Monday, June 09, 2008

To Compensate For Low Attendance

If the pews aren't filled, there's no one in the seats when the collection basket is passed around.

That's a fundamental problem for the Catholic Church. Parishioners who come to Mass every week give money every week. A church can boast a roster of thousands, but attendance is the key. The more bodies, with wallets, that are there on a Sunday, the more money that flows into the coffers.

The clerical sex abuse scandal, and the resultant fall-out, caused a great deal of harm and drove people away from the Church. As a result, in a nation like Ireland, so predominantly Catholic, the percentage of weekly Mass attendees has dropped. It's gotten to the point that parishes have to look elsewhere to generate enough funds to pay for the heat and electricity.

For the past fifteen years, the diocese of Cashel and Emily has taken advantage of genealogists who would like to trace their Irish roots. Want to look at the microfilmed records of births, marriages, deaths and the like? Pay the archbishop. Dr. Dermot Clifford holds the copyright.

The Association of Professional Genealogists was outraged, to be denied free access to what everyone else provides for free. The National Library must have been feeling very small indeed, to have to tell someone that if they wanted to know about their ancestors, it would be seventy-five euros to the Archbishop before the microfilm reader could be fired up.

The National Library has reversed the policy. If you want to see the archives, have at it. It'll only cost you the price of a trip to Dublin. As far as the lawyers are concerned, the Archbishop can't claim copyright and then charge for access to records that are public.

Ah, for the good days of pray, pay and obey.

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