Edited By Anne Goarzin
Whitefriar Street Church: An Institutional Perimeter for an Unframed, Polymorphic Religious Practice
Since the 1990s, the Irish Catholic Church has been faced with a process of desinstitutionalization and privatization of faith. Traditionally attributed to secularization and accelerated by highly mediatized clerical abuse scandals,1 the general disaffection for sacramental practices is also partially linked to the deregulation of beliefs and to the acculturation of Catholic dogmas.
In 2011, 84.2 per cent of the Irish described themselves as Catholics.2 This high rate of affiliation contrasts with the steady decline of Church attendance. From 91 per cent in 19743 to 60 per cent in 1998, weekly Mass attendance averaged 42.1 per cent in 2010.4 A form of religious ← 217 | 218 → indifference5 towards sacramental obligations has developed,6 as evidenced by the dramatic decrease in the observance of the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.7 From 47 per cent in 1974, monthly confession dropped to 9 per cent in 2008.8 However, only 3 per cent of Irish Catholics identify themselves as non-practicing believers.9 Many Irish who were born in Catholic families, raised in the Roman Catholic faith feel ‘culturally Catholic’.10 Their sense of identity is strongly related to their Catholic upbringing and the Church continues to accompany most individuals ← 218 | 219 → through major life events11 (baptisms, marriages and funerals). Even if they do not go to Mass on a regular basis, they often carry on inherited Catholic traditions, customs and ingrained habits of devotion.
Catholic duties and sacramental practices may be neglected but this withdrawal from formal religious activities should...
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