Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Progressive Catholic Perspectives on Ireland's Historic Gay Marriage Vote

Above: Joe Caslin's pro-marriage equality mural on
Caherkinmonwee Castle in County Galway. (Photo: David Sexton)

NOTE: This is a follow-up to the previous Wild Reed post, Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S. For my own thoughts on the overwhelming Catholic support for marriage equality in Ireland, click here.

After the Irish vote on gay marriage, which saw 62% vote in favour of a change to the constitution to allow gay people to marry, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said the church needed to take “a reality check” and “not move into denial.” . . . [T]ruth and right are more likely to be found in common consensus than in autocratic dictatorship. But for a Catholic leader, even the mention of a phrase like “reality check” is groundbreaking.

This, after all, is an organisation that has chosen to ignore reality, even when it is up close, personal and staring it in the face. I’m thinking of issues such as contraception, which it continues to pronounce against, while the vast majority of Catholics are more than happy to use it; and child abuse, which it refused to acknowledge, even as the files on its criminal priests stacked up and grew dusty on the desks of cathedral offices the world over.

. . . What led to Martin’s radical rethink was simple: the fear that he will soon be leading a church without any followers. For thousands of years, the men at the top of the Catholic church thought power flowed just one way: now, at long last, they’re realising it’s not that simple. Because a church with no worshippers wouldn’t be a church at all, and the men who run it would have no power any more.

They’d better do something quick. I have an idea: they could start emulating the life of a preacher who lived in poverty 2,000 years ago. Whatever made me think of that? As reality checks go, that one really would take some beating.

– Joanna Moorhead
Excerpted from "The Irish Catholic Church is Changing Its Tune
– Soon the Vatican Will Too
The Guardian
May 27, 2015

Some of the most effective social media around the ["Yes" vote's overwhelming success] featured families of LGBTIQ Catholics. Their simple statements of love for their children and their hope that they might marry and form good Irish families were persuasive. It was all rather traditional in the end—everyone is entitled to love. While the institutional church lost miserably, the enduring message of post-Vatican II Catholicism—that all persons are equal with corresponding rights and responsibilities—had a good day. The fact that this message was distilled from the rubble of sexual abuse, clergy cover-up, heterosexism, disdain for women, and the rest of the clerically-constructed system is a miracle in itself. The pulpits are still in the hands of the priests, though, and they do not show many signs of sharing.

. . . Irish clergy used to make a living telling other people how to live their lives no matter how flawed their own were. A generation ago people in Ireland went to daily mass after work and heard the messages repeated ad nauseam. Irish Catholics proved they know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, the important values like love and justice from warped attempts to dictate outmoded morality.

It is for lay Catholics around the world to be clear, as Irish voters were, that we can and will make our own decisions.

Much remains to be done to dismantle deeply entrenched structures. But the Irish referendum means that a top-down, clergy-heavy model of church heard its death knell in Dublin. As it reverberates around the world the Gospel message might get a little more airtime. As the Irish say, it will make a glass eye cry—with joy.

– Mary E. Hunt
Excerpted from "Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?"
Religion Dispatches
May 26, 2015

[I]n falling out of line with the Vatican, Irish people are actually falling in line with their Catholic counterparts in other Western countries, including the United States.

They aren’t sloughing off their Catholicism — not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they’re incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.

We journalists too often use "the Catholic Church" as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval. But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.

– Frank Bruni
Excerpted from "On Same-Sex Marriage, Catholics Are Leading the Way"
The New York Times
May 27, 2015

Ireland, the source of Catholic missionaries throughout the word for hundreds of years, has suffered a drastic exodus of people from its church-going ranks since the sexual abuse scandal broke into public view during the past decade. The majority of Irish men and women may still call themselves Catholic, but they no longer accept the hierarchy as believable, particularly in matters of sexual morality. Thus, the stunning rejection of the church’s view of gay marriage as an invalid relationship in the eyes of God and the church. What the church teaches about sexuality is rejected almost as a duty. The church has no credibility in matters of sexuality in Ireland.

