Winning Battles, Losing the War

There was a time when we thought we had a fair chance of shaping a new Ireland where, despite the great flux of change, different opinions, values and perspectives would be respected and accepted.
It was a time when we had a sense of the richness that we could draw from our traditions, religious and otherwise, that huge resource that comes under the label ‘Irish heritage’.
It was a time when we believed that change, obvious and inevitable, could be delivered that would draw on the best we could offer as a people.
That emblematic time, the 1960s, was just when Ireland was beginning to flex its economic muscles, communication was developing in spades, travel was making the world a smaller place, and it was clear to every thinking person in Ireland that survival, in every sense and for everyone, meant dealing with change.
This included survival for the Catholic Church too because the dogs in the street could see that the Catholic Church faced an uncertain future, and that a refusal to change would mean that the Church, the dominant institution in the Irish State, would be marginalised and sidelined and, as we know now, its very future threatened.
It was at this critical point that Vatican Two, fortuitously, offered both a vision and a strategy. While older Catholics had been raised on a diet of opposing the sinful wiles of the World, the Flesh and the Devil – usually delivered in stark capitals – younger Catholics were being offered a more tenable menu, the need to greet the instincts of the age in a positive and respectful spirit.
It took time for the Catholic Church to get its head about the emerging truth that if Catholicism didn’t make its peace with the modern world, it would condemn itself to the periphery of Irish life and condemn its adherents to marginal status in the Irish State.
Effectively, the Vatican Council had proposed a way forward that would deliver a workable balance between the freedom of the Church and the freedom of those whose rights could be protected by constitutional law.
Wise heads could see that this harmony between competing values and rights, difficult and all as it might be to achieve it, was not just in the interests of those who rejected Catholicism and were demanding their civil rights but even more so in the interests of the Church. In shaping a new Ireland it was clear that a generous and accommodating spirit would benefit everyone.
Twenty years ago, in a prophetic article in Doctrine and Life, the respected commentator Louis McRedmond wrote that confrontation between the two perspectives imperiled the Irish Catholic Church ‘more than any other phenomenon of our society today’. How right he was.
At the time it was clear to everyone that the dominant and controlling approach of the Catholic Church would be confronted by those who demanded the kind of social legislation – the availability of contraception, divorce, abortion – that as non-Catholics (excuse the term) they felt entitled to in law.
Looking back on the debates (on contraception, divorce, abortion) that divided the nation, neither side was prepared to take a long and respectful approach to the issues. Debates around difficult subjects and competing rights were marked by an absence of generosity on both sides.
Those who argued for liberalisation refused to consider positive elements of Catholic tradition, like the ‘common good’ and, in the cut and thrust of debate, sought to demean and disparage anything that smacked of Catholic life or tradition.
The Catholic side, adopting a similarly confessional attitude, refused to admit or accept the rights of ‘non-Catholics’ (excuse the term, again) to be incorporated into Irish law, when much of the argument, as McRedmond saw it, was ‘selfish nostalgia masquerading as loyalty to the Catholic tradition’.
In the debates, because of the uncompromising and hostile attitudes adopted by both sides, everyone, including the Catholic Church, was diminished.
Neither side would accept that the other had any point. And, in the process, everyone lost.
Remember the pro-life referendum in 1983? Even though it was clear that there was huge support for it – including from Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil – the Irish bishops (or most of them) instinctively realised the collateral damage to Catholicism that it would cause, and wise owls like Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich and Archbishop Joe Cassidy, the spokesman for the Catholic bishops at the time, clearly acknowledged the right of Catholics to oppose the referendum, if their consciences allowed them – and also that such a course, voting No, did not represent a position that favoured abortion.
Even though a few maverick bishops went on solo-runs unilaterally conferring infallibility on their own interpretation of what Catholicism required of civil law, the official position of the bishops was clear, any Catholic had the right to vote No.
Unfortunately, among the ranks of the bishops now, there are no figures with the gumption of Tom Fee or Joe Cassidy, who can see the fall-out from the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum or, if there are, they haven’t the courage to say it.
The presumption is that there is unanimity among the Irish bishops that the referendum needs to be defeated, a conclusion they share with the members of the ultra-Catholic Iona Institute and no doubt later on in the campaign with hard-line Catholic fundamentalists who bring their own brand of unique intolerance to bear on such campaigns.
Individually or collectively has that triumvirate – the bishops, Iona and the hard-line fundamentalists – any idea of the damage they’re doing to the Church they profess to serve with such devotion?
For the Catholic Church, it can be argued that the result of the referendum on same-sex marriage will matter less than the fall-out afterwards. A positive result for ‘Catholic’ forces (the defeat of the referendum) could do huge damage to the Irish Catholic Church.
In every Catholic congregation, for instance, there are gay people and straight people who have gay members of their family and straight people who have gay friends. And haranguing them into voting No in the referendum, regardless of the substance of the arguments offered, will have the effect of driving more and more of them out of the church and out of the Church.
Is there no voice of any substance or any sanity in the Catholic Church in Ireland that has the foresight and the credibility to articulate the wisdom once offered by Tom Fee, Joe Cassidy and their colleagues in 1983? Can someone in authority not say that Catholics follow their own teaching but that legislators have to legislate?
Will the Irish Catholic Church once again ignore the tide offered to it in the Vatican Council and once again continue to contribute so spectacularly to its own demise?

