The Week reports that the Catholic Church in Ireland is suffering enormously (“Ireland’s Disaffected Catholics” 4 July 2014). Attendance is down to 18% from 90% in 1984 and there is now a serious priest shortage, as there is in many other parts of the world. The Church has been hit hard by the priestly sex-abuse scandals and many people want something different. A couple of possibilities that are being bandied about are to allow women to become priests and to allow priests to marry. In other words, they would become more like Anglicans/Episcopalians. The authorities in Rome would presumably never go along with it, but you never know. Pope Francis has a different approach than his predecessors. We’ll have to stay tuned.
In the meantime, the Irish Catholics are looking for something different—but what? Many of them have no clue. Without the Church, where do you start to teach morals ? Without the priest, where do you find something that touches the spirit? This is why I wrote Seven Sacraments for Everyone. The traditional sacraments are connected to important human experiences that in themselves can be viewed as sacred—the priest isn’t needed to galvanize the moment with a prayer and the sign of the cross. There are universal sacraments that anyone of any faith can experience.. These sacraments connect us to the Spiritual–,that is, the Holy Spirit that Jesus and so many other men and women of wisdom have brought to our attention.