Saturday, January 29, 2011

Eucharistic Congress 2012: Worrying Developments

Meeting with a priest friend the other day, he let me read some of the documents emerging from the committees organising next year's Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.  One of them which lays down the rules for the journey of a Eucharistic Congress bell through the country (pretty rigid rules) reads more like something out of "Have I Got News For You?" or  the script of a Monty Python sketch.   But then again, the documents online are just as bad. 
Reading through the Pastoral Preparation Programme, available online here, I see a lot of problems, the main one being a disordered emphasis on the individual rather than on the mystery of the Eucharist.  The theme of the congress is The Eucharist, Communion with Christ and One Another, it seems to me most of the emphasis is on the latter end of the theme. 
Have a read of the document and see for yourself, it will remind you of those awful paraliturgies we have had to endure for the last thirty years, where we focus on "our" gathering, "our" story, "our" experience - the sort of stuff that has led a couple of generations of Catholics away from worshipping God to worshipping themselves. In reality this is where the Church is in Ireland at the moment, and has been for some time - certainly my generation got nothing else. The sort of stuff which reduces the mystery of the Eucharist to the subjective celebration of a community turned in on itself, rather than a community turning to God worshiping him and celebrating the Mystery of Salvation.  As a priest trying to prepare his parish for the Congress and foster a genuine Eucharistic faith this stuff is no help at all, more of a hindrance actually.
I know from a number of sources that there is a serious dispute going on behind the scenes.  Orthodox faithful who want to make the Eucharistic Congress a real celebration of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist against the old guard who seem most uncomfortable with Catholic Eucharistic piety - looking at these documents it seems the old guard won.
The Holy Father has already said that he sees the Congress as part of the Church's renewal in Ireland, I'm afraid if it turns out as the documents here intend, it will do the opposite.  One good thing though, with Eucharistic devotees from around the world in Ireland witnessing this stuff it will become apparent to the powers that be in Rome that serious doctrinal reform is needed in Ireland and that the Visitation must go far beyond the issue of child abuse and seminaries. 
As for the Eucharistic Congress Dublin 2012, another priest said to me last night: "It seems like its going to be another wasted opportunity for Ireland - as were the Years in preparation for the Jubilee 2000, the Jubilee itself, the Year of the Rosary, the Year of the Eucharist, the Pauline Year, the Year of the Priest....all of which were virtually ignored in Ireland."  I hope not, there is still time to turn the thing around.  


  1. The views expressed by Fr. John Hogan do not reflect the feedback coming to the Pastoral Committee of the Eucharistic Congress from parishes and dioceses around the country.

    The pastoral resources provided draw extensively on the Scriptures and on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The encounter of Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, begins with Jesus listening to their experience and then moves on to His opening the Scriptures to them, and revealing Himself in the breaking of Bread. This is the dynamic followed by the Congress pastoral programme.

    We clearly state in our resources that no catechesis is authentic if it depends on human experience alone. Equally, however, no catechesis is effective if it does not provoke reflection on the concrete experience of the person or community to whom it is addressed.

  2. With all due respect, Fr Doran, you should read your own literature. I followed Father's link to the Pastoral Preparation Plan and it is appalling - it is as Fr Hogan described - sixties liturgy and navel gazing. I do not doubt that the feedback you are getting is positive, but who are you listening to? If it is a certain generation with a certain agenda or a spiritually impoverished people who have had nothing but this secularist humanism posing as faith, it is hardly indicative of an orthodox response. Anyway it is known that your committees tried to get Thomas Groome in to formulate the catechesis for the Congress. Groome, an ex priest who left the priesthood because he rejected the Church's teaching on contraception and who supports the ordination of women, who has been the guru of catechists for a generation and has undermined the teaching of the Catholic faith in schools and teacher training colleges, was to provide the theology for the Eucharistic Congress. I believe he has been told he is not invited, but reading the document above it seems the committee has adopted his methodology.

    James Harvey

  3. I can't believe, Fr Doran, that you're trying to use the road to Emmaus as some sort of paradigm for the failed religious education teaching methodolology that we've had for the past thirty years with Alive-O and Children of God. It simply doesn't work. It starts with the human experience, ponders it, celebrates it, wonders around aimlessly in it, and never makes the connection with God. We've had generations of Irish children looking at the notion of celebration, birthday parties etc and then they're supposed to connect that with the Mass. When they don't we're told it's because the Mass isn't enough of a celebration - so we get balloons and Barney the dinasour, and ridiculous songs a la "we are the greatest, yeah" and if you're lucky Holy Bread.

    I would love if the theory worked, I would love if it worked in the Eucharistic Congress but forty years of the lost generations of Irish Catholics tells me it isn't working. So a bell will travel round Ireland and we'll get endless references to the bell, it's role in the celtic church (sic), the call to prayer etc and that's where it will end.