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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    “When he was asked about where homosexuality comes from – whether it was what God intended – Dr Doran replied: “That would be to suggest that if some people who are born with Down syndrome or Spina Bifida, that that was what God intended either.””
    Once again it’s the bad arguments against marriage equality that are providing the strongest support for a Yes vote!

  2. Soline Humbert says:

    Thank you Paddy. Like you I felt it was timely.Also by reading it and sharing it we show we are not colluding with the real scandal to the faith,the CDF’s unjust procedures of “silencing”.
    As a member of the church I say:”Not in my name!”

  3. Soline, thank you for sharing Fr. Owen’s excellent article with us and very timely too. It is the first time I have read it though I have long been aware of it because of the controversy it caused when it was published. Thanks to Fr. Owen too for his excellent analysis and for having the courage to publish it.

  4. Soline Humbert says:
  5. Soline Humbert says:

    Thank you Eddie.
    There is also a piece written by Irish theologian Fr Owen O’Sullivan,O.Cap
    who was silenced since his article was published in the Furrow.
    MM and Mary O’Vallely mention Owen and his earlier article “Where are the priests prophets?”under a different post on this website. I tioo hope he is well.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Despite what might be seen as my traditional ‘status quo’ leanings, tendencies, inclinations, baggage @21, I think most of us can see the great value in Joe’s contribution @15,20,22&24 – and also in those excellent links Soline gave us to good theology from Sr Lisa Fullam@14 and Sr Margaret Farley@23. Not on my usual daily reading menu, I’ll admit, but unfortunately probably not on that of the new Bishop of Elphin & his 27 colleagues either.

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    I think any sensitive pastor will bless a committed samesex couple who come for a blessing. With the growth of civil partnerships and samesex weddings we will undoubtedly see down the line a demand for sacramental marriage of samesex couples. However sniping at civil marriage arrangements that do not match the church’s definitions of marriage is a waste of time. It is even illogical to snipe at divorce since the church has always allowed divorce where a partner in a civil marriage converts to the faith. The prevalence of civil divorce has led to a push for the church to relax its sacramental discipline about indissolubility. The prevalence of samesex marriages will led to an analogous push. But the church is quite good at saying no on its own sacramental turf, as we see in the case of the ordination of women (despite the clash of this ban with the vast push for sexual equality).

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    I say Silence is Golden simply because I think we should relinquish the clericalist perception that we are in a position to give special advice on this question.