The Irish have been brought up by the Catholic Church to view marriage as a sacrament and that’s the reason they can shift sideways to see a same-sex relationship in the same God-blessed way. Because marriage is a beautiful commitment of love, taught to them by the church, the Irish can make the connection to two people of the same sex loving each other with a similar commitment. It is the love commitment they value, and have come to see in their friends and family members who are gay and lesbian as well. Love conquers. The Irish are lovers. It doesn’t matter who the partners are — “I promise to love you all the days of my life, so help me God.”

– Paul F. Morrissey
Excerpted from "Ireland is For Gay marriage Because It is Catholic "
USA Today via Religion News Service
May 27, 2015

I have three suggestions [for why Catholics are so supportive of marriage equality]. . . . First, perhaps the fact that Catholics have a celibate clergy that includes a large number of gay men means that the fear bred from ignorance is less likely to be operative than in other traditions. Second, could it be that a natural law approach to ethical questions, that is, that reason should guide our thinking and our conclusions, is bred into the Catholic bone? Third, might Catholics be so imbued with the sacramental principle that they recognize any expression of genuine love to be evidence of God’s presence in the world, and hence to be cherished rather than condemned? In Ireland or here or elsewhere, the actual principal difference between leaders and people, on same-sex issues or birth control or religious freedom or perhaps many other issues, is that the leadership thinks deductively while the rank and file think inductively. Experience trumps ideology, which—strangely enough—is Pope Francis’s consistent message!

– Paul Lakeland
Excerpted from "Gay-Friendly Catholics"
May 27, 2015

It is time for church teaching to reflect what social science tells us and what Catholic families have long understood: Catholicism must cast off a theology of sexuality based on a mechanical understanding of natural law that focuses on individual acts, and embrace a theology of sexuality that has grown out of lived experience and is based on relationships and intentionality.

. . . On the issue of church teaching on sexuality, the time for dialogue is likely passed. Action is needed. The strongest message out of the Irish referendum is that on its teaching about sexuality, the church today faces a watershed moment, just as it did in 1968 with Humanae Vitae.

– The Editorial Staff
Excerpted from "Ireland Vote for Same-Sex Marriage
a Watershed Moment for Church Teaching
National Catholic Reporter
May 29, 2015

What a gift the Catholic hierarchy has been handed by the Irish with their overwhelming vote to legalize same sex marriages. Coming just months before the Synod on the Family set for next October in Rome, the vote by this Catholic nation is nothing less than a church plebiscite – a vote of the Catholic sensus fidelium for all to see that official Catholic teaching on human sexuality is wrong, hurtful, and even, at times, immoral.

. . . The Irish vote is a wake up call. If the Synod on the Family ends with only a “pastoral” conclusion, a call that we all need “to open our selves and parishes" to essentially wayward, sinners, that we need to love these “sinners” even as they continue to engage in “intrinsically disordered acts,” it will have failed all of us and the synod, despite the best intentions, will almost certainly end up further eroding - if this is possible - the Catholic church as a moral force on matters of family, human relationship and sexual theology.

It is time we remember: Our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters are people, just like the rest of us. Some more generous; others less so. Some more enlightened; others less so. Some more sinful; others less so. Just people, saints and sinners and in-between.

Can the Catholic hierarchy finally admit it has Catholic sexual teachings wrong? Admittedly, it’s a tall order. I admire Pope Francis enormously. However, just withholding judgment without addressing and amending past teaching errors will not be enough. Nowhere near enough.

Bishops, you have been served.

– Thomas C. Fox
Excerpted from "Bishops, Your Church Has Spoken"
National Catholic Reporter
May 29, 2015

I was quite uncomfortable with [Cardinal Pietro Parolin's statement that the same-sex marriage referendum was not only "a defeat for Christian principles, but also a defeat for humanity."] I mean there has been lots of disasters in the world but I certainly would not support the belief that the referendum was among them. To suggest that over a million people who went to the polls and voted yes were so false in their judgment that it was a disaster for humanity is not something I can accept. It is an inappropriate statement . . . [and] not one I think that represents the mind of Pope Francis despite it coming from a very senior Church figure. It is a very heavy judgement on the whole issue.