    But I'll pray for the success of the congress and I'll encourage adoration in my parish and we'll do our best to make the event work - but I fear it will look like a Fianna Fail Ard Fheis. God bless,

    Brendan Doyle,

  4. I'm sorry to shatter Fr Doran's illusions that all is fine with the preparation meetings for the Eucharistic Congress. There were several meetings held across our diocese on the theme of 'Gathering', based on the materials Fr Hogan has linked to. The feedback from clergy and parishioners alike was that the meeting format was a load of waffle about your own experience of gathering and that the Blessed Eucharist was never even mentioned. Many came away disillusioned that their hopes of a new, vibrant and truly Catholic catechesis on the Eucharist were dashed. It seems that we are being subjected to the same bland 1970s substitute for true devotion that has done such harm in our parishes and schools. I dare anyone to read the 'IEC2012' (trying to get 'with it' and down with the Olympic cool kids, are we Fr Trendy??) materials that Fr Hogan has linked to and say that these would be appealing to today's young Catholics. Those who don't practice the faith would find the materials to be pure naff, while those who do practice (particularly those who attend good prayer groups like Youth 2000) would find them empty and even risible.
    We need more good priests like Fr Hogan to bring to light what is happening with the preparations for the Eucharistic Congress, or else the Congress will be such a disaster we'll be in line for another Apostolic Visitation!

    Horatio H.

  5. I think I have to defend Fr Doran. He is a good priest, he writes for ALIVE and he writes good articles, but he has been put in a very difficult position in organising the Eucharistic Congress. He probably realises that what Fr Hogan is saying is true but he has no other option but to defend what the EC committee is coming up with and he is probably trying to salvage what we can see is an empty celebration.


  6. I have followed this discussion and am, naturally, disappointed that the work of so many good people is disparaged in this way.

    Lest people have not noticed, the Congress pastoral programme places the focus on four key elements of the Eucharistic liturgy,
    1. the Gathering (or Assembly of the people of God), which is the meaning of "ekklesia"
    2. the Liturgy of the Word, which is coming in the next few weeks
    3. the liturgy of the Eucharist
    4. the mission

    I think it is unreasonable to expect that we have dealt with all of these things while we are only in the early stages of the programme. In April of 2010 we did produce substantial resource materials on Adoration and on Eucharistic Processions, which are still available on our web-site in the first edition of e-Congress.

    I think we need to be clear that, while the Blessed Sacrament is at the heart of the Eucharist, all these other dimensions are also integral parts of the Eucharistic Celebration. The brief we have been given is to prepare a Congress (and an after-Congress) in which the Eucharist in all its fullness and richness is celebrated, adored and lived.

    I am conscious that some of those who have commented on this page may have something to contribute to the Congress and its pastoral resources. We would gladly consider any submission which contributes to the deeping of the theme or to the objectives of the Congress. Contributions may be sent to

    Finally, as the person responsible for the Congress, I can state quite categorically that, while the work of Thomas Groome was appropriately referenced, like the work of any other author, there was never any question of inviting Dr. Groom to formulate the catechesis for the Congress.

  7. With all due respect, Fr Doran, Thomas Groome was already invited and it was only when objections were raised at senior level that the invitation was withdrawn. His "Shared Christian Praxis" is all over that document. I do not think it is a case of referencing him like any author, but implementing his deeply flawed views.

    As regards the work of so many good people being disparaged - there is no intention to offend, but that excuse has been used by Church figures in Ireland for years and has kept a bad catechetical programme in place and made out that those who questioned it and critiqued it were uncharitable and unchristian.

    Whatever else is to come in the programme, the first step is flawed and a bad foundation, it has started a process of relativistic subjectivity and that is a bad start. Groome's approach has failed, when will the powers that be in the Irish Church realise this?


  8. We do not need the theology of gathering, bells or songs etc etc. They are not necessary. They could be an added extra if we knew the basics. But we don't know the basics. We as an Irish people do not know the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

    We need teaching. What is the Eucharist? No one has taught my generation anything. We need accurate Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. Why can we not have it?

    I thought that the Eucharistic Congress preparation would include teaching in every parish on the Eucharist. "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity", type teaching. Beautiful talks that would inspire us in our Eucharistic devotion. etc.

    I have no desire to attend any of these preparation meetings. My time is precious and I can not waste it on possible fluff.

  9. How good it is when brothers live in unity; it is like the oil on Aaron's beard.

  10. Well please God those who do take part in the pastoral programme over the coming months will come closer to the Lord as that is the main aim here and from my own reading of the pastoral programme (I'm no theologian!) I think it has a lot of potential. I think the bell is a lovely idea too. They had something similar at the last one in Quebec? And the WYD Cross also does a pilgrimage. Anything that brings people together in prayer surely is a good thing?!

    As Fr Kevin mentioned above, if anyone has ideas, email them, I'm sure he is very approachable and open to hearing what people have to say.

    It's very healthy to have this debate and it's wonderful to see the Eucharistic Congress being discussed. Nothing is easy when following the Lord but perhaps Fr Kevin and his team need some encouragement and ideas from posters here instead of criticism? And of course, most importantly, your prayers. This can't be an easy job. From reading the negativity here, I'm certainly going to be offering up more of my Holy Hours for them from now on, I think Fr Kevin needs our support.

  11. Not all criticism is bad, it can be very constructive, it is only seen as universally negative when those being criticised do not like criticism, which leads you to ask the question: why not? I think this discussion is very healthy too, and if people feel the prep program is defective, their criticisms might just be a positive thing. If Groome or his ideas are involved, drop the whole thing. This guy has messed up things here in the States.

  12. Christopher: What about Fr Doran's beard?!

  13. Maybe get Chris Patten in to sort out the Congress. He did a good job with the UK Papal visit when it seemed doomed.