in feeling all is not well… Though we may not agree on the precise problems to be tackled, but perhaps the agreement behind our disagreements is greater..

Whatever of the Problem and Challenges, I want to conclude with some pointers for a way forward:

PRAYER…. Personal and Community – A Church that is not mystical and based on prayer and connection with the Risen Lord will flounder. And we too often pay lip service to supporting each other in personal and community prayer. Out of deep pray, will come deep and last reforms.

How we resist this demand of the Gospel.

A Church of Conversation..
The power of listening to each other, helping each other go to the depths of our experience. We need to learn the skills of holy conversation, not a pious twattle, but as trans-formative listening and speech.

A Church that is resourced… and uses its resources well…

A Church that does not apply adequate resources to the challenges of new Evangelisation will hardly make much impact. Building the church has always demanded resources. You can’t do reform and evangelisation on the cheap.

I hope these somewhat random thought might provide some startpoint for your discussion this afternoon. May I thank you for your patience.


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