“There is a battle going on within the Irish Catholic Church at the moment.”

Father Martin Dolan faced a difficult decision. With Ireland’s referendum on marriage equality looming, he could either go along with his bishops’ official opposition to it, or he could be honest with his Dublin congregation.
He made his choice during a Saturday evening mass in January. Not only did he urge his congregation to vote Yes on May 22, he also took the opportunity to come out as gay.
The worshipers greeted the revelation with a standing ovation.
Dolan is one of at least 10 members of Catholic orders who have publicly endorsed marriage equality. They have been willing to defy their bishops, suggest progressive priests, because they see the referendum as just the latest skirmish in a long-running war. As church attendance has plummeted, progressives argue they are trying to save the church from the wounds inflicted by a moribund and authoritarian leadership.
“There is a battle going on within the Irish Catholic Church at the moment,” said Father Iggy O’Donovan, a priest from Limerick who called for a Yes vote in a letter to the Irish Times in March. “There’s a group of us, we try to still hold on to the belief that Catholicism is compatible with modernity … [while] the church is dying at [the bishops’] feet,” he said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
Progressive factions across the Catholic world have been emboldened by Pope Francis to confront the conservatives who dominated under Popes Benedict and John Paul II. The church has a particular interest in overhauling itself in countries like Ireland, where weekly attendance fell from around 86% in 1990 to less than 40% in 2012. That decline was largely due to revelations of widespread child sexual abuse, which coincided with economic changes that took more and more Irish people to more secular European countries for work.
With popular support for the referendum consistently showing overwhelming support in opinion polls, many Irish bishops appear worried that a misstep on the referendum could further marginalize the church. Indeed, their initial public statements were so muted it seemed they simply wanted to get through the campaign unscathed.
But the bishops have never wavered in their opposition to same-sex marriage, making it hard to maintain a conciliatory tone in an environment where LGBT rights supporters have successfully framed the referendum as the ultimate test of equality. And Pope Francis hasn’t provided a clear answer to this conundrum; while he has tried to moderate the church’s language on homosexuality and even raised the possibility that civil unions could be acceptable to the church, he has always firmly opposed full marriage rights for same-sex couples as well.
And so, for the global church, there is more at stake than the outcome of the vote itself — Ireland is the clearest test case yet of the strength of the progressive movement under Francis.
In a sign of how deep this disagreement may run within the Irish church, it is possible that hundreds of Irish priests could vote Yes on Friday, based on the internal discussion of the left-leaning Association of Catholic Priests. The group was formed in 2010 out of frustration with the bishops’ handling of child sex abuse allegations, and now has 1,070 members — around one-third of the country’s priests, according to one of its organizers, Father Brendan Hoban.
When the Association asked its members what position to take on the referendum, Hoban told BuzzFeed News, the group “split down the middle,” so it decided to take no public stand. The group’s founder, Tony Flannery — a priest who was suspended by the Vatican in 2012 for challenging the church’s historical legitimacy and advocating positions like the ordination of women — told BuzzFeed News he thought around 25% of the country’s clergy might yet cast a Yes vote.
Opponents of the marriage equality referendum disagree with the way some of its advocates have framed the debate as a question of whether Ireland is a modern secular country or still beholden to a backward-looking church. Opponents — even the bishops — maintain that their arguments against the referendum aren’t based in religion at all but rather they are making a secular case warning that marriage equality will cause harm to society. Their primary case against it is that treating heterosexual and homosexual couples the same would harm children, who, they claim, would no longer be legally entitled to grow up with both a mother and a father.
“If this is framed as Catholic Ireland versus modern Ireland, it’s the wrong way to frame it,” said David Quinn, head of the Iona Institute, a conservative Catholic think tank in Dublin and a driving force behind the No campaign. “The arguments for and against are ultimately secular, not religious.”
But, Quinn told BuzzFeed News, there was “no question” that the push for same-sex marriage rights was part of a “secular reaction against the years of Catholic dominance in Ireland.”
In this environment, Ireland’s bishops have been so cautious in their opposition that their major statement against the referendum at the start of the campaign didn’t even call for voters to cast No ballots. The closest thing to a battle cry offered by a resolution released in March was this: “We say to all voters: Marriage is important — reflect before you change it.”
A March speech by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin showed how some of the bishops are looking to apply the model offered by Pope Francis.
