Irish plunge stake through Catholic Church’s heart

June 5, 2015
A Yes campaigner poses for a picture in Dublin Castle as Ireland holds a referendum on gay marriage

A Yes campaigner poses for a picture in Dublin Castle as Ireland holds a referendum on gay marriage May 23, 2015. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The Irish vote legalizing gay marriage drives a stake through the heart of the Catholic Church. Tom Inglis, a sociologist who specializes in the affairs of the Irish Church, opined that “the era of the Church as the moral conscience of Irish society is over.” But not just for the Irish. 

As the effect of the April 29 referendum — gay marriage approved by 62 percent — sinks in, it becomes clearer that it isn’t just the Irish Church that is trembling but the Catholic Church itself. To say, as Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, did after the vote — “I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live” — is to position the bishop well among liberals. But it plunges the Church deeper into the mire. The Catholic Church is not a liberal institution. It’s an organized faith, with a pope elected to guard that faith.

For centuries, the Irish Church had one of the most powerful grips on its population of any in the world. Hope for heaven and the horror of hell was strong. The 19th- and 20th-century republican movement, though often denounced as godless by the bishops, was motivated in part by Catholic revulsion against the schismatic, Protestant British. And when, in the early 1920s, Ireland became an independent republic, education was handed over to the Church, as was moral guidance. Divorce was hard, abortion forbidden, censorship strict. James Joyce’s Ulysses wasn’t banned, but only because his publishers believed (correctly) that it would be, so they never tried to sell it in the republic.

In the past few decades, the descent of the once- omnipotent Church has been swift. The writer Damien Thompson believes that, because of the many instances of priests engaged in pedophilia and because of its “joyless” aspect, “hatred of the Church is one of the central features of modern Ireland.”

Even if that’s an exaggeration — indifference is more likely — it’s obviously the case that fear and submission to clerical authority is confined to a tiny few. We may be hard-wired for religion, as many behavioral psychologists believe, but we are not hard-wired for Catholicism, or any other form of religion.

Polls in Europe, and increasingly in North America, show that many people believe in “something” supernatural but are not prepared to shape that vague belief into an organized religious practice. Revulsion against those who use their authority to violate minors is a much stronger public attitude, one that easily translates into a turning away from the Church, even when the priest is a good man.

Pope Francis, much lauded as a new kind of informal, down-to-earth, liberal-minded pontiff, is deeply wounded by the Irish vote. His remark about gays who are Catholic, made to reporters in July 2013, on a flight back from Brazil — “Who am I to judge?” — was widely interpreted as a possible opening to approval of same-sex unions, and even the sanctification of these unions in marriage. But it wasn’t.  It couldn’t be. Most of his senior colleagues, cardinals and archbishops answered his rhetorical question by saying (beneath their breath), “You’re the pope, dummy!” And popes don’t sanction two men or two women marrying.  When he called the Synod on the Family in Rome last year, an early draft of the meeting’s report called for the “gifts and values” of gays to be recognized. But the cardinals who organized the event removed any such language from the final document.

In behaving like this, the Catholic Church puts itself in the same league with Russia, India and most of the Middle East, entities that suppress homosexuality either by law or encouragement of prejudice. President Vladimir Putin visits the pope next week in the Vatican. The issue won’t likely be on the agenda, but it should be — so that spiritual and temporal powers can compare notes on why they give a platform to a prejudice that fosters hatred, and violence.

In the world that has accepted homosexuality as neither an abomination in the sight of the Lord nor an unnatural practice deserving of punishment, earlier bigotry is being debated and confronted with an impressive amount of liberalism and maturity. Quite recent state-sanctioned discrimination against gays is being revealed in all its casual cruelty, and people are recoiling at what they now see clearly.

The recent film The Imitation Game chronicled the story of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who broke the Nazis’ Enigma code and thereby, it’s estimated, shortened World War Two. It depicted a man found guilty of homosexual acts, and given a choice by a judge of two years in prison or chemical castration. He chose the latter — and in 1952 committed suicide. Turing received a posthumous and very late “pardon” from the queen in 2013. Last month, an institute to study the social effects of technology in the future was founded in his name in London.

