22 October 2008
Archbishop Clifford opening remarks as keynote speaker at the inaugural conference Researching in the Church in Ireland organised by the Bishops’ Council for Research and Development
As far as I am aware, this is the first time a gathering like this has been brought together by the Council for Research & Development. As such, it is a step toward building a stronger, all-island network of those who carry out, and those interested in, research as a process. Gatherings such as this one here this morning show that research is a collaborative process involving some change, a little luck and a clear vision of what can be achieved. Research projects within the Church in Ireland are bound within a particular historical context: that of Catholic sociology and Catholic social teaching. The Council itself arises from a defined need from within the Irish Bishops’ Conference in the early 1970s when it became clear that good practice can arise from good results; results from a formal research process. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Council developed innovative ways to research the many pastoral and social questions of those days. It was the Council for Research & Development that coordinated the first ever formal measure of the religiosity of the people of Ireland in 1974. Rather than looking back to past glories however, we need to take stock of where we are now. I would venture that we are entering a time of renewed interest in the research process in a changing and changed Church.
The Council for Research & Development hopes that a network of collaboration and dialogue can be established throughout Ireland to facilitate the increased use of research projects such as those carried out by some of the speakers here today. This conference is a first stage in the establishment of this network. With your help, the network can be made stronger. Research can help us to plan better, define what our needs are and assist the members of the Conference in taking decisions about the Church in Ireland. In saying this, we need to think where opportunities can arise from within the Church itself, within universities and institutes of technology and other partners. Research is not a remote process carried out solely by ‘experts’. Nor does research about the Church happen only here in Maynooth or on university campuses. It occurs in the parishes, communities and the broader Church networks already established. We find fine examples of some of these projects here today.
I wish to thank Dr Mary Corcoran, of the Department of Sociology NUIM for agreeing to assist the Council on this occasion. I wish to extend words of thanks to those who will contribute to the discussion this morning and thank you all for attending. I welcome you all to this conference and in particular those attending in their capacity as Diocesan Communications Officers.
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)