During the Mass at St. Matthew's Church in Ballyfermot, Dublin, Fr Joe McDonald criticizes homophobia within the Church. He makes jokes about people who have asked why he is not sanctioned & # 39 ;, and he directs them to the Vatican II Church and the Church of Jesus. These values are there, he says. He leans nonchalantly against the stage as he talks, and his voice goes from silent to loud in his Falls Road accent.
The low-lying church from the 1970s is filled for about three-quarters, mostly from over-50s, although there are a few young families, some from the local Indian Kerala community. In the doorway a pin board advertises pilgrimages to Lourdes and Knock, and a concert in support of the Peter McVerry Trust. There are also piles of Fr Joe & # 39; s newsletter Rumblings from the Bunker . It is the seventeenth Sunday in the normal time.
After the Mass he greets people at the door of the church. An older man cautiously scolds him because he reads too quickly during parts of the service. A younger man tells him about his crucifix tattoo – Father Joe mentioned a project with examples of religious body art – pretending to remove his shirt. Father Joe laughs. "You do not have to show me!"
He tells me about holy contemplation he loves ("a divine waste of time"). He talks about his boxer dog. He talks about lack of responsibility in the church, and how Mary McAleese "scared off old male crunchy celibates".
A former Christian brother who later became a priest after a death and a crisis of faith, Fr Joe wrote a book Why the Irish church deserves to die, and praises the theological discussion with his parishioners.
Some people come to his house every day for "a bowl of soup, a prayer, a medal, a blessing, a chat … The people here have suffered exceedingly, I mean, they are exceptional people. beatification and canonization of characters such as Matt Talbot or Edmund Rice … one of the things that the church investigates is & have they shown heroic virtue? & # 39; I see the heroic virtue here every day. be declared or declared holy.
"A woman with 14 children who buried half of them, a man and a woman in the years & # 39; 70 who raise their grandchildren because their parents are dead – that is heroic virtue. "
Moya Doyle, the parish secretary or, as she describes it," parish-gopher ", introduces me to some parishioners who have been" excommunicated. "She makes a joke Yvonne Foster, who is 60 and one of the founders of the folkgro EP, now goes to Mass three times a week and enjoys the sense of community that it brings. & # 39; You go in here and drink a cup of tea and a little crazy. There is a bit of craziness afterwards and I have met people that I would not have met otherwise. "
Fr Joe, for the record, does sermons that are just as extensive on weekdays." I am not behind the door and say to him, "says Yvonne, aiming at her watch.
What is her favorite piece of mass?
"Receiving Holy Communion."
"I envy that" says 46-year-old Tara Fulham, who has expired for years and only recently regained a faith. "I was a teenager when the scandals started, and I remember that the first bishop was Eamonn Casey and that our parish priest got up and all of us roared not to read the papers … I remember thinking: you can not treat people like this. We must be able to talk about it. "
She came back to church after seeing how Fr Joe served her father-in-law at the end of his life." We talked about it at home, and it was not a very deep conversation, only & # 39; back? & # 39; "
Now she loves to have 45 minutes a week when the kids do not have their heads on a screen, she laughs." I have to be honest when I get in on a Sunday and is not Fr Joe, I'm going to o God, I wonder what this guy will look like & # 39 ;. "
Her faith is not fixed, she says." I often wonder if I'm on pray the right way. I walk away as if it's a friend, & # 39; How do you hold & # 39; "
Michael O & # 39; Flanagan, a student at King & # 39; s Inns, is an unusually young Mass-goer at 25." My friends find it unusual "he says He did not go as a child, although his family did have religious faith, so what brought him here?
" Father Joe is a big factor … He does not come across as doctrinal or judgmental. It is interesting and relevant, and he relates everyday things to the gospel. "
Declan Graham, who helps with the finances of the church (" I drive a 10-year-old car in case somebody asks for it "), had a" way to the Emmaus moment then they taught fellows to ride buses to Dublin Bus … One of them was an African Christian, one of them was an African Muslim, and one of them was an Eastern European Christian – and two of them started talking about St. Peter , … and the next thing the three of them had a profound conversation, very sensible, very logical, really profound about faith and what they believed and what the Bible said, and I thought & # 39; wait a minute, Irish Catholics are the best in the world and I do not know what they're talking about … I really need to look at this. "
He followed a night lesson in theology and noticed that he was reconnecting to Catholicism in a completely different way." I do not take everything the Church says as 100 percent Gospel, "he says.