In the liberal societies, the real debate is not whether gay men and women should be free to live, express themselves and marry; it is rather how to handle those who, for religious or bigoted reasons, or both, refuse to accept or serve them. These cases are mounting up. In Oregon in April, a judge fined a small bakery $145,000 for refusing to cater a gay wedding; and a pizza parlor in Indiana, answering a reporter’s question by saying it, too, would not be keen to supply pizzas to such a ceremony, was forced to close for a week in face of protests.

The pope goes to the United States in September for another World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Francis has called the faithful Catholic family “the salt of the earth and the light of the world … the leaven of society.”

But the issue is indeed salty in a different sense, and bitterly so. The Irish answer to the issue of same-sex marriage underscores his isolation from the Western world and its people.

16 comments

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No, the the same-sex marriage win isn’t a victory for ‘freedom’ and ‘tolerance’ against a hidebound Church. It’s a victory of neoliberalism over one of the last redoubts of humanistic values.

Lloyd presents the people of Russia, the Middle East, and Africa as dupes. Rather they correctly sense that the LGBT movement, along with feminism, represents the New High Church of Neoliberal global hegemony.

Who cares about the West’s grotesque mass murderers like Henry Kissinger or G.W. Bush when we can enjoy a continual sideshow of exposing ‘abuse’ and ‘perversion’? Who cares about U.S. cluster bombs falling on Yemen when we can savor the ‘equality’ of gays and women in the military?

The LGBT movement isn’t about ‘tolerance’ and ‘freedom’ — it’s about working with the state to creating new sexual demons and witches who face limitless wrath. Homosexual life enjoyed considerable wiggle-room before 1969. LGBT has paid back that favor by sponsoring hyper-hatreds — like imagining that male erotic feelings for the young are somehow monstrous rather than typical and ordinarily benign.

What irony that Lloyd cites Alan Turing. The teenage hustler Turing got in trouble for was underage by UK law at the time. And here’s a colleague of Turing’s talking about the great mathematician’s fondness for the Queen’s pageboys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyusnGbBS HE. In other words, Turing represents the kind of man who the LGBTers would be happy to seen thrown in prison for life, exposed for life on offender registries, or beaten to death by vigilantes in what definitely would not be a ‘hate crime’.

Gay marriage is a scam and a fraud, typically undertaken with no intent of sexual fidelity to skim benefits. What it offers the Western electorates is the promise of the final eradication of same-sex love as a disruptive, creative force. The absurd reduction of sexuality — the basis of social bonding and human futurity — to market transactions is something the Church continues to get right.

Posted by PatMorris | Report as abusive

I love when people like PatMorris tell us how gay people should have been happy with their “wiggle-room” and they are not fighting for freedom and tolerance but the destruction of the civilized world. What nonsense.

Posted by unreligious | Report as abusive

” It’s a victory of neoliberalism over one of the last redoubts of humanistic values.”

Good. Because Catholic values amount to institutional child rape. Their record of sheltering pedophile clergy speaks for itself. Your ‘humanistic values’ are irrelevant now.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/set tlements/

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Link of some recent child sex pay-outs in the Catholic Church. “Last Redoubt of Humanistic Values.”
http://www.bishop-accountability.org/set tlements/

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

@patmorris:
” Homosexual life enjoyed considerable wiggle-room before 1969.”
Please explain.
You mean wiggle room to be arrested repeatedly and harassed? Wiggle room to be denied housing and jobs? Wiggle room to be kicked out of the military?
Wiggle room to be denied access to your parter’s inheritance? Do be denied the right to see a dying loved one?
I’m curious what wiggle room you believe existed. You seem to know quite a bit about the LGBT movement.

“Gay marriage is a scam and a fraud, typically undertaken with no intent of sexual fidelity to skim benefits.”
That is a pretty sweeping condemnation for someone who does not want to be labeled as a bigot. Does that define your marriage?

“like imagining that male erotic feelings for the young are somehow monstrous rather than typical and ordinarily benign.” Is that your definition? Or is that the spew to defend pedophile priests?

