BELIEF GAP: Church as Hierarchy or Church as People


According to survey results published a couple days ago, three out of four Irish who identified themselves as Catholics find the church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant.”

The survey — conducted by the research association Amarach — also showed that almost 90 percent of those surveyed believe that divorced or separated Catholics in a stable second relationship ought to be able to receive Communion at Mass.

According to the results, 35 percent of those surveyed attend Mass at least once a week; 51 percent attend at least once a month. Five percent of Irish who identify themselves as Catholics never attend Mass.

The Association of Catholic Priests, which represents about 20 percent of Ireland’s priests, is campaigning for changes in the church. Its members maintain that they are mainstream church and not dissidents; their founder, Redemptorist Father Tony Flannery, has been asked by the Vatican to quit writing for his order’s monthly magazine.

The survey appeared to reveal a wide disparity between what the church teaches and what the self-identified Catholics believe.

Eighty-seven percent disagreed with church teaching on an unmarried priesthood and said they believed that priests ought to be allowed to get married, while 77 percent said the church should admit women to the priesthood.

When asked “to what extent do you agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching that any sexual expression of love between a gay couple is immoral,” 61 percent said they disagreed while 18 percent of those surveyed believed homosexual acts to be immoral.

Two out of three surveyed want a greater role in choosing their bishop.

The survey results were released April 12. One week earlier, during his Holy Thursday Mass, Pope Benedict XVI cautioned against dissent from church teaching, saying it was not a legitimate path to reform.

Father Sean McDonagh, a member of the leadership team of the Association of Catholic Priests, told Catholic News Service that the survey “confirms that those who are advocating for change in the church are not a tiny minority, but are, in fact, at the heart of the church.”

He said Irish Catholics are “crying out for change and do not want the church to go backward, but to move forward and change.”

The belief gap is real. And not just in Ireland

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2 thoughts on “BELIEF GAP: Church as Hierarchy or Church as People

  1. Excellent. A service to the Church. But one correction: You say “The survey appeared to reveal a wide disparity between what the church teaches and what the self-identified Catholics believe.” All that is taught IN the Church, including the “ordinary magisterium” of popes and bishops, is not necessarily the teaching OF the Church. It is possible that those who disagree are “more catholic than the pope.”

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