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Ireland Rises PDF Print E-mail
Friday, August 07 2015 16:28


When growing up, I never had much interest in my Irish heritage. Only in middle years did information about ancestors stir me to learn about them and their country.

This partially explains why the Irish election at the end of May roused my fascination. I thirsted to know how it would turn out.  After all, the nationwide vote would decide the rights of Irish gay and lesbian people to marry.

And the Catholic Church in Ireland would be facing results likely to upset its view of basic sexuality. The results of the election would almost surely contradict much of what that church had taught for many centuries. 

As the world discovered a few Sundays ago, those in favor of gay rights took some sixty percent of the vote.  Many people in our own country, Irish or not, were delighted at these results. 

Ireland had thrown off the ecclesiastical domination that held the country for so long. Even the bishops seemed to be recognizing this as a fact.

In Rome, the Vatican Secretary of State called the election result a “defeat for humanity.” But the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, showed himself much more sympathetic to the winners.  His statement was: “The Catholic Church needs a reality check.”

The archbishop added: “I appreciate how gay and lesbian  men and women feel on this day. It’s s social revolution.”

Mind you, he did not believe in the proposal, and he voted against it. Nonetheless, he saw his church as having failed and needing change.

For me, the main question is how the church, in Ireland and elsewhere, will deal with this situation and others like it.  Can an institution that reaches out to so many people in so many nations accept such sweeping changes?

And what can be learned from the fact that the Irish nation, whose culture is so profoundly Catholic, should be the first nation on earth to approve gay marriage?

I’m like the church in that I am still learning. It took me decades before I reached out to those whose sexuality differs from mine.

When the Catholic Church in Ireland reaches out to         members who do not follow its teaching on sexuality, then vital changes will have to take place.  And changes in attitude will   doubtless precede any revision in formal teaching.

Perhaps some of these attitudinal changes are already underway. At least one of Archbishop Martin’s colleagues saw a positive mention in the Yes vote.

He said that he respected those who had voted Yes through solidarity, to express their love for friends and family members who are gay.

For my part, I now often worship at a Catholic church that introduces itself to arrivals by the following statement:



No matter what your present status in the Catholic Church.

No matter what your current family or marital situation.

No matter what your current personal history. age, background or race.          No matter what your own self-image:

You are invited, welcomed, accepted, loved and respected here.

We are here to welcome and serve you.


       These words suggest that some of the worshippers live by a sexuality different from the Catholic Church’s official teaching.  This parish does not make negative judgments about them.

That’s the way it was for years at a Catholic church in Boston where my family and I used to worship. In that setting we knew that the clergy and others accepted gay and lesbian people as a matter of course. So did we, wholeheartedly. 

Whether this approach can serve as the Catholic way of accepting people who do not accept some of its moral teaching is not yet clear.  But surely it can serve as a fine starting point until the church develops an appropriate social theology and philosophy.