  9. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Three cheers for Brendan@16 when he writes: “How many priests contribute to any debate on the ACP site? Very few, because the truth is that we’re much better at finding reasons why we shouldn’t say anything rather (than) why we should venture outside our clerical comfort zones.”
    On the topic of winning battles or losing wars, if Garibaldi’s ‘Thousand’ (1089 actually) had had as much care for their comfort zones as the ACP ‘Thousand’, they’d never have landed at Marsala, the Bourbons would still rule the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Pope Francis would still be running the Papal States, possibly not from Domus Sanctae Marthae, and we’d probably still be munching bourbons rather than garibaldis with our capucini.
    But three cheers too for Pádraig@13&18 for opening up a bridgehead in the nicest possible way – so that those of the “whatever-you-say-say-nothing” brigade of this intrepid Reform Movement may tentatively, even trepidly, begin to tiptoe across the bridge their leaders have been constructing for them for the past five years. The voice they thought they’d like to have back in 2010 doesn’t have to echo the leadership, nor can the leadership voice everything for everyone “on issues affecting the Irish Church and society today”, as it says above on the tin.
    Pádraig’s suggestion/proposal that the ACP hold a real world rather than virtual debate on the referendum’s topic seems a good one. Brendan’s opening salvo in ‘The Western People’ is, I suppose, already ‘real world’ rather than just aimed at the usual few suspects who visit this virtual battleground. Perhaps the ACP Leadership should first host a more closed discussion at the Bridge of Athlone to help the Spedizione dei Mille find its voice and its bearings before advancing into No Man’s Land. I suspect that most of Dad’s Army may be at sixes and sevens, amid cries of ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!, as to whether “a defeat of the referendum would be a disaster for Catholicism’.
    I suspect, too, that there are quite a few of us who are not card-carrying members of Iona or hardline fundamentalists or even bishops, who may be old-fashioned enough to regard ‘traditional’ marriage and family as society’s building blocks, and who would certainly not view a ‘NO’ result (admittedly, snowball’s chance in hell) as a disaster for anyone, or proof of Irish voters’ espousal of mass homophobia. On the day after the referendum, my gay cousin, my gay nephew and I will still be talking happily, though only one of us has a vote. Meanwhile, the Bishops’ “The Meaning of Marriage” will still be worth a read:
    My third suspicion is that, even if the Bishops’ Conference were to elect as president and spokesman a pair with the theology-free gumption of Tom Fee and Joe Cassidy to declare that “Catholics follow their own teaching but legislators have to legislate”, it really ain’t that simple. If it were, surely Catholic Pope, Bishops and Parish Priests could tell the state’s legislators to take secular marriage and re-define it how they wish – so long as they leave us at peace with our sacramental Sanctissimum Matrimonium, untrammelled with any of the messiness of life and society.
    And my fourth suspicion would be that the lack of reasoned argument from Enda Kenny and most members of the Oireachtas has as much to do with political correctness as with some skewed concept of “equality” for all. In the era of the “selfie” and the “selfie-stick” I guess society must focus on ME because I’m worth it, rather than me focus on SOCIETY from some age-old notion that its foundation is the common good. Still, as An Taoiseach might put it, if we can get 75% to say a big YES to the new sub-section 4 to Article 41, Ireland’s Republic will finally be seen to cherish all her children “equally” and be judged ready for her “exaltation among the nations” well before Easter 2016.
    Finally, I cannot agree with Joe@19 on what he calls the policy “adopted by the English bishops in regard to the recent same-sex marriage legislation there: silence.” Silence may indeed be Golden at times, Joe, but it certainly was not (and is not) the approach taken to the non-mandated, non-referendumed, minimally consulted-over “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill / Act 2012-2013” by the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, or individually by the Archbishops of Westminster, Southwark, Cardiff, Birmingham and Liverpool (then Bishop of Nottingham). In addition to the linked interventions below, the then Archbishop Nichols of Westminster called on opponents of gay marriage to “lobby MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others.” Not so silent!
    ‘Statement by Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark’:
    ‘Bishops’ Conference (England & Wales) briefing to Commons’:
    Following the Bill’s Second Reading in the Lords, the (Catholic) Bishops called for amendments:
    Even if we believe the polls (62%YES, 16%NO, 22%DON’T KNOW, I agree that the Irish Catholic bishops should continue to follow the policy of their English & Welsh colleagues in the remaining two months before the Referendum, rather than rolling over silently in a new interpretation of “reading the signs of the times” we live in. It would help, of course, if they concentrate on cogent argument rather than pulpit harangue, and if they rein in any of their mavericks intent on the odd solo run.

