In an open letter to Pope Francis Irish priest Fr Joe McDonald has says, “Ireland is in danger of losing her very soul.” Writing from his parish of St Matthew’s in Ballyfermot, Dublin, he called on the Pontiff to step in to save the dying church in Ireland.

Published in the Irish Examiner, Fr McDonald’s open letter criticizes the ways in which the Church is currently failing the Irish people, citing, in particular, the Church’s attitudes towards sexuality, the lack of female clergy, the bad leadership within the Catholic community in Ireland and the lack of young people motivated to engage and practice their faith.

The Irish priest writes of his determination to see change happen and to make it happen and speaks affectionately of the people in his own parish whom he feels the Church is failing.

“I am pastor here with the faith community of St Matthew’s in West Dublin,” he writes.

“We are a long way from the Vatican and, in some ways, we would be seen as poor, but you know, Holy Father, in the ways that matter, we are as rich as they come. Here in St Matthew’s, I meet both saints and ‘living martyrs’ on a daily basis. Here, the shadow of the cross is long. Social exclusion, poverty and the ravages of addiction have taken their toll.

“The people here are the best, and the young people are the best of the best. I wish you could feel their sense of social justice. I love their outrage. On a number of occasions, I have been moved to tears by this beautiful faith community, in their generosity of heart and often from their pocket as well.”

Despite the Irish Catholic Church being one of the leading voices in the campaign for a “no” vote in the recent same-sex marriage referendum, Fr McDonald beautifully describes the happiness of the “yes” vote and his belief that God loves all, regardless of their sexuality. He also accepts that the Church was, in part, to blame for “the appalling treatment of homosexual people.”

“Here in Ireland we were once known as the Isle of Saints and Scholars; affectionately, at times, referred to as the Green Isle.

“However, we made world news recently when we glowed pink. A large majority of our brothers and sisters voted in favor of same-sex marriage. In so far as it was a victory over discrimination and an end to the appalling treatment of homosexual people, sometimes by the Church, it was a happy day indeed. The smiles, quiet tears and at times, joyful dancing, of the young, and not so young was infectious and one could not but look at them and love them, as I have no doubt the Lord does.”

“Perhaps one topical area is worth a mention, though, that being the area of sexuality,” he continues.

“We have made such a mess here that it is difficult to know where to begin. We are so disconnected from people in this regard that vast numbers of still-practicing Catholics simply turn off when we begin to speak in this regard. We still employ the language of imperative, meanwhile failing to speak with passion and conviction about the beauty of our sexuality, or, as you have so beautifully developed for us, the joy of the Gospel.”

In his most damning criticism of the church, the Dublin priest calls on the Holy See to hand out P45s to those responsible for bad leadership within the church in Ireland or those who are not capable of actively supporting their community, asking for time-frames to be set on the amount of time served by bishops.

Fr McDonald is also highly critical of the restrictions placed on women who wish to play a larger role in their own faith and states that he sees the barriers placed on women who wish to become members of the clergy being removed in the future.

“Whilst I do not believe the future of the Irish church is either clerical or male, we will need your help to tackle the problem of poor leadership. We will need you to prepare quite a number of P45s, many of these for diocesan clergy, a few for male religious, less again for female religious.

“Regrettably, I fear we will probably need more than a few of these P45s for the Episcopal Conference. Perhaps you could introduce six-year terms of office for bishops?”

He finishes his letter by inviting the Pope for pizza to discuss further the need for change within the Catholic Church in Ireland.

“Holy Father, I see you miss going for pizza and, as it happens I love pizza. I was wondering would it be possible that we could share a pizza, somewhere convenient to yourself, and I could elaborate a little on just how serious things are. I hope this can find its way onto your urgent to-do list, for there can be no doubt Ireland is in danger of losing her very soul.”

Do you agree with Fr Joe McDonald’s criticism of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Catholic Church worldwide? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.

H/T: The Irish Examiner

40 years of research shows Catholics are more open to gay rights, divorce and unmarried couples living together.Wikimedia Commons