The diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois remains solvent despite recent media reports that the Irish church - and the Dublin and Cloyne dioceses in particular- is in a financial crisis.
Bishop Colm O’Reilly said church collections across the diocese are down by between “five and ten per cent,” with the reduction less marked in rural parishes.
He stressed his diocese is, “certainly nowhere near bankruptcy.”
The bishop said it is incorrect in his view to link declines in income from collections to clerical sex abuse scandals.
“I don’t think that is the reason less people are going to Mass; the fact is if people have less, then there is less money they can put in the plate,” he said.
And he pointed to the fact that €12,000 was raised recently in a collection for Trócaire in Longford, as evidence that people are still donating generously.
The collection proceeds in several parishes are said to be holding up but some conceded that people are donating less than heretofore.
Fr Gerard Brady, parish priest of Newtowncashel, Co. Longford, admitted that the collection in his village has fallen by €200 a week.
He blamed job losses and rising emigration on the part of younger parishioners for the trend.
“There would have been people who would have gone off to Australia and other places and there’s no doubt that people are feeling the pinch and finding things more difficult,” he said.