  10. Joe O'Leary says:

    I suggest that the category of “objectively homophobic” could be useful. For instance to say, “no one is stopping gays from marrying — someone of the opposite sex” or “two men cannot understand a teenage girl they adopt” is objectively homophobic because both statements undermine respect for gay people.

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    I agree with Brendan that a defeat of the referendum would be a disaster for Catholicism. The only substantial opposition to marriage equality is coming from the RCC, often in association with right-wing elements in other churches:
    The best policy for the Irish church spokespeople now is that adopted by the English bishops in regard to the recent samesex marriage leglislation there: silence.
    Sometimes it is true that “Silence is Golden.2

  12. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Brendan – I hope you’ll be able to cope with some more motherhood and apple pie!
    As you know, I do not seek to stifle debate by spiritualising it. I say and write what I mean. You know my record, for example, in relation to the new Mass translation.
    I do, however, try to focus clearly on what is the question to be discussed: in this case, the matter of whether including same-sex and opposite-sex relationships under one “equal marriage” legislation is wise. We already have legislation which registers and regulates the formalisation of both kinds of relationship. There will of course also be many examples of both kinds of relationship which those involved will not formalise.
    You write: “I think we need to use the ’H’ word if we believe it to be necessary and we need to own our convictions publicly and proactively.” By the ‘H’ word I presume you mean “Homophobia”. Yes, it needs to be named where it is identified; but that is a quite different argument. To discuss on the level of homophobia focuses on the person rather than the content of the argument: it risks becoming ad hominem. A person who is homophobic and whose utterances are motivated by that may still have valid and cogent points to make, which we need to take into account.
    To speak of “the ultra-Catholic Iona Institute” and “hard-line Catholic fundamentalists” and “their own brand of unique intolerance” does not address what they actually say, and seems likely to inhibit them from really hearing what you have to say: they may have their own phrases to describe you! Whether your description of them, or theirs of you, is true or not, it does not advance the rational argument in either direction.
    So yes, have the “bold and uncompromising participation” as much as you like, and it can make an impression. But if you are playing Australian Rules, it will not help where the field of play is a chess board.
    This, I hope, is not spiritualising in order to manipulate. This, I hope, is “naming the truth is full colour.” This, I hope, is “bold and uncompromising participation in the upcoming debate.”
    You wrote: “For the Catholic Church, it can be argued that the result of the referendum on same-sex marriage will matter less than the fall-out afterwards. A positive result for ‘Catholic’ forces (the defeat of the referendum) could do huge damage to the Irish Catholic Church.”
    I do not see it in terms of “Catholic forces.” Certainly there is a Church dimension to the matter, but there are others who are not members of the Catholic church who see problems with bringing same-sex and opposite-sex relationships under one equal banner. I do not think that our hierarchy has done a great job here.
    More important is to address the issues on the basis of what is actually proposed, what the intended outcome would be, what possible consequences may be, and whether there are better ways to make civil provision for same-sex relationships which address the needs and respect the realities of human life and relationships.
    Perhaps it would be useful for the ACP to hold a debate on the proposed referendum on same-sex marriage, not on-line but in a physical venue at an agreed time? Would this be a valuable contribution to the national discussion?

  13. Soline Humbert says:

    Some people reading this thread may be interested to know that there is in Dublin a monthly Sunday Mass with a particular welcome for lgbt (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered) people,together with their parents,family members and friends,and anybody who desires to participate. The liturgy is Roman Catholic and is followed by chat over tea and coffee.The ALL ARE WELCOME MASS is on the THIRD SUNDAY of each month at 3:30PM at the Avila Carmelite Retreat Centre,Bloomfield Avenue(off Morehampton Rd), Donnybrook,Dublin 4. The next Mass is on Sunday 15th March.
    The Masses started in July 2012. They have been held in Avila Carmelite Retreat Centre since November 2013.
    or contact

