The abuse crisis in the Irish church is not the only grave challenge facing it, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the Catholic News Service this week.

The failure to pass on the faith to the younger generation has far reaching consequences for the church too he claimed.

"We have to completely, radically change the way we pass on the faith," Martin told CNS. "Our parishes are not places where evangelization and catechesis are taking place."

Speaking in Washington before he presented a lecture to the Order of Malta Martin, the Primate of Ireland, lamented the declining practice of the faith in Dublin - where just 18 percent of Catholics now regularly attend Sunday Mass.

Controversially, Martin noted that if the Catholic Church runs 90 percent of the elementary schools in Ireland yet only 18 percent of Catholics attend Mass, it made him wonder about the commitment of Catholic teachers.

"If people are being prepared for the sacraments by people who don't frequent the sacraments, there's a real problem there," Martin said.

"Unless we address it, we're not going to have a next generation of young Catholics," he said.

"We're suffering from some of the products of being a mass Catholicism in the past. We're still living, in some ways, as if that were the case today," he said.

Martin said he believed the secularization of Irish society was quite advanced and he spoke of the need for training laypeople to relieve priests of some of their extra tasks so they can focus more on priestly duties.

Young people in particular, Martin said, have a great deal to contribute but they must be treated with respect

"Parishes where young people are present and committed are parishes where they've been given responsibility," he said. "And the parishes which treat young people where they say 'You come on our conditions,' that's just not working."

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid MartinREUTERS