Fr. Vincent Twomey, Emeritus Professor of Moral Theology at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, addressed an enraptured crowd at the University Church on Wednesday 29th January in Dublin centre. The event was co-hosted by The Iona Institute and the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason.
Fr. Twomey surveyed the situation of the Church in Ireland, covering much ground in a forty-five-minute session, reflecting on the past, discussing the present and looking for a way forward. In particular, the absence of an authentic sense of God in our lives, which he believes is at the root of the Church’s troubles, and of society’s more generally, is at the forefront of what he feels is the Church’s challenge now, as it was in the past.
He called for a ‘Day of Reparation’ to be held each year on the First Friday in Lent, to remind ourselves of the damage caused by the Church scandals in the 20th century, where “the clergy (Religious as well as secular) would undertake a day of fasting and prayer, and go to confession, culminating in an evening Prayer Service of Reparation and a Celebration of Reconciliation in every Cathedral in the country”.
But he also remarked that this needs to be balanced by “more festive celebrations of the gift of God among us, as well as celebrating the lives of men and women of faith, who down to our own day devoted their lives to education and the care of the sick both at home and abroad”.
While many news outlets focussed on this part of the talk, or his reference to the need to dress more appropriately at Mass, there was a much deeper discussion to be considered, beyond the superficialities picked up by the media.
He went on: “The past achievements of Irish Christianity, above all, but not only, the saints, have to be recognised as sources of pride and inspiration. Pilgrimages on foot to the holy wells and other sacred sites, such as Clonmacnoise and Clonfert need greater attention, especially for the youth. We also need to celebrate the faith of our fathers as it found expression is the spirituality of former generations. we need to honour the astonishing artistic and intellectual achievements of the past – and future generations need to know and appreciate them.”