I'm sure many readers have noted the overwhelming vote in favor of 'gay marriage' in Ireland last weekend. Yahoo! News reported that the result had 'unnerved' the Catholic Church in that country.
The once-dominant Catholic Church in Ireland was trying to come to terms Sunday with an overwhelming vote in favour of gay marriage, saying it needed a "new language" to connect to people.
As jubilant "Yes" supporters nursed their hangovers after partying late into the night following Saturday's referendum result, the faithful attended mass to hear their priests reflect on the new social landscape in Ireland.
"The Church has to find a new language which will be understood and heard by people," Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, a senior Irish cleric, told reporters after mass at the city's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral.
"We have to see how is it that the Church's teaching on marriage and family is not being received even within its own flock."
He added: "There's a growing gap between Irish young people and the Church and there's a growing gap between the culture of Ireland that's developing and the Church."
There's more at the link.
It's reported that Italy may be the next domino to fall. Both countries were staunchly Catholic in their society, culture, and social policies for centuries. What's happened to produce such a rapid change?
Some commentators have blamed external factors. For example, Tim Stanley says of the Irish referendum:
First, foreigners spent a lot of money to get this passed. Both sides have accused each other of relying on outside cash, but nothing could really match the scale of that poured into a Yes vote. Second, the Irish were told that saying No might damage their economy. Third, almost the entire Irish political establishment rallied around the gay marriage issue: it enjoyed the backing of politicians in Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. Finally, the press was biased. One election-eve study found that Irish papers had carried three times more Yes articles than No articles.
However, he goes on to admit:
It used to be that Irishness was defined by affection for the Catholic Church and resistance to European liberal trends. So stubborn was this identity that the country took longer than the rest of Western Europe to embrace secularism. But the paedophile revelations of the 1990s rightly rocked faith in the Church as an institution, while a series of recent scandals shook faith in its actual theology. The latter set of outrages were, frankly, distortions of the facts. It was wrongly claimed that a woman had been allowed to die because Catholic doctors would not give her a life saving abortion (no such thing even exists). It was falsely charged that a Catholic children's home had dumped the bodies of hundreds of unwanted babies into a septic tank. Never mind that both stories crumbled under scrutiny – the popularity of them spoke to a growing sense that everything wrong with Ireland was due to the imported tyranny of Catholicism. Shake off the last remnants of traditional religious authority, it was reasoned, and Ireland could finally join the 21st century. Au revoir, Father Ted.
To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It'll require a lot of hard work and prayers.
There's more at the link.
Mr. Stanley is quite right that some of the accusations leveled against the Catholic Church were based on false premises and were overblown by a rampantly speculative (and secular) media. However, he ignores the reality that far too many people (including a great many who still consider themselves Catholic, whether or not they're active in the Church) have seen for themselves the utter and complete lack of sincerity in the institutional Church in response to the clergy pedophilia scandals in recent decades.
I've written extensively about my own experience of the issue (see the list of 'Articles on the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal and related issues' in the sidebar). To me, the ultimate test of the Catholic Church's attitude to this problem is based on their actions. Remember the old proverb, 'Actions speak louder than words'? Well, the Church's words may have been regretful, but its actions have said something else entirely. While the authorities have dumped every priest even suspected of pedophilia (sometimes based on flimsy evidence), almost all the bishops, administrators, etc. who:
- allowed the problem to arise;
- did nothing to resolve it in its earliest stages;
- and covered it up for years;
have never been disciplined. Large numbers of them have retired to enjoy their pensions; many others are still in office, their careers unaffected by their errors. Furthermore, the measures they've put in place to prevent such problems in future are almost entirely window-dressing. They'll have no practical effect. They can have no practical effect, because the institution that has (nominally) implemented them will resist reforming itself by might and main. I saw that resistance at first hand. It destroyed a large part of my life, and has left a gaping hole in my soul to this day.
I find myself with a new and deeper understanding of Mary Magdalene as she went to the Tomb on the morning of Easter Sunday (John 20:11-13).
But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
That's the way I feel about the Church in which I was raised. Its prelates and administrators have taken it away, and I do not know where they have laid it. All I know is, the institution I served for many years, and in which I had faith, is no longer there . . . and it's a cold, lonely place without it.
I think many Catholic and formerly Catholic voters feel the same way. I think that's why so many of them finally lost patience with their former spiritual home, and voted in favor of gay marriage. I don't think it's because they believe the latter is necessarily morally right. I think it was a protest vote. The problem is, the Church will probably refuse to recognize that reality, and do what it should have done years - decades! - ago. Too many of its leaders are clinging to their positions of power. They won't give them up, because that would mean sacrificing their worldly status and privileges.
They're more in love with the institution of the Church than they are with the person of Christ - and that leaves the rest of us out in the cold.
You have no idea how it saddens me to have to say that last sentence . . . but I believe it's true.
May Almighty God have mercy on all of us. We're surely going to need it.