Rorate Caeli

Ireland: With shepherds like these...

To no one's surprise, Ireland today became the first country to legalize homosexual "marriage" by popular vote. (Other countries did so by judicial fiat or parliamentary vote.) The "yes" campaign got 62.1% of the vote nationwide; in Dublin it garnered more than 70% of the vote.

When the history of the rise and fall of Catholicism in Ireland is written, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry (one of Ireland's largest dioceses) deserve their own chapter. Their disgraceful ambiguity in the run-up to the referendum made their "nos" meaningless, if not worse than a straightforward "yes".  Let us revisit what Archbishop Martin said in a speech at All Hallows College, Dublin on the 6th of May:

The problem in many ways is that the Church has often in the past presented its message poorly.  What is a message of love was presented in language that was harsh.  What was rational argument was presented as a dogma which all should accept.  The truth about Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed in love.  This is a challenge in today’s culture where often there is a clash of viewpoints and where we find it difficult at times to bring the message of our faith into a culture where faith is considered out of place in public discourse. The fact that in the past the Church was dogmatic in its attempted imposition of its views rather than engage in rational societal debate, does not justify people today replacing “sound-bite-ism” for dogmatism as a way of avoiding rational debate.  

An ethics of equality does not require uniformity.  There can be an ethic of equality which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference.  A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.  I know that the harshness with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – may make it hard for LGBT people to accept that I am sincere in what I am proposing. 

When "dogma" is presented as a contrast to "rational argument", that is a concession that dogma has no place in modern discourse, let alone the public square. When the Church's own ministers subject her historic presentation of a moral doctrine to accusations of unloving "harshness" -- accusations that are indiscriminate and can therefore be made to cover the Church's entire past teaching on the subject -- what the man on the street will hear is that the Church cannot be trusted, for by its own admission it did not know how to teach with love. Any fool can see that describing same-sex "relationships" as "loving and caring" and deserving to be "cherished" by society annuls what good things the Archbishop had to say about the "uniqueness" of true marriage, while making it impossible for other Catholics in Ireland to speak the truth about the disorderly and sinful character of homosexual relationships without publicly contradicting their most powerful prelate. (Archbishop Martin was obviously not talking about mere friendships between men or between women.)

Bishop McKeown's participation in a radio debate just three days before the referendum, ostensibly on the side of the "no vote", resulted in even worse statements that were promptly exploited by the secular media. As related by LifeSite News:

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown was speaking for the "no" position on the referendum, as supported by the bishops of Ireland, in a debate on the Shaun Doherty Show.

Although he maintained that legalizing same-sex "marriage" would be a "dangerous experiment," especially the ramifications in the lives of children and future generations, he equivocated that people could vote yes or no in the referendum "in good conscience," if they were as informed as possible before voting and were making a "mature decision."

"People have to make their own mature decision, be it yes or be it no. I would hate for people to be voting no for bad reasons, for bigoted reasons, for nasty reasons, for bullying reasons. People have to make up their own minds and I’m quite happy that people can do that in front of God, be it yes or be it no," Bishop McKeown said.

“I don’t doubt that there are many people who are practicing churchgoers of whatever church background who will in conscience vote Yes, and that’s entirely up them. I’m not going to say they’re wrong,” he added.

"Defending" the Church's position by telling the faithful that there is nothing wrong with going against it, and then insinuating that those following the Church might be doing so for "bad, bigoted, nasty, bullying" reasons ... are we sure that His Excellency was not there to support the other side? 

Time will tell if the Irish Church will consider today's vote as a wake up call, a call to repentance, a call to return to her moral clarity of old; or if the "Yes" vote will be treated as a license for even more conformism to the prevailing sentiments of secular Ireland. We are not very optimistic.