Today’s Ireland “culpably blind” to neglect of children – Bishop
Ireland is now “a more dangerous place for young people than it was in the terrible old days that we all wish to leave behind” according to the auxiliary bishop of Down and Connor, Bishop Donal McKeown.
At a Mass in St Peter’s Church in Drogheda to mark the 90th anniversary of the beatification of St Oliver Plunkett, Dr McKeown referred to his years of experience in education and lamented that, “There is nothing glorious or liberated about the world we adults have created for many young people”.
The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady was the chief celebrant at the Mass, and it was concelebrated by Bishop Gerard Clifford, auxiliary bishop of Armagh, Bishop McKeown and Canon James Carroll, custodian of St Oliver’s shrine in Drogheda.
The theme of this year’s Festival Day was ‘The Young Church’.
Bishop McKeown told pilgrims in his homily, “The modern Irish Church has to work in painful circumstances. We live with the fact that the glorious story which we told about ourselves – missionaries in every country, full churches, semper fidelis, always faithful to God and his teaching – was at least partly a myth.”
He added, “But the pain of embarrassment and shame that we may feel is nothing compared to the reality that so many lives have been permanently scarred because of pain and suffering inflicted on them.”
However, Bishop McKeown warned that story tellers in the future would portray today’s Ireland as “culpably blind and caught up status and power”, and as being so concerned about “protecting their good name and finances that they could not see the price that the underprivileged continue to pay for the success of some”.
“[N]ew stories will eventually be written about today’s Ireland and about the over 10% of Irish children who currently live in consistent poverty, despite the huge and sometimes obscenely vulgar levels of wealth that the Celtic Tiger produced and concentrated in relatively few hands. Those stories will ask how we allowed 188 young people in the Republic to die while in the care of the state in the last ten years without so much as a complaint.”
He said that Ireland of tomorrow would also ask “why we didn’t take seriously the 11,700 hospital admissions in the Republic because of serious self harm, and why beautiful, carefree Ireland has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe among young people.”
The Bishop highlighted how drink, drugs, suicide, violence, mental disorders, fast cars made it dangerous to be young and male. “It is doubly dangerous to be young, male – and poor,” he said.
Bishop McKeown, who is a member of the Irish Episcopal Council for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith development added, “They will condemn the high priests of the new orthodoxy for their perceived arrogance and their assumed infallibility. And they will ask why civic society learned little from the Murphy or Ryan reports.”
Speaking to The Universe, Bishop McKeown recalled that he was a student studying for the priesthood in Rome at the time of the canonisation of St Oliver Plunkett in 1975.
“I still associate Oliver Plunkett with courage, determination, a sense of having been called by God to do a difficult job in very difficult circumstances.”
He said, “The Irish Church – as well as Irish society – still faces huge challenges and needs people of courage who are prepared to pay the price for speaking the truth and investing in the future.”
Bishop McKeown said, “Young people still respond so well to heroes – but also need to hear a clear voice from Church leaders, speaking the truth not just about the past but also about the present in modern Irish society.”
Before Mass, a procession of the relics of St Oliver took place in Drogheda and was led by a colour party which included representatives of local Catholic organisations.
Meanwhile a new website dedicated to St Oliver Plunkett was launched on 4 July and can be visited at www.saintoliverplunkett.com