His Catholics allowed To draw their own conclusions about theology? "You have your trust, but you can question things and criticize things, and I think Father Joe encourages that," Michael says.
"He is the type of man where you can go and say, "For God's sake, what did you talk about?" says Tara. "You can make your own thoughts about things," Declan says a little later. "You can vote for the abortion referees because you can talk about it with God and invent your own mind."
But the church is getting smaller.
"I do not see my reference group here", says Tara. "And if there is a wedding, it is just like the Muppet Show people who stand up, sit down, nobody knows what to do … I talk to my friends and say at those moments of crisis What do you think happens? What do you think happens when we leave? "
What does she believe? "I could not fathom that there is nothing more than that, when we go, we're going … There must be something more."
"No one has ever come back, but my mom always said," maybe they liked it so much that she did not want to leave, "says Declan and he laughs." I do not think there a lot about. I would like to hope that there is something there. A friend of ours in California said: I do not go to heaven if there are no dogs & # 39; and then the priest said: "animals have no soul, so they can not go to heaven." "
" Oh Jesus, "says Tara and they laugh."
"That made me think," says Declan, "that perhaps heaven is different for everyone … Or else I will be completely turned around and I will love everything."
Was their faith shocked by the covering of the church of child abuse?
"My generation was on the eve of the scandals," says Tara (later she talks with tangible anger about Brendan Smyth and Sean Fortune). "I believe that if they got up at the beginning and put their hand on their hearts and acknowledged what had happened, the people would have gone" fair enough. "We now come up a lot more for myself … I am not disrespectful to priests, but I would certainly challenge and I would not sit there if someone swings my finger at me. "
She begins to talk about the Pope's visit. "Two things that I really want: the one is that he gives hope to people, and the second is that he recognizes this and says that it happened, I can not understand for the life of me why there is always a delay."
Are they going to the pope?
"I have not decided," says Michael. "I have a lot of problems with the institutional church and the pope represents the institutional church." Someone said to me: "Well, you have to become a Protestant." "They all laugh."
"It will to bring much joy to many people, but there must be acknowledgment and reconciliation. We are beyond the stage of "Young People of Ireland I love you & # 39 ;. If you think about these words now, it is rather creepy. "
" What did he know when he said that? "Tara asks herself a little later.
They are all very aware of reforms being committed by the current pope, Tara is going to the Phoenix Park and she is hopeful about him." I'm sure he will not is really looking for an addition to the family income, but he does not radiate vulgarity that we associate with the Vatican [which] seems so removed from poverty and life and grief. "
Yvonne tells a story Some years ago she had to As a result of diabetes a number of toes were amputated and a few years later they said they had to take the whole leg, she attended a healing Mass in Matthew and she did not lose her leg, she believes these things are connected. " When I tell my family, they laugh at me, "she says.
" Do you know what you're doing? "Says Declan lovingly." You put Joe up for holiness … I'm going to ask him if I'm a of his gloves. "
No uniform  In the 19th century stone church of John the Baptist in Killeagh in the east Cork I meet a woman lighting a candle for her local GAA team. "I love the church when it is quiet, because there is peace for me, I believe in something, but not necessarily follow the Catholic traditions [I come] between Masses."
Why does not she go the mass?
"It just did not feel good to me anymore, I've had a lot of grief in my life … my parents, my brother, my partner, I have to believe they're not gone, I can make contact with them on a place like this, I talk to them. "
Fr Tim Hazelwood remembers that he came to Dublin for the pope's visit in 1979 as a seminarian. "There was a man from Dublin when we got out of the buses, he said:" Jaysus, look at all the penguins. "
He is not wearing a collar now. "I have always felt that in some cases the uniform was a barrier with people."
He has studied counseling and sees his role as pastoral, helps parishioners to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and to help in difficult times when needed. "People are now much better educated and the herd mentality has disappeared, I think it's a good thing, people do not get out of service."
He is also very involved in the Association of Catholic Priests, where they devised with UCD psychology professor Marie Keenan, a "healing circle" to help priests deal with the negativity that surrounds the church now. Fr Tim himself was wrongly accused of maltreatment a few years ago (he was completely acquitted) "We try to help guys who feel isolated and lost," he says.
