Gay marriage and the Catholic Church’s loss of moral authority

I’m sure many readers have noted the overwhelming vote in favor of ‘gay marriage’ in Ireland last weekend.  Yahoo! News reported that the result had ‘unnerved’ the Catholic Church in that country.

The once-dominant Catholic Church in Ireland was trying to come to terms Sunday with an overwhelming vote in favour of gay marriage, saying it needed a “new language” to connect to people.

As jubilant “Yes” supporters nursed their hangovers after partying late into the night following Saturday’s referendum result, the faithful attended mass to hear their priests reflect on the new social landscape in Ireland.

“The Church has to find a new language which will be understood and heard by people,” Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, a senior Irish cleric, told reporters after mass at the city’s St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.

“We have to see how is it that the Church’s teaching on marriage and family is not being received even within its own flock.”

He added: “There’s a growing gap between Irish young people and the Church and there’s a growing gap between the culture of Ireland that’s developing and the Church.”

There’s more at the link.

It’s reported that Italy may be the next domino to fall.  Both countries were staunchly Catholic in their society, culture, and social policies for centuries.  What’s happened to produce such a rapid change?

Some commentators have blamed external factors.  For example, Tim Stanley says of the Irish referendum:

First, foreigners spent a lot of money to get this passed. Both sides have accused each other of relying on outside cash, but nothing could really match the scale of that poured into a Yes vote. Second, the Irish were told that saying No might damage their economy. Third, almost the entire Irish political establishment rallied around the gay marriage issue: it enjoyed the backing of politicians in Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. Finally, the press was biased. One election-eve study found that Irish papers had carried three times more Yes articles than No articles.

However, he goes on to admit:

It used to be that Irishness was defined by affection for the Catholic Church and resistance to European liberal trends. So stubborn was this identity that the country took longer than the rest of Western Europe to embrace secularism. But the paedophile revelations of the 1990s rightly rocked faith in the Church as an institution, while a series of recent scandals shook faith in its actual theology. The latter set of outrages were, frankly, distortions of the facts. It was wrongly claimed that a woman had been allowed to die because Catholic doctors would not give her a life saving abortion (no such thing even exists). It was falsely charged that a Catholic children’s home had dumped the bodies of hundreds of unwanted babies into a septic tank. Never mind that both stories crumbled under scrutiny – the popularity of them spoke to a growing sense that everything wrong with Ireland was due to the imported tyranny of Catholicism. Shake off the last remnants of traditional religious authority, it was reasoned, and Ireland could finally join the 21st century. Au revoir, Father Ted.

To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers.

There’s more at the link.

Mr. Stanley is quite right that some of the accusations leveled against the Catholic Church were based on false premises and were overblown by a rampantly speculative (and secular) media.  However, he ignores the reality that far too many people (including a great many who still consider themselves Catholic, whether or not they’re active in the Church) have seen for themselves the utter and complete lack of sincerity in the institutional Church in response to the clergy pedophilia scandals in recent decades.

I’ve written extensively about my own experience of the issue (see the list of ‘Articles on the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal and related issues’ in the sidebar).  To me, the ultimate test of the Catholic Church’s attitude to this problem is based on their actions.  Remember the old proverb, ‘Actions speak louder than words‘?  Well, the Church’s words may have been regretful, but its actions have said something else entirely.  While the authorities have dumped every priest even suspected of pedophilia (sometimes based on flimsy evidence), almost all the bishops, administrators, etc. who:

  • allowed the problem to arise;
  • did nothing to resolve it in its earliest stages;
  • and covered it up for years;

have never been disciplined.  Large numbers of them have retired to enjoy their pensions;  many others are still in office, their careers unaffected by their errors.  Furthermore, the measures they’ve put in place to prevent such problems in future are almost entirely window-dressing.  They’ll have no practical effect.  They can have no practical effect, because the institution that has (nominally) implemented them will resist reforming itself by might and main.  I saw that resistance at first hand.  It destroyed a large part of my life, and has left a gaping hole in my soul to this day.

I find myself with a new and deeper understanding of Mary Magdalene as she went to the Tomb on the morning of Easter Sunday (John 20:11-13).

But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.  Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

That’s the way I feel about the Church in which I was raised.  Its prelates and administrators have taken it away, and I do not know where they have laid it.  All I know is, the institution I served for many years, and in which I had faith, is no longer there . . . and it’s a cold, lonely place without it.

I think many Catholic and formerly Catholic voters feel the same way.  I think that’s why so many of them finally lost patience with their former spiritual home, and voted in favor of gay marriage.  I don’t think it’s because they believe the latter is necessarily morally right.  I think it was a protest vote.  The problem is, the Church will probably refuse to recognize that reality, and do what it should have done years – decades! – ago.  Too many of its leaders are clinging to their positions of power.  They won’t give them up, because that would mean sacrificing their worldly status and privileges.

They’re more in love with the institution of the Church than they are with the person of Christ – and that leaves the rest of us out in the cold.

You have no idea how it saddens me to have to say that last sentence . . . but I believe it’s true.

May Almighty God have mercy on all of us.  We’re surely going to need it.



  1. I fear you have the right of it, Peter. As is the case with the leadership of our once-great nation . . . . .

  2. All I know is, the institution I served for many years, and in which I had faith, is no longer there…

    They're more in love with the institution of the Church than they are with the person of Christ…

    Brother, I'm not a Catholic(and I'm a pretty sorry excuse for a Christian, though I try). I don't know if any one denomination has all the answers. But it grieves me to see your loss of faith, and I'm thinking maybe you're looking at it from the wrong perspective. Perhaps contemplation of the two paragraphs above will shed some light.