Your diatribe is articulate, however, in your rush to condemn same sex marriage, you miss the point of the article. The Irish are tired of the Catholic church and her hypocrisy. They have spoken loudly and clearly. Perhaps Russia or Uganda would be a better place for you since they do not support “neoliberal global hegemony.” I’d suggest the middle east as well though I doubt the muslims would have much patience for an infidel like you.

Posted by forzapista | Report as abusive

Hold the self-congratulatory “high fives”, John. Islam awaits the neopagans of Britain and Ireland. The Islamic state is coming like a freight train.

Try driving a “stake through the heart” of that, tough guy.

You’ll see a form of “religion” which will make you weep for the lost Christianity.

Posted by kiwiinamerica | Report as abusive

Well said @forzapista!

Posted by kevinhoqie | Report as abusive

62% of those who voted supported the change
That’s not 62% of the total population. I have seen a figure of 37% quoted for that.

Posted by rjt1 | Report as abusive

In the UK we are now seeing widespread exposure of child abuse in state care – and not a priest in sight, but the Catholic Church was the first to take the rap and appears to have a monopoly on the problem according to its critics.

Posted by rjt1 | Report as abusive

I’ve been to Irish weddings. They’re all pretty gay.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

rjt1: “62% of those who voted supported the change. That’s not 62% of the total population. I have seen a figure of 37% quoted for that.”

Using YOUR math, the NO vote was a mere 23%. In fact, Ireland passed the referendum by 1,201,607 votes to 734,300 with the turnout at 60.5% of eligible voters.

Posted by EmmettBrown | Report as abusive

It is possible to accept that people must follow their own path through life without approving every variation. Organized religions should refrain from lobbying for legislation to bring the coercive power of the state against practices that are regarded as immoral – let the voters decide that without religious interference.

On the other hand there is an innate contradiction between saying you believe in a religion system and openly following a lifestyle that blatantly contradicts that religious system. Either refrain from the practices while working to change the religious system or consider another belief system that is at least neutral to your lifestyle. The Catholic Church forbids a lot of things (including abortion, family planning, homosexuality, child abuse, sexuality of priests,…). if you want to practice those things then consider another church – this should apply to bishops as well as to the rest of the flock.

Posted by thdg | Report as abusive

Seems like unnatural sexual practices is now the best game in Town. So many celebs stating that they are really bent in more ways than one. If you are a straight, seems you are one of the new persona non grata!

Posted by cmas1998 | Report as abusive

Earlier Irish law may have been a little like a mild Catholic version of Sharia law is this way: An older Catholic Church was accepted as the moral conscience of Ireland. That acceptance was then challenged, esp. in the 1990’s. Ireland rejected its earlier legal and constitutional bans on divorce (1995 referendum), contraception (1978-1993), homosexuality (1993), and on distributing information about abortion services offered in the UK (1992 referendum).

The 2015 referendum on marriage-equality is not isolated from this earlier string of reforms. That older Ireland (understandable, in its time) was unwilling to separate infallible Catholic doctrine on sexual morality from its Constitution and its jurisprudence. The Irish are changing their mind about some of that.

@kiwiinamerica: “The Islamic State is coming…”

After the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland suggested that the blasphemy provision of Irish law should be applied to any Irish media outlet reproducing Muhammad cartoons as part of the “Je suis Charlie” campaign.

Referendums may next be offered to change the Irish law that forbids blasphemy and abortion.

@ thdg: “let the voters decide that without religious interference.”

Posted by WalterM | Report as abusive

On June 26, 2015, gay marriage became legal in all 50 states of the USA. This was not done by public referendum, but was decided by the highest court of the land.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_of_s ame-sex_marriage

@PatMorris: “Who cares about the West’s grotesque mass murderers?” “Who cares about U.S. cluster bombs falling on Yemen?”

Thanks for your post, PatMorris. I know the moral outrage behind such questions. The legalization of gay marriage should not drive a wooden stake through the strong heart of a good man.

Posted by WalterM | Report as abusive