The Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland is urging some to walk away from the church.

The Irish Independent says more:

Archbishop Martin urged non-believers to walk away from the church.

He said: “It requires maturity on those people who want their children to become members of the church community and maturity on those people who say ‘I don’t believe in God and I really shouldn’t be hanging on to the vestiges of faith when I don’t really believe in it’.”

Nothing like a welcome home at Christmas from the Bishop.

It seems arrogant to me to assume that those struggling with belief should no longer be welcomed. It seems like the Bishop has lost hope in the power of prayer to change people. It seems like the Bishop has no hope for conversion.

I think the Bishop would rather be preaching to the choir and not to people who might be struggling and need words to help them to change.

Recently, a man came up to me after I gave a reflection on the events of September 11th with a focus on forgiveness. Afterwards a guy came up to me and said:

“You know, I have been avoiding my brother for years. But that stops today. I think that your words today was really what I needed to hear.”

Sometimes people need to be inspired to conversion. That can’t happen if we show them the door and tell them not to let it hit them on the ass on the way out.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great Bishops: ArchBishop O’Brien of Baltimore, ArchBishop Sheehan in Santa Fe, Bishop Soto in Sacramento, Bishop Estabrook of the Military Archdiocese and now Archbishop Broglio also of the Military. I learned how hard their jobs can sometimes be and also learned a bit, especially from Archbishop Sheehan, about welcoming and staying hopeful in times of trouble. Santa Fe faced the sex abuse scandal long before it was big news in Boston. Archbishop Sheehan welcomed victims to his home and before they sat to eat he humbly apologized on behalf of the diocese. How many people who had their faith shaken because of the horrible actions of some priests were restored to faith in the church because of his welcome and apologies?

With the sex abuse crisis now hitting Ireland very hard and the church has been criticized by many in Ireland for their failure to act in so many ways, it seems that Bishop Martin is so far off base here. I guess he’s OK with losing members of the flock.

I’m not. How about you?

So my challenge to the Bishop is that I’ll try to retain as many people as you invite to leave. Let’s see what works better.