“There is a radical difference between marriage between a man and a woman and the union of two people of the same sex. But we must also welcome people as they are,” he said at a talk hosted by the Iona Institute. He also chastised those who have spoken against the referendum in language that is “not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting, and unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people.”
But this tone has won the bishops a different kind of backlash — the editor of a Catholic newspaper later suggested Martin would “have to accept some responsibility” if the referendum passes because there hasn’t been “a clear campaign by the hierarchy” against it. And Martin even faced hecklers during his speech who questioned whether he actually opposed the referendum at all.
The bishops now seem to have grown concerned about such criticism from the right — or, with opinion polls still showing a firm lead for Yes despite a tightening race in the campaign’s final week, their caution has been overtaken by a concern the referendum will pass.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin began a speech on May 6 saying, “I think I should begin by saying that I intend to vote No in the upcoming referendum on marriage,” a disclosure he said was a response to the suggestion that he had “given constant solace to the Yes campaign.”
That was part of a broader shift to more active opposition from the bishops. On May 1, archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin issued a statement urging people to “speak up courageously for the union of a man and a woman in marriage.” Over the following weekends, bishops circulated further statements opposing the referendum throughout Ireland, though many hewed closely to the argument that urged people to “think before you change” marriage.
“In a sense, the church has placed itself in a no-win situation,” said Father Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests. “If the Yes vote wins it’ll be seen as a defeat for the church; if the ‘no’ vote wins there will be more anger heaped on the church as being responsible for its defeat.”
The clergy publicly supporting the Yes side have given a range of reasons for their vote. In his March letter to the Irish Times, Father Iggy O’Donovan argued that the church members should vote Yes in the name of pluralism in a secular state. Some, like the well-known activist nun Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, seem ready to question church teaching on homosexuality more fundamentally.
“I am going to vote Yes in recognition of the gay community as full members of society,” she told the Irish Times last week. “They should have an entitlement to marry. It is a civil right and a human right.”
Perhaps as extraordinary as these statements from members of Catholic orders is the fact that the bishops don’t appear to be disciplining them — or at least not yet.
The hierarchy has in the past taken steps to silence internal critics; Father O’Donovan, for example, was sent to Limerick after being removed from the congregation he had long led in the town of Drogheda in 2013. But he said he had “heard nothing from the hierarchy” about his letter, and Father Martin Dolan told BuzzFeed News that “no one has told me I cannot speak” about the referendum after he came out in January, though he said he was “not giving interviews at this time.”
This is the most hopeful sign that the Irish church is growing under Francis, suggested Association of Catholic Priests’ Father Tony Flannery.
“The fact that these people nowadays feel they can oppose the official church in public … that in itself is a real indication of the Francis effect in the Irish church,” he said.
But it’s not clear how Francis’ desire to extract the church from culture wars can be applied when the church is directly confronted with a marriage equality movement. Francis’ gentler tone as pope followed his own experience unsuccessfully combating a 2010 marriage equality bill in Argentina when he was the country’s top bishop, deploying rhetoric that even church conservatives concede embarrassed the church. And he has appeared to wade into marriage fights even as pope when conservatives were favored to win.
If the amendment passes, Ireland will be the first country in the world to establish marriage equality by a popular vote. This historic vote comes just five months before bishops from around the world are due to come to Rome for what is known as a synod, which follows a three-year process launched by Pope Francis to review church teaching on the family. The process has largely been viewed as a litmus test of how much the church can moderate its condemnation of homosexuality — a draft discussed in a meeting last October included language that spoke of “welcoming homosexual persons,” but it was rejected by the bishops and no language on same-sex couples got enough votes to be adopted in that meeting.
The Irish campaign is unlikely to make reaching an accord any easier in this year’s synod. But it’s a stark reminder as to why it’s so important that the church continues to work toward a third way in marriage fights, which are spreading faster and faster in many countries where the church has only just begun to slip from the center of power.
And the stakes are high in Ireland, said Father O’Donovan.
“There’s an angry sea, and the hierarchy are the first rocks on the shore who will have to face it,” he said. “If [the referendum] fails … it will be a pyrrhic victory” that will damage the church in the long run.
And if it passes, he said, the vote will be “the latest nail in the coffin of old Catholic Ireland.”

