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Vatican to clampdown on 'liberal opinion'

Vatican investigators to Ireland appointed by Pope Benedict XVI are to clamp down on liberal secular opinion in an intensive drive to re-impose traditional respect for clergy, according to informed sources in the Catholic Church, the Irish Independent reports.

The nine-member team led by two cardinals will be instructed by the Vatican to restore a traditional sense of reverence among ordinary Catholics for their priests, the Irish Independent has learned.

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Priests will be told not to question in public official church teaching on controversial issues such as the papal ban on birth control or the admission of divorced Catholics living with new partners to the sacraments -- especially Holy Communion.

Theologians will be expected to teach traditional doctrine by constantly preaching to lay Catholics of attendance at Mass and to return to the practice of regular confession, which has been largely abandoned by adults since the 1960s.

An emphasis will be placed on an evangelization campaign to overcome the alienation of young people scandalized by the spate of sexual abuse of children and by later cover-ups of pedophile clerics by leaders of the institutional church.

The major thrust of the Vatican investigation will be to counteract materialistic and secularist attitudes, which Pope Benedict believes have led many Irish Catholics to ignore church disciplines and become lax in following devotional practices such as going on pilgrimages and doing penance.

Bishops and priests will be instructed to preach to their congregations the unchanging central message of Jesus Christ about love, healing and repentance.

While the restoration of church discipline and pious practices such as praying to Our Lady and the saints will be welcomed by regular church-goers, the Vatican investigation is likely to face a backlash from liberal Catholics who want more accountability and democracy in church decision-making, the Independent correspondent says.