  14. Brendan Hoban says:

    I refer to Pádraig McCarthy’s measured remarks @ 13 above on the need for ‘a
    calm rational debate’ on the same-sex referendum on marriage ‘equality’ and
    his hope that the ACP web-site should be a place ‘where we can address one
    another, however diverse our views, united as brothers and sisters in the
    one Spirit’.
    I couldn’t do other than assent to all of that. (Motherhood and apple pie
    and all that). My worry would be that if we start out from there – ‘brothers
    and sisters united’ etc – we may find ourselves not having a real debate but
    an innocuous and inoffensive discussion.
    I know Pádraig didn’t intend this but I know too how often others, for their
    own purposes, have sought to stifle debate by ‘spiritualising’, in effect
    manipulating the loyalty and sometimes the guilt of priests.
    Priests are not good at disagreeing with one another and not good at naming
    the truth in full colour because most of us (not all I readily admit) are
    ‘nice’ people who wouldn’t want anyone to be upset with us. So we tend to
    moderate our opinions, to present them in an oblique way, often indeed not
    to justify not sharing them at all.
    How many priests contribute to any debate on the ACP site? Very few, because
    the truth is that we’re much better at finding reasons why we shouldn’t say
    anything rather why we should venture outside our clerical comfort zones.
    Indeed, even if some delinquency is inflicted on our Church, we readily
    excuse ourselves of any public responsibility for opposing it.
    Some examples. The New Missal, it is now generally accepted by the Irish
    clergy, has damaged the fabric of our worship and effectively silenced our
    congregations but when, at the eleventh hour before its introduction,
    priests were herded together in diocesan or intra-diocesan groups to be told
    by our betters that the new Latinate translation was a fait accompli, how
    many priests stood their ground and named the unpalatable but obvious truth?
    It wouldn’t be the first time the loyalty of the Irish clergy was presumed
    upon, especially when they were never consulted on matters of compelling
    interest to them.
    Another example. Even though there’s widespread unease among Catholic clergy
    about some aspects of the appointment of bishops in Ireland, how many have
    voiced their real opinions? The truth is that church authorities presume,
    until there is evidence to the contrary, that priests (nice, decent people
    that we are) will simply accept what their betters have decided for them.
    I suspect that many priests have reservations about the ‘triumvirate’
    designated in my column, but would be loath to express any of that out of
    loyalty or whatever.
    And yes, I do think we need to do just that. And, yes, I think we need to
    use the ’H’ word if we believe it to be necessary and we need to own our
    convictions publicly and proactively rather than be taken for granted by our
    bishops who often condescendingly presume we will follow their lead
    regardless of what road they take (or other worthy groups who often see us
    as little more than useful financial contributors to their campaigns).
    A week or so ago a bishop took exception to my Western People column,
    Winning Battles, Losing the War – the one at issue here – telling me in an
    email that ‘It would help if you read what bishops are saying. I’m not aware
    of any bishop condemning people of homosexual orientation or telling people
    how they should vote’.
    I had to point out to him that if he practised what he preached he would
    have read my column carefully enough to understand that I hadn’t written
    what he said I’d written about bishops ‘condemning people of homosexual
    orientation or telling people how they should vote’.
    While no doubt some would disagree with telling a bishop, even one who had
    no jurisdiction over me, that ‘to echo your own opening phrase, it would
    help if you read what I actually wrote’, or maybe conspire to present it as
    disrespectful or arrogant, I think the rejoinder was legitimate, even though
    both of us would deem ourselves to be united as ‘brothers in the one
    I respect Padraig’s view but I don’t believe that his fears for a calm and
    rational debate are best served by discouraging bold and uncompromising
    participation, in the upcoming debate, not least in the words we use. I
    believe that experience of debate in our Church over the years would suggest
    that the very opposite is the case.

  15. Joe O'Leary says:

    Same-sex couples, like married couples, often enjoy great happiness, and their daily lives are pervaded by the constant warmth of love. The emotion they most often inspire in the bosom of disappointed celibates is sheer envy. For gays and lesbians throughout history the church has been “the spirit that ever negates”. When we come across in the same role in the marriage equality debate why should we blame the young if they see us as having learnt nothing and as still being motivated by cruel ressentiment?