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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    All this ecclesiastical fretting is a mere sideshow. The essential issue is a basic human one, and the Irish people are responding fairly and decently to the request of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, too long denied dignity in our country.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Joe @ 1 & 2:
    “The essential issue is a basic human one”: is a same-sex union to be equated with a heterosexual union? In some respects as a relationship between the two persons, Yes; but in many other respects, No.
    “Irish people are responding fairly and decently to the request of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.” If the implication that to vote No, that this is not a good solution to a real situation, must mean that a person is lacking in fairness and decency, then you’ve got it wrong. It is not the case that all right-thinking people must vote Yes.
    “Mrs McAleese got it right”: Mrs McAleese gets it right in her advocacy for those who are gay. She gets it wrong in that she can only see one solution. She joins many other celebrities in that, But, as actor Martin Sheen says: “Don’t confuse celebrity with credibility.”

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    “equated” is misleading, Pádraig, for it confuses 1. biological sameness and 2. equality before the law. Men and women, for example, are fully equal but not fully the same.
    I did not pass any comment on the No campaign — I would say that my bishop friends who have come out against gay marriage are pretty much where I would have been a few years ago — the case against must be pondered and weighed, as I think I have done sufficiently. All I did say is that I am deeply impressed by people like Mary McAleese and many other mothers and grandmother who have responded so warmly to their children’s and grandchildren’s testimony.
    “She can only see one solution” — well, the only other “solution” is civil partnership, which bishops are all in favour of now despite scorning it a few years ago. Marriage itself in general is a simplistic “solution” for the questions of human love and sexuality, but it works for many people and many people are fans of it even if not themselves married. I think gay marriage may enjoy comparable success.
    Let’s not forget where we are all coming from, especially those deep in the clerical system: from a culture of unconscious oppression masochistically internalized. The long list of priests and even cardinals who have got into trouble because of their lives of concealment and loneliness tells a story.
    I think it is rather dismissive to call Mrs McAleese a “celebrity” — she is a very competent lawyer and politician and even theologian as well as being a sterling human being. She has advocated gay marriage since 1975, when the rest of us had not even dreamt of such a notion. Her speech answers all the objections to a Yes vote with economy, authority, and aplomb: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7laFwqGIvE
    She speaks above all as a mother, and many will dismiss mothers as inherently simplistic and sentimental, but nonetheless the concern of mothers for their gay children is one of the greatest movers for change in civil attitudes to gays and also in ecclesiastical attitudes: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/referendum/mcaleese-tells-of-her-gay-sons-secret-suffering-31237632.html
    “I see nothing to fear in that future, I see nothing but fear in the past” — so well said, Mrs McAleese!
    For once let Ireland cast a progressive vote (perhaps its first ever) and not keep coming in in the heel of the hunt. Of course a No vote will give aid and comfort to the US right and to the French right, among others, and we will be cited as a model and a beacon till kingdom come. I do wish our country could avoid such bedfellows.
    Fingers crossed!