    Our friend Ann posits that "…as long as one valid Mass is being said somewhere on Earth, the Church still exists." Perhaps the INSTITUTION of the Church has been soiled by corruption and human frailty, but it's not about the institution; IT'S ABOUT CHRIST. The Bride of Christ doesn't exist in a building, a book, a collar, a robe or a funny hat. His Church exists in His followers. "Whenever two or more are gathered in My name, there I shall be."

    I believe you, Ann, and every follower of God in Christ–you ARE the True Church, no matter what Marxist pedophiles they stock the institution with. If I am mistaken, may God forgive my blasphemy…but that's the way I see it.

    May the Lord bless and keep you, and may He make His face to shine upon you.

  3. @Wraith: I may have lost faith in the Catholic Church, but I certainly haven't lost faith in God. I fear His justice, but I hope in His mercy. In the end, that's all any of us have.

  4. I recently read an article that I am still trying to wrap my head around

    My current understanding of this article is that people, normal heterosexuals, approve of homosexuals and homosexual marriage because it gives us a "pass" for our own shortcomings and sexual Christians.

    If we exercised discernment and decided that homosexual behavior was not God's plan, then we would next have to examine our own behaviors and priorities.

    Virtually no other living being can practice coitus at times when the female is not "receptive". God gave us the gift of sexual expression to bind us to the other parent of our children. It is the sticky stuff on the duct tape. Repeated use of duct tape destroys that sticky stuff. It becomes incapable of functioning as tape.

    The Christian ethic does not forbid causal sex because it is a kill-joy religion. The Christian ethic forbids causal sex because it destroys one of the unique gifts that God gave us to bind our families and to increase the odds of raising morally competent souls.

    I heard this argument from a fellow deer hunter, not from a pulpit. And that is evidence of nonfeasance.

  5. People are people. They fail. Concupiscence happens.

    The Church is animated by the Holy Spirit. And God is both Just and Merciful. There will be a Final Judgement, and things will be set right.

    "The troubles of this age are as nothing to the glory to be revealed in us."

    If these are the troubles, well, the glory will be all the greater.

    May God have Mercy on all of us, even those who have wronged us. Otherwise, we'll all wind up in Hell. I have faith in Him. My job is to do my part, stick to that, and try not to fuck it up too much. It's all I know to do, Father. Oratre pro me, sacerdos. Pax Domine vobiscum sempitaernum.

  6. Perhaps there is hope for your church. The Archbishop for Kansas City was recently forced to "retire" by the Pope because of his failure to follow up on allegations of abuse by a priest who is now in prison.

    I grieve for your crisis of faith, but the base philosophy will endure and you can celebrate that.

  7. I'm a Catholic and have to agree with you – you have to stand by your beliefs, not cave in due to wanting to be seen as 'Progressive' The new attitude I think is wanting to boost Catholics in pews, nothing less.

    The scandals of molestation by the priests should have been dealt with a long time ago, not swept under the rug.

  8. "They're more in love with the institution of the Church than they are with the person of Christ – and that leaves the rest of us out in the cold."

    This is unarguable true. But it has been unarguably true of the Catholic hierarchy quite often throughout its history. That is a lot of what drove the reformation.

    So, you can fight for the Church that you have loved, knowing that its structure will resist you by its very nature. Or you can become a Protestant.

    So long as you listen to your conscience, I doubt that God cares much.

  9. I found this recent article at American Thinker to be on point 'Why Official Christianity is Dying'

    Christianity in the post-19th century world downplayed the inherent sinfulness of man.

    There it was. Man was so depraved that God had to save men apart from any merit (or work) that men could do. All that was required was trust in the work of Christ on the cross. Salvation had been dumbed down, as it were, because men were that dumb. Salvation was absolutely free, but only if one admitted he was incapable of doing perfect good. And that was the rub!

    Most men do not like to admit they're are hopelessly rotten. Certainly not Marxists or Muslims.

  10. Christianity is in crisis pretty much everywhere these days… But your post and that last sentence DO bring it home. I hope he DOES have mercy on us.

  11. I stopped participating and going to Mass because I could not continue supporting the Church as it stood. Our bishop was one of the pedophile facilitators and avoided criminal charges only by turning states' evidence. Then he was convicted of a hit and run death, after lying to the court about not knowing what he hit – as if you can hit a 250lb man, get your windshield smashed in and still claim you believed you hit a bird or small animal! I still remember the rage I felt when reading that he had moved a predator to my local church and its' elementary school.

    I am a simple Catholic. Putting people like that in charge of the Faith destroyed my regard for the Church as an institution. It has not returned.

  12. Following the referendum from the north of the island I would offer two thoughts.

    Peter is quite accurate in his observation that the moral failing of the church over child abuse has scorched away the once absolute position of the Catholic Church in Ireland as its moral arbiter.

    I would suggest the support for gay marriage is that, in the absence of the church's authority against, Irish men and women looked at their gay and lesbian compatriots and could see no moral or rational reason for denying one part of their nation the same opportunity to fulfill that which they have been taught is the ultimate expression of commitment between two people in love.

  13. Wraith has it, dead-nuts.

    Being a Catholic and also having lived in a rotten Diocese, I couldn't agree more with him.

    Peter, please look up Descartes' aphorism about salvation. Please.

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