… the numbers of faithful keep on falling, according to 2016 Census data released 12 October. A few of the details:
- Catholics were 78.3 percent of the population in April 2016, compared to 84.4 percent five years earlier.
- The percentage of Catholics in Ireland peaked in 1961 at 94.9 percent.
- Ireland’s 3,729,115 Catholics in 2016 was 132,220 fewer than 2011, while the nation’s total population grew by 173,613.
- People born outside of Ireland were 12 percent of the country’s total Catholic population, the same as 2011. It was 7.2 percent in 2002.
- The average age of Catholics was 38.2, slightly older than the general population 37.4.
These numbers require more exploration and context. Growing secularism and diversity are part of the reason. Church scandals are another. One place to start is this 2013 piece by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin:
A Post-Catholic Ireland?: Renewing the Irish church from within
The causes of the crisis lie within the church itself. Much of the heritage of Catholic-dominated Ireland still entraps us from being free witnesses to the Christian message within a secular society that is seeking meaning. It is not a time to be lamenting; it is a time to be rising to the challenge with courage and Christian enthusiasm.