Gerry O'Carroll: For the Church to survive, it has to do one simple thing - end vow of celibacy
Last year only 13 men signed up for entry into the priesthood in this country.
For two decades now Catholic bishops have been warning about the vocational crisis in the church. The dwindling number of priests in the ministry is now so acute that the centuries-old tradition of the revered Sunday Mass in many rural parishes is now in danger.
In many parishes, especially in rural areas, only one Mass is now celebrated on a Sunday. The norm used to be at least three
This acute shortage of priests has led to the virtual closure of some churches and the growing practice of two or three parishes sharing a priest.
Many priests are now in their 60s and 70s and are being asked by their bishops to carry on their pastoral work beyond their retirement age.
It is an extraordinary situation for a traditionally Catholic country that has helped spread the Gospel across the globe in years gone past. Now that missionary role is being reversed in a novel way.
Last week, it was announced that two Nigerian priests were in Kylemore Diocese in Cavan/Leitrim. Another two priests from that same country are due to take up positions in Galway. A Waterford diocese has also announced that a priest will be coming from India to take up a position in its parish.
However, one Catholic Priest, Fr Brendan Hoban, is not enthusiastic about this. Fr Hoban - who is a member of the Association of Catholic Priests - has issued a stark warning that these foreign priests "could empty churches in a decade".
He suggested that these new missionaries' lack of inherent knowledge of our history, culture and tradition would alienate the native laity.
Fr Hoban's view is certainly not a ringing endorsement of the Irish Catholic Bishops' solution to this crisis. It is not confined to this country alone. The Catholic Church is also suffering a lack of priests in America, England, Wales and many other countries.
The dramatic decline of vocations in this country has many causes.
Without doubt, the revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic church have shocked, sickened and scandalised Catholics.
The unremitting clerical sexual-abuse scandals have virtually destroyed the prestige and reputation of the Catholic Church and alienated many young men from taking holy orders.
I believe that the celibacy issue is a problem.
I am hoping, possibly a vain hope, that the Pope may put an end to the unnatural and bizarre practice of celibacy.
There is a precedent for this. After all, in 2011 Pope Benedict facilitated the ordination of married dissident Anglican clergy into the Catholic priesthood.
He found this to be no obstacle to a subsequent ministry in the Catholic Church.
The celebration of Mass is the fundamental cornerstone of the Catholic Church.
Without priests then the prospect for the survival of the Catholic Church in Ireland is bleak indeed.
Sonia's principled achievements will last longer than any athletics record
Last week, Michael O Muircheartaigh said in the Herald that a statue of Kevin Heffernan should be erected in Dublin city.
I would endorse that sentiment.
However, here I am writing about another statue - that of Sonia O'Sullivan in Cobh.
She deserves this admiration and respect. Her achievements in sport were spectacular.
Sonia won a gold medal in the World Athletics Championships in Gothenburg in 1995 and a silver medal in the Olympic Games in 2000. Despite her great sporting achievements, she has always remained a modest and unassuming lady.
I am not, as a rule, in favour of erecting monuments to the living, but in Sonia's case I will make an exception. After all, she is Cobh's most favourite daughter.
It must have been a proud occasion for her family.
What makes her a hero in my eyes - and in the eyes of all sports fans around the world - is that Sonia was a keen athlete who despised and shunned the drug culture that is destroying athletics and other sports.
I have no doubt that if Sonia did not have to compete in an era of drug cheats she would have added a couple of more medals to her tally.
Sonia's sporting accomplishments were honest and untainted, which makes her achievement all the more remarkable.
Sonia, you richly deserve the statue in your honour.
Well done, Dublin - but The Kingdom will return
I have to admit that I was taken aback last week on reading the comments of Bertie Ahern, one of the Dubs' most loyal and devoted supporters.
Our former Taoiseach predicted that Kerry would be taking Sam back to the Kingdom. Bertie was wrong, but then he has been wrong about a lot of things.
The Dubs triumphed and the rest is history.
No excuses this time - Dublin were the better team last Sunday and richly deserve the win.
I watched the game from the comfort of my local in Listowel.
I was warm and had a pint in my hand, happy that I didn't have to endure the miserable conditions in Croker.
When the game was over a black cloud of gloom and doom enveloped all present, but I swear I never heard one word of begrudgery.
Congrats to the Dubs from all in the Kingdom.
Enjoy your success but, just like Arnie in the Terminator (inset), WE WILL BE BACK!
Last week I watched the funeral of the "forgotten patriot", Thomas Kent.
He was executed in Cork Prison after the 1916 rebellion and buried in a hole in the ground without even a coffin.
I think it was right and fitting that he got a State funeral and that a brave man who sacrificed his life for Irish freedom is now buried in consecrated ground.
Student Natalie McGranaghan was fined €200 and banned from keeping animals for four years after she was convicted of cruelty to animals.
Incredibly, this heartless young woman abandoned her little dog, similar to the one pictured, in a flat without food or water. When the little terrier was found it was in an appalling, emaciated state.
This woman has shown herself to be cruel and callous and she should hang her head in shame for what she did to a defenceless creature. Unforgivable.