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Is Catholic Church paying for the sins of its fathers?

By Alf McCreary

Published 30/05/2015

Historic move: the Yes vote for same-sex marriage in the Republic will pave the way for a change in the law
Historic move: the Yes vote for same-sex marriage in the Republic will pave the way for a change in the law

Last weekend when the same-sex referendum was being held in the Irish Republic, I was in Florida to help celebrate a major landmark birthday for my uncle Bill McCreary.

When the result was announced, the people I talked to there were shocked at the outcome. They were all folk who had left Ireland to settle in America long ago and while they may not have been a scientific sample of opinion, they reflected the views of many of the older generation in Ireland, and overseas.

They said: "What has become of Holy Catholic Ireland?" The simple answer is that Ireland has changed radically since they left, and not necessarily always for the better.

The Yes vote was a clear margin for same-sex marriage, and that will pave the way for an historic change in the law. What indeed has happened to "Holy Catholic Ireland"?

Nevertheless, while I accept the accuracy of the Yes vote, it is questionable as to how far, or well, the No voice was projected.

All the parties in the Republic backed same-sex marriage, which may be a true reflection of current political thinking, but there may also have been a strong element of not wanting to offend the gay community and therefore losing votes.

Another factor was the opposition of the Churches to same-sex marriage, and particularly that of the Roman Catholic Church.

Its standing is so bad in the Republic that many people simply vote against anything that the Catholic Church supports, simply to voice their disgust at the clerical sexual child abuse, and the sins of the fathers.

For the most part, the reaction of the major Churches to the Yes vote was dignified, caring and measured. Of course, there is unfortunate homophobia among some Church members, but there is also pastoral caring from others, which often goes unnoticed.

However, I was perturbed by part of the reaction from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, who is one of the more enlightened and courageous members of the Irish hierarchy.

He said that the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people. Does that mean that the Church should change its teaching merely to remain popular?

Just because something is popular, that does not mean it is necessarily right. If the main aim of the Church at large is to become popular at any price, that is the day it will really start to go into terminal decline. Personally, I am not homophobic and I have always backed full equal rights for the gay community. However, I believe that same-sex marriage is not the same as traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and should not be regarded as such.

Many people who share my opinion privately are afraid to speak out because of possible vilification, and that is wrong.

People have a right to hold their views either way, inside and outside the Churches, without being verbally abused. That is the essence of democracy in a free society, and we should all grow up about gay issues. I respect their views and they should respect mine, so long as we do not try to batter each other into submission.

Let's move on and leave the bitterness and triumphalism behind. There are many more issues for all of us to tackle, not least world hunger, slavery, poverty and the persecution of millions of our fellow human merely because they are Christians.

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