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Saturday 10 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Michael of the Saints

What happened in Ireland?

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 05/25/15

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A look at the historic vote Saturday to legalize same-sex marriage, via The New York Times:

The country’s cultural evolution reflects a blend of disaffection with the church, and Ireland’s willingness to embrace a wider vision of itself in the world. As the church lost many people in its scandals and its unwillingness to yield to sexual freedoms, the European Union found itself with a willing and eager member.

The shift didn’t happen overnight. After Ireland broke from Britain in 1922, it was a virtual colony to the Vatican, a theocracy in all but name.

John Charles McQuaid, the longtime archbishop of Dublin, played a central role in drafting Ireland’s Constitution before he became archbishop, hewing to conservative church doctrine and closely involving himself in details as small as the placement of commas in the document. That kind of unchecked dominance by the church continued for decades.

In 1979, more than one million people turned out for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Dublin, a staggering crowd in a country with a population of about 3.4 million at the time. In 1983, by a two-thirds majority, Ireland hewed to church teachings and passed a referendum outlawing abortion except in cases where a mother’s life was at risk, after a divisive campaign.

But signs of resistance had already been showing. In 1971, women’s rights activists organized a “condom train,” going over the border to Belfast and bringing back condoms to a country that outlawed contraception.

Tony Flannery, a priest who was suspended in 2012 because of his criticism of the church’s views on women and homosexuality, said contraception was a seminal issue for a generation that became the parents of today’s youngest voters.

And it “was the first time that Irish Catholics first questioned church teaching,” Mr. Flannery said. “That opened the door, and after that they increasingly began to question a whole raft of Catholic sexual teaching, and then the child sexual abuse scandal came along which destroyed church credibility in the whole area of sexuality.”

Even the reputation of Archbishop McQuaid, who died in 1973 after more than three decades at the helm of the Dublin archdiocese, crumbled in the tide of child sex scandals. In 2009, his role in covering up abuse was excoriated in a report commissioned by the Irish government and the headline of a commentary in The Irish Times likened him to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. By 2011, abuse allegations surfaced involving him.

“The people have changed their relationship with the Catholic Church because they’ve been disappointed and let down,” said Christina Breen, 54, who visited Dublin Castle on Saturday to see the results of the vote, a show of support because one of her sons is gay.

Or, as Mr. Flannery put it, “The day when the church had the power to influence social debate in Ireland, or to swing it, is gone.”

Read more.

TIME magazine, meantime, offers this:

The vote in Ireland illuminates a dynamic shift on LGBT issues among Catholics and people of faith across the globe. Today about 60% of Catholics in the United States support gay marriage, compared to about 36% a decade ago. In fact, many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith, not in spite of it. One elderly Irish couple put it this way: “We are Catholics, and we are taught to believe in compassion and love and fairness and inclusion. Equality, that’s all we’re voting for.” The idea of an inclusive Catholic Church may have seemed like a pipe dream not many years ago, but under the tenure of Francis the Troublemaker, it doesn’t seem that farfetched. Two summers ago the Pope tweeted, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

Amid reports that Italy now wants to jump on the gay marriage bandwagon, Ireland’s leading prelate took stock: 

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, described the vote against church teaching on gay marriage as “overwhelming” and said Catholic leaders needed “urgently” to find a new way to speak to the country’s young. “It’s a social revolution,” he said. “The church needs to do a reality check right across the board.” He said that some church figures who argued in the “No” camp came across as “harsh, damning and unloving, the opposite of their intention”. “Have we drifted completely away from young people?” he said. “Most of those people who voted ‘yes’ are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years.”
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