RTE journalist Damien O’Reilly took the media and Atheist Ireland to task in a recent (Feb.17th) edition of The Irish Catholic.
According to O’Reilly there’s a media conspiracy to damage the church by exaggerating the fall in numbers attending Mass.
It’s a tad extreme says O’Reilly to claim that the church is fighting for survival solely on the basis of church attendance numbers.
O’Reilly should really have a chat with one of the head honcho’s of the church Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who recently claimed that the Catholic Church in Ireland is on the brink of collapse.
On the question of Mass attendance the Archbishop said that it was down to 2% of the Catholic population in some of his parishes.
O’Reilly also attacked as bizarre the campaign by Atheist Ireland which asks citizens to be honest about their religion when filling in the Census form next April.
In a bizarre comment himself O’Reilly says:
I know plenty of people who don’t go to Mass every Sunday, but I wouldn’t for a moment call them heathens.
Atheist Ireland is not calling anybody a heathen but is quite reasonably asking for people to accurately reflect their actual religious beliefs on the Census form (See below for the full text from Atheist Ireland).
Further on in the article O’Reilly declares:
We live in a democracy, and we should be tolerant of all religions and none.
This tolerance, however, does not apply to teachers who are banned from teaching in Catholic schools when they are in conflict with the ethos of the Catholic Church.
Be Honest in the Irish Census on Sunday 10 April. Think before you tick your answer to the religion question, and give an answer that matches your actual religious affiliation. If you still believe in God but you are no longer truly a Roman Catholic, please say so. If you are an atheist or agnostic or humanist and you have no religion, please tick the ‘No Religion’ box.
Atheist Ireland wants to see accurate answers to the question on religion. The last Census showed 3.7 million Roman Catholics (that’s about 87% of the population) and 186,000 people with no religion (that’s about 4% of the population). We believe the true figure for Roman Catholics is much lower than 87%, and the true figure for people with no religion is much higher than 4%.
We believe that this inaccuracy happens because many people tick their childhood religion out of habit, or tick a religion that they don’t really practice, or let somebody else fill in the answer for them. But you won’t write in your childhood home address unless you still live there. So don’t write in your childhood religion unless you still really practice it.
Why is this important?
The Census results are used to predict future demand for State services such as schools and hospitals, and other policies. If we get a falsely very high figure for Roman Catholics, and a falsely very low figure for people with no religion, it makes it more likely that the State will discriminate against people of other religions and nonreligious people when providing these services.
Also, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin says that it “does not make use of baptismal registers for calculating the Catholic population of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It relies solely on the data from the Central Statistics Office, obtained through the census, by which citizens themselves choose to record, or not, their religious affiliation.”
So careless answers to the question of religion will have an impact on the allocation of State resources, and on the political lobbying power of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. If you want a fair future based on accurate statistics, please answer this question honestly.