  16. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Heaven forfend that I be driven into the arms of any triumvirate or troika! Trinity (not the college) is enough for me. One of the benefits of the ACP and its website is that we are diverse, and not subject to being pigeon-holed.
    Brendan: you wrote above: “The presumption is that there is unanimity among the Irish bishops that the referendum needs to be defeated, a conclusion they share with the members of the ultra-Catholic Iona Institute and no doubt later on in the campaign with hard-line Catholic fundamentalists who bring their own brand of unique intolerance to bear on such campaigns.
    Individually or collectively has that triumvirate – the bishops, Iona and the hard-line fundamentalists – any idea of the damage they’re doing to the Church they profess to serve with such devotion?”
    Certainly, there are some approaches to the debate on same-sex marriage which I find disturbing – this is on both sides.
    But as I see it, there are some very good rational grounds for holding that it is not wise, or even loving, to “marry” same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships under the one “equal” banner and legal structure of “Marriage.”
    I have reservations about the approach of what you call the “triumvirate.” I also have serious reservations about the government approach which seems to suggest (as the Taoiseach said on Prime Time and in Castlebar) that a Yes vote will establish our credentials as a tolerant society, as if there were no other reasonable and legally sound way to address the matter. Even his use of the word “tolerance” is unhappy: who want to be “tolerated”?
    It seems to me that a calm rational debate has hardly even started yet. We will be ready to do so in a place where we leave aside such terms as “hard-line fundamentalist” and “homophobic” just as much as we exclude the various derogatory terms thrown at those who self-identify as gay and lesbian.
    One such place of dialogue will, I hope, be the ACP website where we can address one another, however diverse our views, united as sisters and brothers in the one Spirit.

  17. Joe O'Leary says:

    Gayness is not a “sexual identity problem” — any more than blackness is a “racial identity problem” or Jewishness a “religious identity problem”.

  18. Kevin Walters says:

    For clarity;
    Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman; civil partnerships are outside of Church teaching. But we are not here as Christians to stone people who may find themselves with sexual identity problems (Which covers a wide range of differences) The Church cannot offer marriage or bless their partnership (Civil union). Mercy demands a way to be found that can incorporate those baptised Christians who find themselves in this most difficult position to be accepted into God’s family the Church and society at large.
    In Christ.

  19. Kevin Walters says:

    Brendan Dinneen@7
    It should be possible to ensure equality under the law and in society without changing the meaning of the word “marriage”.
    I agree with the above statement.
    Christian marriage as defined by Jesus Christ.” for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh”. The truth of this statement can be seen in any offspring they may be blest with.
    your brother
    In Christ

  20. Bob Hayes says:

    Sadly, Brendan’s article illustrates how so many in the Church are wedded to Statecraft while they claim to renounce its overt manifeststion as a formal Church-State relationship. The essence of this and similar sentiments is that the Church should ‘go with the flow’ of popular culture – a popular culture nurtured by the Estsblishment. Christ offended both the rule-bound and uncharitable Pharisees AND the proto-revolutionary Zealots. Both camps cheered-on His Crucifixion on Good Friday.

  21. Brendan Dinneen says:

    As usual, Brendan Hoban reflects on what is happening in our world with an open, inclusive and definitely Catholic mind.
    Such a mind-set is not yet acceptable to the Irish Catholic Hierarchy nor to their minders at the Nunciature and at the the Vatican.
    • Since the campaign to insert Article 40.3.3 to the Irish Constitution was initiated in 1983, Catholic Ireland has been led by a very vocal (“Pro-life”) minority lobby to which the bishops continue to attach themselves, regardless of the shadowy origins of much of that movement’s funding and rhetoric.
    • These people engage in public debate with the equally vocal (“Pro-choice”) minority.
    • The silent majority sit helplessly in the background unable to open their mouths for fear of being labelled and abused by one side or the other – or both.
    Despite being on the losing “civil and human rights” side on all such referenda down through the years, I, paradoxically, had decided to vote “NO” in the upcoming “Gay Marriage” referendum.
    • The word “marriage” has a meaning for my wife and me that does not sit well with the concept of a couple of “husbands” or a couple of “wives”.
    • We resent being cowed into submission by a populist and, at this time, politically opportunistic gesture of “political correctness”.
    • It should be possible to ensure equality under the law and in society without changing the meaning of the word “marriage”.
    Brendan’s article has reminded me that, as a Catholic, I should not be overwhelmed by semantics or the optics of the over-the-top behaviour of some gay people.
    There are lots of genuine, quiet and loving gay people in our families and in our communities whose feelings and happiness cannot be cast aside by my personal sensitivities.
    As Noel Campbell says above “It will not make a whit of difference to heterosexual married couples . . . They will continue to marry and procreate as nature has determined for them.”
    Thank you Brendan

