I have just read this book by the Irish Passionist Priest, Fr Brian D'Arcy. It is a sort of biography in which he narrates his experiences as a boy, novice and later priest. He was ordained priest in 1969. He speaks frankly about his own experiences of sexual and psychological abuse within the clergy. He writes beautifully and openly. It is a book which narrates both terrible sadness and great joy. Sadness, because he leads the reader into the shocking culture of oppression and abuse amongst clergy, and joy, because he has come through this dark era and yet is able to express a deep humanity, albeit a wounded one.
It is a book which prompts the question about the origin of the culture of abuse; how did the notion arise in the Irish Church that humanity is unworthy and must be thwarted and repressed?
Towards the end of the book I became very struck that whilst Fr D'arcy is calling for a reform within the Irish Church, he speaks about this in terms of the contemporary liberal agenda which we are so used to hearing - that there should be General Absolution not meaningless confessions. Celibacy should not be mandatory. Women should be admitted to the Priesthood. The 'new' sexual morality should be embraced, etc, etc - yet in no sense does he seem to be aware of the call to a New Evangelisation!
I applaud his analysis of the Irish Church - that any clerical or institutional model which no longer expresses the Gospel should be dismantled - but it is precisely a New Evangelisation which can renew the Church from the grass roots upwards, and enable the development of a new kind of culture within the Church, one which does respond to people's needs today. This awareness is absent from the book. Why?
I can't answer that important question; perhaps things got so dark in Ireland that many could not sense the call of the New Evangelisation. But something that I have learned about the history of Irish Church during the past five decades or more, seems to suggest that this 'strong' outpost of Catholic Europe has remained somewhat remote from the great evangelical Movement which has been growing elsewhere.
The New Evangelisation is the answer to the needs of the Church in Ireland today; indeed, I know that it is already taking root there and a new springtime of the Christian life will blossom there.
If you have the opportunity to read this book, I recommend it wholeheartedly.