Wednesday 28 September 2016

More liberal voices felt clergy had little to gain from stance

Published 25/07/2015 | 02:30

Billie (41) wasted no time in proposing to her girlfriend, Kate Stoica, (26), popping the question within minutes of the final tally at the Limerick count centre during the referendum.
Billie (41) wasted no time in proposing to her girlfriend, Kate Stoica, (26), popping the question within minutes of the final tally at the Limerick count centre during the referendum.

The decision by the Catholic church to quietly abandon a threat to no longer facilitate the civil aspect of the marriage ceremony is not particularly surprising.

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It was made in uncompromising fashion as the run-in to the same-sex marriage referendum gathered pace.

Emotions were running high on all sides - but from the outset it was clear the Church, as part of the 'No' campaign, was fighting a losing battle.

For the hierarchy the vote would be a line in the sand and, if carried, would bring the State concept of marriage in direct conflict with Catholic teaching.

Accordingly, in their pre-referendum submission to the Constitutional Convention, the bishops did not mince their words.

If the referendum was passed, the Church "could no longer carry out" the civil element of the marriage ceremony. However, more liberal voices, even among the clergy, were aghast.

They felt this would be little more than a token measure from the viewpoint of protecting core Catholic teaching on marriage. It would also create unnecessary ill-will for little tangible gain.

More seriously, it would only serve to separate further the Church and State in an increasingly secular Ireland.

And some priests argued it would inadvertently alienate the particular demographic - aged between 20 and 35 - who are most at risk of falling away from regular church attendance.

It was also significant that some of the bishops remained publicly silent on the matter, as observers accused the Church of resorting to "scare tactics" in advance of the referendum.

While Archbishop Eamon Martin insisted the Church's stance was not meant as a "threat", the sense of uncertainty it created even provoked comment from Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Some priests were, from the outset, clearly opposed to the stance taken by a number of the bishops.

But as the fervour of the referendum campaign abated - following victory for the 'Yes' side - it gradually became clear the hierarchy had decided to quietly withdraw its implied threat.

So the status quo will remain, in a country where 60pc of the 22,405 marriages registered last year were conducted in a Catholic church.

Irish Independent

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