It is the nineteenth Sunday in normal times and the church is half full. Fr Tim's sermon is about a child who finds a free banquet, a parable about Jesus' generous accessibility. The Prayers of the believers have one thing to be nice about social media and one about not allowing church misdeeds to cover up good works. The music is beautiful – the choir will act as pope in the Phoenix Park – and it deserves applause.
At the end Fr Tim makes a few announcements. They include news about a charity concert for the parish hall and the news that a journalist from the Irish era is in the congregation. "He's the handsome guy with the beard … Maybe not saying too much," he says, but he's making a joke.
After the Mass, 10 women are in the left transept of the Church. They are ordinary mass-goers, many in the choir. "I suppose it is food for the soul every week," explains Anne Fitzgerald. "
" What I would say is if something happens to you in the morning and you are diagnosed with something and someone says, you would like to say a prayer to me, "says Janice Buckley," I would think it is not want to ask God for help if he does not know who you are. "
" It is not the majority religion in South Africa, "says 37-year-old blow-in Jenni Appadoo." A judging church was not my experience … it was more about my connection with God. "
Why did she come here?
"We came here and listened to the music … Wherever you go in the world, there is going to be a church. That becomes an access to a community. What you make of it is yours as a person … This church is extremely inviting. "
Maura O & # 39; Shea comes at a certain point to the conclusion that not everyone there is very religious." I came here because of the music, "she says," but I recently said to someone, and I mean not in a disrespectful way: "I think I do not mind being there now, even though the choir was not there for a week." And I was not really going to mass in 30 years. "
Everyone here acknowledges the pain that caused the church.
"I am a Catholic despite the Church, not because of the Church," says a woman who wants to remain anonymous. "I have experience with sexual abuse of children, administrative sexual abuse … I'm not over it, but I do not let it be a hindrance to my relationship with God, and I do not let anything that the church is doing is a barrier. I am directly to him.
"And I come here for other reasons, I like to hear the word of the lord, I like hearing the homie of Fr Tim, I like to meet my friends."
She always went to mass, she says. "At home I got a God of love and forgiveness and inclusiveness, but not at school, certainly not of the nuns, I suppose I came back to that beautiful, inclusive, all-loving, forgiving God."
Female priests  What will the church look like in the future? "It will be a more sincere church," says choir mistress Mary Daly. "Many of us in my generation would have become ordinary, routinely [Now] people come for comfort, for community, they come for connection, they come to meet their friends, they come to sing, they come to hear What the predecessor has to say
Let other people in their lives fall away from religion? Geraldine Landers, who is 40, talks about friends who only come for special occasions. "I have this argument sometimes," you want to baptize your baby , you want communion, you want confirmation, but you will not go to Mass? "She laughs. "Nobody ever wins that argument."
"In five or ten years there will not be many people," says a woman. "When our generation is over, it will be lost."
"I hope it does not end with your generation," says Jenni.
What would they like to see changed?
the great demand of female priests, "says Mary Daly." We must be left behind. We are the superior of the species … If you take the women out of the church, the doors will close. "
" If [priests] could marry, it would make a terrible difference, "says Janice.
There seems to be a lot of agreement on these points.
Is the visit of the pope important?
"He is the head of the church and he comes to our small island," says Mary Daly. For a choir from a rural area to be a part of it, it's great … He's trying to do the right thing … He's trying to clean the curia and all this. "
" The boat has to be rocked, "says Mary Smiddy, a member of the pastoral council." He looks at equality, looks at reaching, dealing with the poor and has no hierarchical structure. " Is there something you want him to do when he is here?
Mary Daly suggests that he will have to deal with maltreatment "in one form or another."
"I wish he would make a gesture to the priests in this country who have been silenced, "says the woman who spoke about her abuse," as Tony Flannery and Brian D & # 39; Arcy. I find it a great pity that he has released the Year of Grace without making a gesture. "
Someone mentions the fact that many Catholics voted" yes "to gay marriage and the eighth amendment." Well, I would make my decision a personal decision, I would not make the decision I had to make "How do you define Catholicism even more?"
asks a rhetorical question, she does not know the answer. "What is it to be Catholic? What are the limits? What are the rules? Do you like the rules? "She laughs." I personally would get totally confused, but I still love to sing. "