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Where Do We Go From Here? - The Crisis in Irish Catholicism by Brendan Hoban (9.95 eurodollars, from The Pastoral Centre, Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland)


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Father Hoban's book outlines a clear direction for the church

A review by Fr. Brian

In a recent article, Robert Kaiser, who was Time magazine's religion correspondent at the Second Vatican Council, challenged journalists like me to be positive about the achievements of the Council. Fifty years on, he argued, it's not a wake we're holding.

Rather than grieve for a lost opportunity, we should celebrate what Vatican 11 has done for us. It has, he insists, given us a new view of ourselves; we're more free to be human.

It has given us a new view of Church; "It's our Church, not The Pope's Church, not the Bishop's Church, or the priest's Church... rather than whine over what daddy wont let us do, we can put the Council into play ourselves."

That's exactly what Fr Brendan Hoban is attempting to do in his new book: Where Do We Go From Here?: The Crisis in Irish Catholicism.


In a selection of 20 readable chapters he charts (1) where we are now, (2) what's happening to the Catholic Church in Ireland and (3) where do we go from here? Where we are now is succinctly summed up with a quote from Jesuit priest Peter McVerry.

"Without root and branch reform, the Church, as it currently exists in Ireland, will die - and I will shed no tears. I believe in the Church; I have received so much from the church; I believe that the vision of Jesus is vitally important for our time and that the Church is the bearer of that vision - but not in its present form."

How often have you read those and similar sentiments in this column?

Those of us who believed the Council was the work of the Holy Spirit and was the exciting new plan gifted to us by God, willingly dedicated our lives to the cause.

As Brendan Hoban writes: "I certainly didn't go to Maynooth because of the Council but, hand on heart, I would have to say that I probably stayed because of it."

Now we fear that for 30 years forces who hold the real power within the Catholic Church have frustrated the work of the Council and in doing do have led us into a cul de sac - rejecting the Spirit always does.

Hoban believes that had we bought into the Council with enthusiasm and without fear, the church would not be in decline. If we had encouraged the laity to share leadership we could have avoided most of the scandals for which our church is now despised.

"Just to give one example" he writes. "If parents were dealing with the allegations of clerical child sex abuse instead of the bishops, the response would have been very different. And the Catholic Church in Ireland might not now be at, what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin famously called, 'breaking point'. We've paid a high price for not listening to what God said to us in the Spirit driven insights of fifty years ago."


Brendan Hoban names the real issues whilst answering vital question as to why the Catholic Church in Ireland is so out of touch with its own people.

We need to embrace change to re-create a new and different church: "A church that listens to itself by listening to its people. A church that loosens the stranglehold of control...and releases the gifts of lay people...a church in tune with the rhythms of our time; a church that cherishes diversity and celebrates difference; a church that names the truth, regardless; a church that implements the teachings of the Second Vatican Council rather than ambushes them along the way." (p. 96)

There is a chapter on an unusual meeting of priests and people in Kilfenora (Co. Clare) called to discuss the perceived chronic shortage of priests in the area. They agreed it need not be so because there are plenty of willing, capable and gifted laity in parishes all over Ireland.

Fr Ned Crosby is quoted: "Will we continue to dig for vocations with broken spades? Will we continue to keep praying for vocations when perhaps God has already answered our prayers...are we like people weeping at a well running dry when there are rivers of fresh streams running all around us?"


This is an honest book from a dedicated and loyal priest. It will be greeted with enthusiasm by a minority of priests and most lay people. Hoban gets to the heart of the matter in an accessible way. It is written by a sincere man, who believes "God's people are telling us things and the Church needs to listen."

Reprinted from The Sunday World (Aug. 2012).

For an extra €2 the book is available by post from The Pastoral Centre, Ballina, Co Mayo, Ireland.

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