.- A leading commentator on the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland is asking the Vatican to consider appointing non-Irish bishops to currently vacant dioceses on the Emerald Isle.
“I think we need to think outside the box in a big way,” said David Quinn of the Dublin-based Iona Institute in a June 5 interview with CNA in Rome.
“We may need to appoint overseas-based priests as bishops in Ireland or bring suitable people in to run the national seminary,” he suggested.
At present, four of Ireland’s 26 dioceses are vacant. Quinn believes that any new bishop will find a local church where “morale is low” and that is still “very shell shocked” after years of attack from the country’s political and cultural elite in the wake of several clerical abuse scandals.
In making his case for foreign bishops, Quinn points out that in contemporary Ireland there are now “non-nationals running our banks, running Aer Lingus, running Dublin Zoo, managing the Irish football team.” All that, he believes, begs the question, ‘Why not a few non-Irish priests running parts of the Church if that is what it takes?’
He also thinks that importing non-Irish bishops “would probably take a bit of adjusting” but that it could work “if the right people were found and they were personable and were able to get out and about and meet people and set their minds at ease.”
The idea of foreign missionaries coming to Ireland is not a new one. Historic legend suggests that Saint Patrick, the island’s patron, hailed from Wales or Scotland. And it’s a Celtic connection that Quinn thinks should once again be fruitfully re-established.
“There is obviously a lot of affinity between Scotland and Ireland, so I think it would be quite easy for them to adjust and for us to adjust to them.”
A key player in any new episcopal appointments will be Ireland’s papal nuncio, American Archbishop Charles Brown, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2011.
Ireland is currently hosting the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, June 10-17. Quinn hopes that the sight of so many “public, happy, joyous young Catholics” in the streets of the Irish capital will leave a lasting and positive legacy.
“It is a side of the faith that has not been seen in Ireland for a very long time,” he said. It shows “a more positive side of Catholicism, and if that sticks in the memory of some people that would obviously be amazing.”