By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 September, 2020
Co Mayo priest, Fr Brendan Hoban, has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic has “placed a huge question-mark over the financial viability of the Catholic Church” in Ireland.
Writing in his weekly column for the Western People, he said that as only a tiny percentage of Catholics can attend weekly Mass due to the current restrictions.
As weekly Mass is the location for most collections, “the income of the Catholic Church is now in free-fall, and will be (it appears) for some time,” the retired parish priest said.
Countering the “strange belief” that the Catholic Church has plenty of money, the co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests dismissed this view as “a persistent fallacy, beloved of critics of the Church”.
He added that it was “glaringly obvious” that without church collections there is no other form of income available. “The Catholic Church is as rich as its adherents are generous – no more and no less,” he said.
Some parishes, according to Fr Hoban, are in financial difficulty, especially those who have no savings to call on or who have been caught in the middle of a parish building programme.
He said the fear is that, while religious practice had declined significantly over recent years for a variety of reasons, the pandemic may well be what sends that decline spiralling out of control.
“In such circumstances, the reality is that, like any other institution, the Church will have to cut its cloth according to its measure: churches will close; priest numbers (even if we could attract vocations) will continue to decline because we won’t be able to pay them; the public profile of the Church may diminish to the point of virtual invisibility.”
He said Irish Catholics must face up to questions such as “what will the Catholic Church in Ireland be like after the pandemic? And what do we need to do now to prepare for it?”