Christian survey may have had agenda, say bishops
Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent The Irish Times Thursday June 14th.
A survey on Christian knowledge, published last April, has been criticised strongly by two Catholic bishops, who also suggested that those who commissioned it may have had an agenda.
A press conference in Maynooth yesterday was also told it was hoped Bishop Eamonn Casey would be allowed return to public ministry, "quickly, for his sake". Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway said it was for Rome to decide and that Bishop Casey was "doing well" following a hip operation.
The survey criticised was conducted by Lansdowne Market Research for the Iona Institute and the Evangelical Alliance Ireland group. It found that almost one-third (32 per cent) of those surveyed could not say where Jesus was born, while just 15 per cent knew that "transubstantiation" (whereby bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ) was the term used to describe what takes place at the Eucharist during Mass.
Overall, it found Christian knowledge was highest among those over 65 and lowest in the 15-24 age group.
At the press conference concluding the summer meeting of the Irish Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel said he would like to see "a critical study of the methodology" used in the survey.
He noted it allowed for one answer to each question, so that when it asked where Jesus was born, it accepted "Bethlehem" but not "a stable". Similarly, he said those who answered "consecration" as opposed to "transubstantiation" when asked what occurred at the Eucharist Mass, were also discounted.
Bishop Drennan wondered whether those who commissioned the survey had "an agenda against the Alive O [religious education] programme".
He pointed out that just 10 per cent of those surveyed would have been young enough to avail of the Alive O programme, introduced in 1996. Both bishops praised teachers of religious education as "very competent" and "extremely committed".
The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O'Reilly appealed for media sensitivity when dealing with abortion-related stories. "The media too have a responsibility to exercise moral judgment in the often invasive way that they pursue vulnerable family members in covering abortion-related stories," he said.
He reiterated the Church's position on abortion and expressed the hope that politicians would keep it in mind when it came to relevant debate and abortion-related legislation.
Bishop O'Reilly said discussions were ongoing between the Church's pregnancy counselling agency Cura and the State's Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) over the distribution of the latter's Positive Options leaflet. It supplies information on agencies which give details of abortion referral. He also said discussion was ongoing with the four Letterkenny Cura volunteers who precipitated the crisis between Cura and the CPA when they refused to distribute the leaflet. It is understood talks are taking place about a possible meeting with the volunteers on June 27th.
The last meeting with them was in August 2006.
Fr Jim Cassin, secretary of the Bishops' Commission on Education, welcomed the evolution of pluralism in the patronage of primary schools, while emphasising that children of other faiths would continue to be welcomed in schools with a Catholic ethos.
Archbishop Clifford said he would like to see more housing provision for young couples and at more reasonable prices. He also felt a good train service would ease family pressures and help family life, allowing for more quality time with children.
© 2007 The Irish Times