Saturday 23 May 2015

Irish Vote Is A Massive Rejection Of Catholicism

The stunning victory for the pro equality, pro same-sex marriage side in the Irish referendum is an event of huge historic significance because it represents a massive rejection of the Catholic Church in Ireland and signifies another huge penetration of Humanism into this formerly devoutly Catholic part of Europe.

Just as with Germany a few days ago, the message from Ireland for the Vatican is that Catholic Church has a choice: either it has to abandon centuries of dogma, bigotry and exclusion - in effect abandon Catholicism, or the people will abandon the Church. The Church's teaching, behaviour and attitude is no longer acceptable in a modern, civilised and above all Humanist society.

Abortion is still illegal and divorce was only legalised following a second referendum in 1995. Even then, only four constituencies outside Dublin voted in favour.

This is why Friday’s vote was as much about a nation growing up and freeing itself from the shackles of the Catholic church and giving respect to fellow humans as it was about same-sex marriage.

Lisa O'Carroll
Even holding such a referendum would have been unthinkable even 25 years ago. Any political party suggesting it, let alone advocating a 'yes' vote, would have been committing political suicide. Homosexual activity itself was only decriminalized 22 years ago. 20 years ago a vote to legalise divorce just squeaked through by the narrowest of margins after a vociferous campaign by the Catholic Church which appeared to care little for victims of domestic violence, for whom there had been no escape.

Since then, the Catholic Church in Ireland, as elsewhere, has been submerged by scandal after scandal involving Catholic priests and nuns abusing children and vulnerable people over whom they had any control by using them for recreational sex, or simply for sadistic gratification. In 2009, no less than four bishops resigned following revelation of their role in protecting known paedophile priests and obstructing the authorities investigating them.

Notable that the results coming in from across Ireland are showing a lean to yes. Shows how far Ireland has moved as only four constituencies outside Dublin voted in favour of divorce in the 1995 referendum which squeaked in with only 9,000 votes.

Tracy McVeigh
In addition to these abuses of authority and power, the hypocrisy of the Catholic clergy in Ireland was thrown into stark relief when it was revealed that Eamon Casey, Bishop of Galway and a leading member of the Church in Ireland, had had a long-term relationship with a divorced woman with whom he had a son. He resigned and skipped the country when the scandal broke in 1992. This is regarded as the pivotal moment in the history of Ireland when the Catholic Church began to lose its influence and moral authority in the Republic.

In 2013 the Dublin government formally apologised to the victims of the Magdalen Laundries. These had been run by nuns ostensibly as 'asylums' for 'fallen women' (almost invariably young women who had become pregnant out of wedlock). Their babies were taken from them and given away or sold for adoption. In effect, they acted as prisons and places of punishment where inmates were required to work as slave labour in laundries.

The scandal broke when, in 1993 a mass grave containing 166 bodies was discovered in the grounds of one convent attached to a Magdalen Laundry. Whilst incarcerated in these institutions the women were subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse and humiliation by nuns and were often at the disposal of local Catholic priests to be used for recreational sex.

Huge sense of pride over what has happened in Ireland, tempered by massive sadness that I'm missing the bloody party.

Dara Ó Briain
Catholicism had dominated Irish life almost since the Synod of Whitby in 662 CE when the Celtic Columban Christian church formally accepted the supremacy of Rome. Catholicism is what distinguished the Irish from the English and Scots after the Reformation and helped maintain a separate identity for the Irish people above even the Irish Gaelic language which has been in retreat in the island of Ireland ever since it fell within the sphere of influence of English after 1170.

In fairness to the Catholic Church it has to be acknowledged that in the long persecution of the Gaelic Irish by the English, culminating in the Great Famine of the 19th-century which, though it may not have been planned as such, amounted to a genocide in the ineffectual response to it and the casual disregard for the plight of the Irish by the UK Government in London, the Catholic Church was the only organisation that never abandoned the Irish. Even at the height of the Penal Laws when ordaining a Catholic priest was a capital offence and attendance at church was impossible, Catholic priests risked their lives to conduct mass in open air churches and so helped the Gaels to maintain a sense of identity and community. It was probably this that kept the Irish sense of national identity from being extinguished as the Penal Laws had intended.

Here at #HayFestival - almost no signal but news in that Ireland’s Yes Campaign has carried the day. So so happy. Oscar smiles in his grave.

Stephen Fry
The special position of the Catholic Church was even recognised in the Constitution of the Irish Republic when Éamon de Valera reluctantly bowed to church pressure and included a clause recognising the Catholic Church's special position, but falling short of granting it the status of the 'Official' church of Ireland that it had been demanding. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church was able to kill off a tentative move towards socialised medicine with Sean McBride's Mother and Child Scheme by the simple device of denouncing it from the pulpit. The Catholic Church had opted for a high perinatal mortality rate for women and babies in preference to the merest hint of socialism, presumably in case it was seen to be successful. Such is the sanctity of life when the political power of the clergy and the maintenance of the poverty on which it rests is at stake.

As McBride himself acknowledged:

Even if, as Catholics, we were prepared to take the responsibility of disregarding [the Hierarchy's] views, which I do not think we can do, it would be politically impossible to do so... We are dealing with the considered views of the leaders of the Catholic Church to which the vast majority of our people belong; these views cannot be ignored.

Such was the vehemence of the Catholic Church's near hysterical opposition to this small move towards socialism in the Republic that in the following election in 1951, Sean McBride's Clann na Poblachta (People's Party) was almost annihilated, returning just two members to the Dail. In effect, the Church was not only dictating government policy but selecting the government itself.

How ironic that the Angelus bells are ringing at noon, a sound that echoes across Ireland every day of the year and is still broadcast before news bulletins on RTE. An echo too of that old Ireland where politicians and people complied with what clergy told them from the pulpit.

Henry McDonald
Now all that has gone, swept away in a tide of revulsion at the blatant abuse of power by the Catholic clergy and the realisation that the whole edifice is founded on a self-interested, self-sustaining, immoral hypocrisy which was attracting members not for the good they could do for people but for the access it would give then to vulnerable and defenceless people and the opportunities it gave for inadequate characters to exercise power over people.

The growth in self-identified Atheism and non-affiliation in Ireland has been the largest in Europe in the last ten years or so. Following the publication of the Cloyne Report into the systematic child abuse and cover-ups and perversions of the course of justice, which amounted to facilitation of paedophilia by the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, mounted a devastating attack on the Catholic Church, prompting the Vatican to recall the Papal Envoy to Dublin. Dublin has now closed its 'embassy' in the Vatican.

The Irish people have now voted to legalise same-sex marriages, in some areas like Dublin, by a landslide majority, in a massive and conspicuous rejection of the Catholic Church whose moral authority is in tatters and whose priests have become more objects of fun, derision and contempt than feared and respected authority figures whose commands, and demands, were disobeyed at one's peril.

The 'End Days' that Christianity has been telling us are imminent for 2000 years now, may be closer than the Christian churches imagine, but they are not going to be what they think.

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