  4. Soline Humbert says:

    I should preface my comment by stating that I am not a celebrity but I am a mother -although not of a gay son or daughter…..
    My present view,developped over many years, is that the term (civil)marriage is broad enough to embrace both heterosexual and homosexual unions.
    I am reproducing below a short piece I wrote last September(before the Referendum campaign) and which is now published in
    To Have And To Hold ,Stories And Reflections From LGBT People,Their Families And Friends, (edited by Patricia Devlin and Brian Glennon 2015)
    Marriage Equality
    I ask myself the question: Why do I support marriage equality? The answer comes loud and strong: because I can do no other. This wasn’t always the case. This inner conviction and my commitment to bearing witness to it publicly is the fruit of a journey of many years. Let me share some of this journey with you:
    I was born in France in the 50’s and spent my childhood there. It is a country which prides itself in its republican ethos of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. And as a catholic Christian I also was formed in a tradition that affirms the love of God for all, and the dignity of all human beings made in the image of God. As I grew up I started noticing, even as a child, that both state and church did not live up to these worthy professed aspirations. As a people we often fell very far short. For instance I became quite conscious of some of the sexism and racism which permeated society. But I had no awareness of homophobia and injustice against LGBT people. In fact I cannot remember ever meeting an LGBT person. More correctly: When I met LGBT people ,which I am sure I did, I was not aware of their sexual orientation. LGBT people were invisible. In fact my awareness of the existence of sexual orientations besides heterosexuality, was very limited. It hardly figured on my radar! I had read about “homosexuals” in my history books as one of the groups victimised by the Nazis (the bearers of the pink triangle in the concentration camps) and I had heard a few derogatory descriptive words, but what exactly this meant was very hazy in my mind. As I didn’t have an exceptionally sheltered upbringing, I reckon this must have been the case for most of us at the time. While we discussed many things, this was not a live issue at all. Of course people like me could afford to be ignorant as it did not concern us directly, or even indirectly for that matter. Those who were directly concerned were in a very different situation, as I would find out later. We could live our adolescent love relationships happily in the sunshine while they were confined to the shadows. . It was a very cold climate for them.
    I was in College in Ireland before I met for the first time somebody who was gay. And of course at the time, in the early 70s, that was not the word used. People were “homosexuals”. I met him in the catholic chaplaincy in Trinity college. C. was a young lad of 17,the same age as me. He was very nice, very friendly, and quite shy….like many of us. I don’t remember now how I became aware of his sexual orientation, since he certainly was not flaunting it. But what I do remember is that my eyes became open to the prevalent homophobia and discrimination, and that was quite a revelation. I couldn’t understand why people like C .were considered flawed , and their sexuality criminalised. It troubled me. I didn’t like it. It seemed to me both unjustified and nasty. At that time I had started reading some theology as I was trying to understand the catholic position on sexuality and women. In the process I came across a French theologian ,a priest, who was advocating a more enlightened view, and to my mind a more Christian view, of homosexuality. I passed on the book to C. Thirty years later C. thanked me, saying it was the first positive thing he had ever read/heard about his sexuality.I had forgotten, but for him it was a small ray of light in the darkness of the closet, when his parents were trying to get him ”cured“ by a psychiatrist. For me meeting him had broken through some of my ignorance and made me aware of the all- permeating homophobia in society and church. Although in fairness I should add that the chaplaincy was a benign place.
    I got married in 1980 and had two children. I trained and worked as a volunteer in the catholic marriage counselling service (CMAC,now ACCORD). I do not remember the issue of LGBT people surfacing then. But when I went back to study further theology in the early 90’s and had to pick a topic for study in moral theology I chose the church teaching on homosexuality. The readings opened my mind further and confirmed for me what I had intuited since my college days and meeting C. I was not disturbed by homosexuality and LGBT people: It was the church teaching (and societal attitudes) which disturbed me. In a nutshell it didn’t ring true or loving or in accordance with my faith. I couldn’t see things the way it did. The more I read and reflected the more I reached a very different conclusion. For me the immorality was in our view and treatment of LGBT people, not in LGBT people! As a heterosexual person I slowly came to see I had to take my share of responsibility for it.
