Recent dire warnings that the Catholic church in Ireland is "on the edge of collapse" have been dismissed by a new Irish association of Irish priests.
Father Tony Flannery, a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests, told the press this week that he believes that the participants in Vatican appointed apostolic visitation to Ireland are "really listening" to the concerns of the clergy and the Irish people.
Father Flannery added that he believed that the visitors truly grasped "depth and urgency" of the crisis in Ireland caused by the revelations of decades of sexual abuse and cover-up.
Pope Benedict called for the visitation last year, in the aftermath of the sexual abuse crisis, naming top prelates to lead the review, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.
Observers say that Cardinal O’Malley believes Irish Catholicism is now at risk, but he believes that the nation can still avoid the more pronounced forms of secularization to be found in other Western European countries.
Sources say O’Malley has stressed to the Irish clergy that the visitation will be more than a cosmetic exorcise, assuring the participants that he will make a no holds barred report to Rome.
"If it goes into the Vatican and a response comes back that’s inadequate, or we get no response at all, it will be an awful pity," Flannery told the press. "The future is at risk."