– Willie Walsh, Bishop Emeritus of Killaloe
Excerpted from "Bishop Willie Walsh: "I Don't Accept the Referendum
as a Defeat for Humanity"
The Independent
May 27, 2015

Cardinal Parolin’s comments [re. the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland being not only "a defeat for Christian principles, but also a defeat for humanity"] demonstrate exactly the kind of inflexibility and arrogance that have driven so many people from the Church. It is very hurtful and insulting to supporters of marriage equality to be spoken of as having unchristian, even inhuman, values. More than 80% of the Irish people still identify themselves as Catholic, and most of the Irish people who voted to support same-sex couples and families did so because they recognize the love and commitment these couples share. They were moved by the stories of people they know, and by the relationships they have witnessed first-hand. Their vote was no ‘defeat for humanity,’ but a victory for the fundamental Catholic values of love, inclusion, and the inherent dignity of all people.

This issue and these disagreements will be front and center during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September and the second phase of the Synod on the Family in Rome in October. How our Church leaders respond will impact the lives of people all over the world. We urge the Synod participants to invite in same-sex couples; parents of lesbian and gay people who are married, or who struggle because they can’t be married; and gay couples raising children so they can hear directly from us. We urge respectful listening, a willingness to ask questions, and openness to the Spirit. Like Archbishop Martin of Dublin, we are calling upon our Church leaders to recognize that they must address the new realities in the world with sensitivity, sincerity, and honesty.

[Pope] Francis clearly agrees with [Cardinal] Parolin's "defeat for humanity" opinion on the outcome of Ireland's same-sex marriage vote. Remember that, back in January, the pope famously likened "gender theory" (which provides the intellectual basis for same-sex marriage and a host of other progressive ideas related to sexuality) to "ideological colonization" and even "Hitler Youth." Why? Because, Francis explained, gender theory "does not recognize the order of creation."

But rather than respond directly to Ireland himself, this time, Pope Francis is putting the harsher, condemnatory language in the mouth of his secretary of state while he does the work of evangelizing the youth about the truth and beauty of the church's teachings on marriage.

Parolin is taking on the old-fashioned role of Vatican scold while Francis takes the new, more merciful, catechetical approach. But ultimately, both men agree with the institutional church's opposition to marriage equality. Both men believe same-sex relationships violate the traditional understanding of natural law and gender complimentary.

Most importantly, both men believe these church teachings on marriage are correct and should not change. The problem, they believe, is that the institutional church hasn't done a good job of communicating the church's truths effectively and pastorally. As Parolin himself said in his statement on Ireland, the church "must strengthen its commitment to evangelization." Francis attempted to do just that in his audience the following day.

If the vote in Ireland proves anything, it is that both Francis, the good cop, and Parolin, the bad cop, will fail in their efforts. Ireland demonstrates that the pope's understanding of acting mercifully toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will not be adequate to bring them into the pews.

– Jamie Manson
Excerpted from "Are Francis and Parolin
Playing Good Cop-Bad Cop on Same-Sex Marriage?
National Catholic Reporter
May 28, 2015

Above: Joe Caslin's pro-marriage equality mural
on South George Street, Dublin. (Photo: David Sexton)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S.
Singing Their Own Song in Ireland
Quote of the Day – May 21, 2015

Related Off-site Links:
European Bishops Strategize for Positive LGBT Outcome at October’s Synod – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, May 27, 2015).
Confidential Meeting Seeks to Sway Synod to Accept Same-Sex Unions – Edward Pentin (National Catholic Register, May 26, 2015).
European Bishops Discuss Improved LGBT and Divorced Ministry – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 25, 2015).
Vatican’s "Defeat for Humanity" Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, May 28, 2015).
How the Irish Became the World’s Leading Gay Activists – Margaret Spillane (The Nation, June 15, 2015)

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