    A few years later when I joined an ecumenical group of clergy meeting for regular study and discussion, the first issue I picked when my turn came, was the issue of Christianity and homosexuality. I wanted to see whether others shared my questioning. That was 20 years ago, and I soon realised this was not a comfortable topic to discuss.
    At that stage most of what I knew about LGBT people and their lives had been through reading. But then I started meeting some LGBT people and it brought me to another depth of understanding . As some shared their experience, their life journeys I became even more aware of the appalling injustice perpetuated against them and of the suffering inflicted on them. It really opened my eyes and I was horrified . What if I had been born LGBT? Only by an accident of birth I wasn’t. How would I feel ? The more I imagined myself in the place of an LGBT person, the more convinced I became that change, and radical change was necessary. The decriminalisation of homosexual acts was good and necessary, but very limited. It was only a first step, albeit a very important one.
    Like most families we have an LGTB member. One of my husband’s first cousins abroad came out as a lesbian and has entered in a civil marriage. Herself and her spouse have adopted a little girl. Without them that little girl who had already spent several unhappy years in an orphanage would not have had a chance at a happy family life. They have got her the medical treatment she needed. Over the years we have seen her flourishing. She is an integral part of our extended family. I cannot but admire their loving dedication in parenting. The love they have for one another and for the little girl they have adopted is real…and where there is love, there is God!
    When I am advocating for civil marriage equality , I am well aware that I am doing so against the position adopted by the official leadership of the church to which I belong. It is not something that I relish. I am quite sad that is the case. I actually believe that as Christians we should be in the forefront of it. Call it naivety! But it is something on which I have pondered long and hard and I could not vote no in a proposed referendum without betraying myself. My husband and I have been married for 34 years and for most of these we have been members of a catholic organisation for married couples. We know what marriage and parenting is about, the commitment, the responsibility. When I hear the argument that marriage equality would undermine marriages like ours, all that I hear is a statement of fear based on ignorance. and a lack of imagination. What is there to fear from LGBT people in a loving relationship? In fact some of them support us and our marriage through their friendship! It is mutual. It reminds me that not too long ago “mixed” marriages (of different denominations) were frowned upon and discouraged. And in some countries interracial marriages were also prohibited. But love knows no barrier, and the love of heterosexual persons is not superior to the love of LGBT persons. Those of us who are heterosexual do not have the exclusivity of committed life-long loving relationships. There are plenty of LGBT people “living marriage”: Civil marriage equality will make legal the reality of what they are already living, and give them and their families the necessary protection and recognition, especially to the children many are parenting.
    I worship regularly with LGBT people, their families and friends. I am also engaged in the ministry of spiritual guidance. In that capacity I am privileged to accompany all kinds of people in their spiritual journey, and some of them are LGBT, some already in a civil partnership. All are spiritual seekers, some very committed to their faith and their church. As they have shared with me some of their deepest selves, I have been challenged to become more active in ending a situation which brings so much wounding. To me the present situation when LGBT people cannot marry is a very real injustice, and I don’t want to be one helping to perpetuate it by my silence. I did not always see things like this. As I mentioned in this brief overview of my journey, at one stage I did not know anything about it. But now I don’t have that excuse : I know. And I cannot in conscience not act on what I know. Voting for marriage equality is one step. A change in legislation is not a panacea, but it is another important step. The LGBT community in Ireland deserves marriage equality. The rest of us also do. This I do believe.
    Soline Humbert 24th September 2014
    More recently I was asked and agreed to give a short interview to Soul Waves radio. This is the first time I have made public my voting intention in a referendum. http://www.soulwavesradio.ie/2015/05/14/same-sex-referendum-2/#more-6417

