March 28, 2006

Irish spirituality undimmed by scandal


By Paul Hoskins

GALWAY (Reuters) - At the Franciscan abbey in Galway's city centre about 50 faithful gather for mid-afternoon mass -- not bad for a weekday in a country where the Catholic Church is often said to be in decline.

Falling Church attendance and an ageing clergy are often cited as proof that a series of sex-abuse scandals and Ireland's economic miracle of the 1990s have caused irreparable harm to the once-mighty status of Irish Roman Catholicism.

However, the generally warm welcome last month for a disgraced former bishop of Galway, after years in self-imposed exile, and new data suggesting church-going may be rising, show prosperity and scandal need not spell the end of spirituality.

"People don't take religion as seriously as they used to," said 39-year-old housewife Josephine Treacy, sheltering in the abbey's porch during a break from shopping. "But I think it's important it plays a role in people's lives. Definitely I would feel fairly near God in what I do."

Posted by kshaw at March 28, 2006 08:50 AM