Pope Francis versus Mary McAleese and Marie Collins: The 2018 Papal Visit to Ireland and the Role of Abuse in the Decline of the Catholic Church

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Abstract

This article analyses Pope Francis’ 2018 visit to Ireland, arguing that the way Francis was portrayed in the media and received by the public confirms that clerical child sexual abuse scandals continue to be a significant contributing factor to the decline of the Catholic Church. This conclusion is reflected in narrative analysis of how the Irish Times covered Francis’ visit. It reveals that abuse was the most pervasive theme in its coverage. It also considers coverage of two important national figures’ engagement with Francis’ visit: former President Mary McAleese and abuse survivor Marie Collins. They were positioned as alternative, Catholic role models and moral authorities who were not only critical of the Church’s handling of abuse, but also of how it treats women and LGBTQI people. A nationally-representative survey after the visit revealed that a majority thought Francis had not done enough to address abuse during his visit; and that the visit was neither a healing time for victims and survivors nor for LGBTQI people. The failure of the Church to adequately address the abuse crisis continues to be a decisive factor in what appears to be its continuing (institutional) decline.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary Religion
Publication statusAccepted - 08 Dec 2019

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