  5. Prodigal Son says:

    The author is to be complemented on his article capturing the unwinnable alleged conflict and the esprit of those who revel in it. Although I enjoy the way this website facilitates interaction, I find the notion of combat is futile. Recurrent stoppable forces kicking against the immovable object. Given the fragmented nature of the Church who does one combat with?
    I find it best to try Mother Teresa’s advice of seeking to be faithful to the Magisterium. “Go sin no more.” In real life I avoid priests of combat. I have practised this for years in line with Brendan Hoban’s example from the US on April 28 – the rather Congregationalist practice of Catholics in the United States moving from a priest they disapprove of to one who takes their fancy. Happily this does not apply to my present pastor.
    Having said all that, I don’t agree that the Bishops had a Hobson’s choice regarding the referendum. Their cue is provided by John the Baptist and the Cure of Ars. What “blame” would have accrued to John had Herod converted? Preach the good news in season and out of season.
    As with all pro “yes” articles, Buzzfeed omits that the Pope preaches against so called gay marriage and denounces attempts of impose it on third world countries as social colonialism. Buzzfeed also favours the situation where the adult desire for children justifies deliberately denying the same children the experience of paternal and maternal presence in their formative years. “Where’s ‘my’ mam?” Not to speak of complementarity, the ultimate game changer down the road. In fairness he does enable David Quinn to make his distinction.
    As I spend some hours on Friday ferrying older “no” voters to the polls, perhaps there will be some priests ferrying “yes” voters. In such a fragmented, disjointed church it’s best to attempts to say one’s prayers and do one’s good works. Priestly vocations are rising slowly. The “conflict” is a spectator sport, not a source of needless worry and burdensome fears.
    Because of the Ascension, because the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, because we are part of that Mystical Body, the lives of those in the state of grace are already in a mysterious way partially lived in Heaven. (Joy). Perhaps the Arians and St Athanasius are still in conflict there, but probably not. Similarly Luther and Calvin. But here on the ground the show goes on. Perhaps the ACP could organise a day and hour where all would read/pray psalm 95 (Come ring out our joy to the Lord …).

  6. Oisin Hawes says:

    I applaud the priests and nuns who have the courage to come out in favour of a yes vote.
    I have seen the enormous damage done to some of my old school friends who for many years felt they had to hide their sexuality. Attempted suicides, depression etc. Thankfully a lot has changed and hopefully a yes vote on Friday will make gay people feel equal and valued members of our society. Time the Bishops got out of their Palaces and lived in the real world amongst their flock.
    Unfortunately being an expat my voice will not be heard so I ask all who can to go and vote Yes on Friday.

  7. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Joe @ 4:
    “equated is misleading”: So is “equality”, where it confuses the true equality (despite all the inequalities in our world) with the pertinent question: In civil law, are there differences between same-sex unions and heterosexual unions which would indicate that different legal provision be made, while giving both equal recognition?
    “the only other “solution” is civil partnership”: The government has not seemed to consider the solution of civil partnership, not as now, but with constitutional protection, which is called for.
    “I think it is rather dismissive to call Mrs McAleese a celebrity”:
    the point is not whether a person is a celebrity, but whether being a celebrity confers extra insight and credibility.
    “She has advocated gay marriage since 1975”: I recall clearly referring in a Sunday homily to the way gay people are treated, perhaps around 1980. A friend of mine commented on it. As a priest, perhaps that was just as daring as Mary McAleese!
    “Of course a No vote will give aid and comfort to the US right and to the French right, among others.” If there is a No vote, it will I hope not be trumpeted as a victory over anyone, but as an opportunity to take the necessary effort to address the very real situation in a way which is far more sound, recognising gay people in their own right, without the complications of bringing same-sex unions under the banner of Marriage. The proposed amendment, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex” makes sexuality marginal and non-essential in both unions, rather than celebrating it.
    “Fingers crossed!” A non-verbal symbolic action-prayer?
    What happens if I cross my fingers in the opposite direction?

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    I was not praising her for being “daring” but for being so far ahead of the pack in envisioning gay marriage. Lots of clergy made sympathetic remarks about gays in sermons (I heard one in a mission sermon in 1977) but I know of no cleric who imagined the idea of gay marriage.
    In response to your concern about the lack of an enhanced civil partnership alternative, I do think it is a pity that civil partnership is being discontinued, especially in the case of many gay couples who may have moral or other objections to the title of “marriage”.
    I think it is good that marriage is celebrated as a loving commitment rather than as “sexuality” — I am pretty sure that weddings will be no more and no less sexual than they are now. The equality already enjoyed by the weddings of the aged has never been taken as a refusal to “celebrate sexuality”.

