RTÉ One, Sunday 4 December, 10.35pm
With almost 20 years experience of making programmes about the Catholic Church, in the first of a two-part Would You Believe? Special, Mick Peelo embarks on a journey, from the parish up, to see if there is a future for Irish Catholicism and if so, what shape that church will take as it battles through its present crises.
Who would ever have thought they'd see the day when women would preside at worship at the altar of their local Catholic Church? Alice Crotty from Porterstown says "I think the Church is developing in such a way that God is saying to his people, 'You are all my people. You are all priests in a way. You are all there to guide the church and to profess my word." Alice is one of many lay people who lead her community in worship when there's no priest. And with fewer and fewer priests to go round, that's a growing reality.
The writing has been on the wall for some time. The Catholic Church in Ireland is going through major upheaval. Church-State relations are at an all time low with the Government being accused of pursuing an aggressive secularist agenda. Falling attendances and declining vocations are seriously questioning the survival of the Catholic church into the future.
The question that every parish in Ireland will need to address is: Do you want the Catholic Church to survive and if so, what kind of a church is it going to be?
In part 1, Mick Peelo looks at the reality on the ground in parishes in Dublin and Killaloe diocese and meets the people who are struggling to reclaim their church. The challenges facing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Ireland's most recent bishop, Kieran O'Reilly of Killaloe, are huge. Priests and people are asking their leaders, if they really believe that the Spirit of God speaks through all the baptized, then why is it only male, celibate, clerics who are allowed sit at the table of governance in the Catholic Church? How come only they can decide what is orthodox, who can be ordained, who appoints bishops, and the future direction for the Catholic Church in Ireland?
If the future is going to be, of necessity, a more lay-centred Church, are the bishops really up for the challenge?
"The change in Irish religious culture that is taking place now is certainly the greatest since Catholic Emancipation." - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Dublin
"It's got too difficult to call yourself Catholic anymore." - Fr Gerry O' Hanlon, Jesuit Theologian
" I don't think I left the Catholic Church, I think the Catholic Church left me" - Paul Brady of Wicklow.
"We are afraid that the Vatican seems to be at a huge remove from where the people are at. We feel that the Irish bishops are not in tune with the needs of their own people. We feel in some degree that as priests, we have moved away too. What we are searching for, what we are looking for is an opportunity to lead the church into the place it's supposed to be." - Fr Brendan Hoban, Association of Catholic Priests
"I think it's precisely because the Church is on its knees that you want to get involved. I have a vision of what the church could be. I suppose as a baptised person I have a duty to work towards that vision," says Colette Kavanagh, Lucan, Dublin
"The model of Church we've had has been a 'provided for' model.the priest provided the services, and the lay people availed of the services. Instead of going to church, we have to become the church in our local places and that's the big shift that I see needs to happen." Maureen Kelly of Killaloe
"I have invited people to come and join me .to vision together, to see together what the spirit is asking the Church in Ireland to be and to do." - Bishop Kieran O'Reilly, Killaloe
"Leadership for change hasn't come from the hierarchy or the Vatican but it's coming from the people.who would have believed it would have happened?" - Fr John Hassett, Lucan, Dublin.