  22. It totally amazes me that not one of the bishops thought to question the intellectual presumption behind their manifesto ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ – that any given word can sustain only one meaning.
    From 1420 the word ‘marriage’ has been used in English to mean an intimate union of virtually any kind, as in “A new and Pleasaunt enterlude intituled the mariage of Witte and Science.” (c 1570) William Blake even published a book called “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in 1793. What episcopal protests did that cause – or the use of the word ‘bishop’ to mean both a chess piece and a glass of mulled and spiced wine?
    What will preserve the specific sacred meaning of marriage as a loving union of man and woman is the simple fact that men and women will continue to fall in the deepest love, and to seek to have that union sacralised. To argue that gay marriage will end that situation is even dafter than to argue that when two people first presumed to hit a small ball over a small net on a table with a small bat (inventing Table Tennis) Wimbledon was doomed.
    This is all about the ‘death rattle of Christendom’ – silly alarmism over the loss of the protective indulgence of the state. Meanwhile wise Chinese Christians, studying the rise of secularism in the West, regard with foreboding the prospect that the Chinese government would ever think of privileging their faith instead of occasionally persecuting it.
    They know well that all of the major Christian scandals of the West began with the marriage of church and state. No sign yet of the Irish Bishops Conference regarding that particular marriage with due abhorrence, or welcoming joyfully the ongoing divorce. Wake up, please, before we all die of embarrassment.

  23. Adrian Grenham says:

    What a depressing artcile for a servant of Christ. I would far rather belong to a smaller, faithful Church – than one that was prepared to diminish and dilute its doctrine for an easy time of it. In regards to the collateral damage caused by abortion and same-sex marriage referenda (especially in regards to the impact on the family) – it is society, not the Church that ultimately loses (look at the intolerance being displayed in the UK in regards to civil servants who refuse to officiate at same-sex ceremonies, look at the divorce and abortion statistics world-wide).

  24. Noel Campbell says:

    Brendan Hoban has certainly hit the proverbial nail on the head in his article.
    The debate on the forthcoming referendum is in danger of becoming embroiled in a battle between extremes.
    Put into the mix those with personal agendas engaging in outrageous debates on peripheral or tangental items and we will be in danger of forgetting that this referendum is about a considerable section of society who are deprived of the right to legally marry their loved one.
    It will not make a whit of difference to heterosexual married couples who happen to be Roman Catholic or Anglcan or any other Faith if this referendum is passed. They will continue to marry and procreate as nature has determined for them.
    The difference will be that those who for generations have been sidelined by society in general including the Catholiic Church will at last hopefully become full welcome members of all communities.
    No person should feel it necessary to identify themselves by their sexual orientation, rather they should be only identified by their humanity, made in the image and likeness of the Creator God.

  25. Mary Vallely says:

    Totally agree with Soline’s comment @1. We have a long way to go in accepting difference in sexual orientation and acknowledging its reality. We are all sisters and brothers in Christ. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Thank God for the courage of those who are open about being gay and shame on us as a society for ever having closets in the first place. We are slow learners.
    I still don’t understand why priests are questioned about their sexuality before entering the seminary. If celibacy is mandatory why does it matter about one’s sexual orientation? Why should anyone feel ashamed and guilty about being non-heterosexual?

  26. Vincent Browne had a worthwhile debate on the upcoming referendum. If you haven’t seen it yet it’s still on the TV3 3player. It’s the 11/02/2015 programme.

  27. Soline Humbert says:

    “In every Catholic congregation, for instance, there are gay people and straight people who have gay members of their family and straight people who have gay friends.” Indeed, but let’s not forget all our lesbian religious sisters, gay religious brothers,deacons,priests,bishops,cardinals,pope….. LGBT people are not just “THEM”. They are also “US”,full members of the body of Christ.

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