  9. Mícheál says:

    I realise that some priests, like Padraig @8, have been critical of the way society has treated gay people over the years, have been opposed to homophobia, and have reached out pastorally to the LGBT community. I have never heard a homily where the priest has condemned the official teaching of the Church that gay people are intrinsically disordered. Nor have I heard any condemnation of the connection that a Vatican spokesman made some years back associating child sexual abuse in the church with gay clergy.
    Just as bishops have seen themselves as line managers for Rome, constantly looking over their shoulders flr fear of what Rome or the papal nuncio might say, so too many clergy have lacked the courage to speak the truth to power in this issue. Sadly, it’s too little, too late. But it is the hypocrisy that is really worrying: we know there are gay priests — are they all to be seen as intrinsically disordered individuals? — why has no fellow priest or bishop has the courage to codemn this unjust and discriminatory view of their fellow human beings, their fellow clergy?

  10. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Mícheál @ 10:
    I think condemnation can be counter-productive: it can make a person become defensive and closed. Condemnations are more suited to media headlines, and can serve to draw more attention to what one is condemning.
    Instead I try to work on the level of pointing out the facts in a clear and definite and respectful manner, in the hope that the other person(s) may see a different way. It does not often work, of course, but it seems to me it has better possibilities. I would like to model the approach we want to achieve.

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    The Vatican document Homosexualitatis Problema received strong condemnation from two Irish priests, Bernard Lynch and myself, just after its publication. It is still proudly displayed on the Vatican website and enshrined in the Catechism, and it is still doing immense harm to vulnerable people. http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/06/the_flesh_and_t.html (scroll down)
    Jesus condemned just this kind of pharisaic activity quite a lot. I remember my shock in 1977 when reading Matthew 23 and discovering that it was directed at the Irish Catholic Church.

  12. @ 11
    ‘Condemnations are more suited to media headlines’…But Padraig it is exactly the anathemas, the condemnations, the exclusions, the silencings the punishments that has done irreparable damage to the Catholic Church. There is a dichotomy in the Church that is becoming more and more evident. On the one hand priests are defending the Church with very nice words and on the other hand there is the intransigence and the unchanging doctrines and teachings of the Church that condemn and exclude people left, right and centre. It is a bit like ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’.. Who in the Church is responsible for the mass exodus of its people?

  13. Mary Vallely says:

    “Fear, greed and pride are at work here, and must be resisted. If we fear one another so much that we compulsively conceal our sexuality and present a false front to our neighbour, or are unable to accept the full humanity of our neighbour: if we are so greedy for the security of our little capitalist niches – or for the success of our church – that we dare not risk giving offence by embracing undesirable people or by revealing ourselves in a light others might find undesirable: if we are so proud of our religious or national identity that we root out our own sexuality as unCatholic or unIrish; then is it any wonder that the harp and shamrock are yielding to the gun, the bottle, the syringe needle and the fast buck as the emblems of Irish life? If we lie on a grand scale in the area of sexuality, can we hope to have the honesty and radicality needed to steer the country through its present difficulties to a future of peace, integrity and economic freedom? Can our faith be a liberative force in these areas if it is associated with obscurantism, servility and mutual mistrust at a more intimate level?
    The church is the community in which we unlearn fear, greed and pride, not one in which we become expert at branding one another as sinners. A church in which we are not accepted – or cannot accept ourselves – as we are. cannot transform us into kingdom-people.”
    I just wanted to emphasise this from Joseph’s web blog above. Personally I found it profoundly moving, impacting, true. I think it was Richard Rohr who said that if it is good, if it is true, it is from the Holy Spirit. I would encourage everyone to read this blog and reflect on the truth and wisdom of it.

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