Page 3, 30th April 1965

30th April 1965
Page 3
Page 3, 30th April 1965 — JOHN HORGAN'S DUBLIN LETTER

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I ENT over, Ireland's annual crop of conferences and congresses has blossomed like Easter flowers. Some of these conferences are routine affairs: the majority, on the other hand, arc not — and they are becoming increasingly characterised by a type of purposeful no-nonsense discussion which promises to play a major part in the reinvigoration of the Irish pastoral scene.

Such was the 20th Congress of the Christus Rex Society which took place in the small Co. Tipperary town of Cahir last week. At the end of the Congress the Christu.s Rex Society issued a statement saying that it had decided to allocate money annually to promote scientific socio-religious research projects.

A committee has been selected to promote among the Irish clergy a fund to provide "adequate financial backing for an expanded programme of social and pastoral study and research".

There already is, as the Congress statement pointed out, a nucleus of young Irish priests trained in social survey techniques. It is now hoped that pilot projects can be started and that this will be one step towards providing Irish priests with sonic of the equipment of religious sociology which has been so important a factor of pastoral renewal elsewhere in the Church.

"In a rapidly developing and changing society such as modern Ireland," the statement added, "Irish priests are more than ever determined to deploy the full resources of modern methods and techniques. Social research becomes more than ever important and promises to be increasingly beneficial to both priest and people."

The importance of the Christus Rex decision cannot be overemphasised. One of the paradoxes of Ireland is that it is an almost completely Catholic country and that, at the same time, there is an astonishing dearth of statistical and sociological detail about the faith and the people who practise it.

Such professional or semiprofessional priest-sociologists as exist arc frequently hamstrung by the extent and demands of their other commitments, while the lay

man who wants to investigate this particular field meets a predictable and to a large extent understandable degree of resistance to his enquiries. Ireland has had no Boulard, no Lebret—no one who could evaluate the sociological pattern of her religious 'behaviour as has been done, for instance, in France.

James Halloran, it is true, has been asked to do sonic study on the Irish question and this may well appear in print—when he has the time to write it, and he is a very busy man—but, apart from this, most of the effort to date has been unco-ordinated and, in some cases, over-simplified.

There is no short cut, as the Chris/us Rex Society almost certainly realises to perfection in this field. Sociological techniques are still in their infancy here: the only large-scale social surveys recently attempted, one in connection with the Buy Irish Campaign and the other in connection with the Irish language revival issue, owed more to marketing research techniques than to sociology proper.

Nor can even sociology do more than indicate, in a faint, oblique way, what it is that constitutes the Irish spark of faith. Sociology is, in fact, a twentieth-century examination of conscience—one of the more profitable disciplines of our age, and a discipline that helps to answer the very questions it raises.

OFFICE OPENS ARCHBISHOP McQUAID'S press office was opened at the weekend in Eccles Street (where

Joyce once located Leopold Bloom) with a flourish of trumpets, Dr. McQuaid himself stressing that the event was "our answer to the decree on the communications media".

The Council had laid on Bishops, he added, the obligation of establishing offices that would help in their function of setting forth and defending the truth.

The new director of the Dublin Diocesan Press Office, Mr. Osmond G. Dowling. added, for his part, that, for once, Ireland had led the may in really implementing the current Vatican Council's decree on mass communications, and, in setting up the office, had set a world headline.

Nor, he added, was this the first occasion on which the Dublin Dio

cese had led the world. Two years before Telefis Eireann had been established two priests had been sent to America to study television . . . another "first".

The official opening was a pleasant, informal affair. Dr. McQuaid himself circulated cheerfully among reporters after the speeches, saying that he was sure they would be glad of the opportunity to "see the ogre in his den".

This is obviously no time to judge the Diocesan Press Office: it will he chiefly judged, I imagine, by its results, and this will become easier to do when its terms of reference have been more clearly defined—even the Vatican Council's decree can be put into practice in many ways.

PRIEST AT TRINITY YET ANOTHER CATHOLIC PR I EST this week broached the once forbidding portals of Trinity College. This was Fr. Enda McDonagh, the Maynooth theologian, who spoke to an expert and highly interested audience of the

College Theological Society on Monday. His subject was "The Church and the Social Conscience" and with him on the platform was Captain J. Clarke af the Salvation Army. Since Dr. Cremin walked through Trinity's front gate during the Church Unity Octave, at the express suggestion of Archbishop McQuaid, things have been going from good to better.

It is instructive to think back on the history of the whole Trinity Question, back to the early days of this centurywhen the Catholic hierarchy '.ere faced with one of their most difficult choices: ahether to ostracise Trinity and abandon it completely to an alien culture, or to place no restrictions on Irish students attending it in the hope that the weight of numbers %Nould have the desired effect.

As history knows, they decided on a policy of exclusion. It may have served its purpose for a time: it has certainly contributed in no uncertain Way to the mushroom expansion of University College Dublin and the other constituent colleges of the National University. If the ban were relaxed now, would the intellectual Catholic elite automatically opt for Trinity instead? It is doubtless the fear of this that accounts for the slow process of relaxation: on the other hand, Dr. McQuaid's omission, from this year's Lenten Regulations, of the Hierarchy's ruling on Trinity (made some 40 years ago) was another of these gentle pointers to the way that the zephyr is blowing. It is a movement in which impatience is, almost imperceptibly, losing ground to goodwilL

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