Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said many of the best seminarians for the Catholic Church here no longer come from traditional all-Catholic schools, but from schools where the young man has already tested and strengthened his faith in a pluralist environment.
In a speech being delivered in Rome's Irish College this afternoon, he also rejects criticisms by right wing Catholic groups of Pope Francis's decision to canonise Cardinal John Henry Newman, and accuses them of fostering a polarisation within the Church.
Dr Martin evaluated the ultimately unsuccessful efforts by the Irish hierarchy to establish a Catholic University in the capital shortly after the Great Famine, and the role played by the Anglican-turned-Catholic priest and controversial English intellectual, John Henry Newman, the university's founding rector, who served between 1854 and 1858.
Dr Martin asks whether Irish Catholicism would be better equipped to live in today's pluralist and more secular society if one of his predecessors, Archbishop Daniel Murray, had had his way, and Irish students of the post-Famine era had attended what he calls "State structures in education (rather than) ... Catholic enclaves".
He praised the courage that another of his predecessors, Cardinal Paul Cullen, who invited Newman in 1851 to become the university's founding rector. He noted that the English cardinal was "a controversial figure, especially among certain personalities of the Catholic establishment in England and in Rome who feared Newman's theological openness".
He cites a Monsignor Talbot encapsulation of that anxiety when he called Newman the "most dangerous man in Britain" because of his theological views.
Archbishop Martin went on to say that "it is interesting to see today that groupings linked with militant right wing theological thought have taken up those contemporary criticisms of Newman, and utilise them in fostering a polarisation within the Church today. In their blogs, they show how unhappy they are that the Pope would canonise Newman.
"Pope Francis only last week warned against those who are so attached to their own idea of orthodoxy in teaching. They become tied up in their own views and do not allow the permanent newness of the Gospel message to challenge their hearts to constantly seek a deeper understanding of faith."
The Archbishop also praised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's vision of a church-state relationship, in which the church would no longer be at the centre of the state, but would continue to have a meaningful role in society.
Dr Martin said Irish culture was becoming impoverished by a false dichotomy between religion and society, and both sides of the debate were at fault.
"Today there is a need for the transformation of dimensions of Irish culture for the sake of mature pluralism. Exponents of Catholic culture have difficulty in recognising that Catholic culture in Ireland does not have the prominence that it had in the past. However, it must not retreat from public space, but must live as salt of the earth in a new way."
Dr Martin added there were signs of the emergence of a new relationship.
"I am happy that the University of Notre Dame has espoused my vision of making the Church today a place of dialogue, but adding also another dimension by sending a distinguished Church musician to help develop it as a place of worship adapted to the search for faith in our contemporary world. The project is only at a beginning. It is important that Newman's tradition of rigorous independent theological thought be retained, and that the project does not become the exclusive home to any single grouping of Irish religious subculture."
The canonisation of Cardinal Newman will take place in the Vatican on Sunday morning.
The Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, will lead 30 pilgrims from the diocese, and Bishop Fintan Monaghan from the neighbouring diocese of Killaloe will also attend, as well as Bishop Emeritus of Rahoe, Philip Boyce.
The following Sunday, 20 October, Archbishop Martin will preside at the 6.15pm Mass in Newman Church in St Stephen's Green, which will feature music by the Newman Vocare Ensemble and the Carolan String Quartet.