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Irish shock treatment for the Church

It will take some time for the Catholic Church to come in terms with the shock it received from Ireland following the results of a May 22 referendum in which 62 per cent of voters said yes to same-sex marriage, becoming the first country to support gay and lesbian marriage via popular vote. It was an emphatic rejection of the traditional understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman and the Catholic Church appeared to be the biggest loser.

Blessed Pope Paul VI once dubbed Ireland “the most Catholic country in the world,” but now things are no longer the same! As the years passed, much has happened in the Irish Church, particularly over the past two decades when it seemed to be most un-Catholic in its witness with allegations of sexual abuse and the mishandling and attempt to cover up the issue. Could it have foreseen such a fallout? 

Bishop Kevin Doran from Elphin, tried to rationalise the outcome saying, “It seems that many people voted ‘yes’ as a way of showing their acceptance and their love for friends and family members who are gay. Large numbers obviously believed that they could vote ‘yes’ without in any way undermining marriage.”

The past cannot be altered. However, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin from Dublin, Primate of Ireland, rightly said that the Church must stop for a reality check and learn the lessons from the past. It needs to rise from slumber and address the issue comprehensively and with courage. It must study the reasons why a country, in which 84 per cent of the people describe themselves as Catholic, has become the first state in the world to enact same-sex marriage by popular vote. 

The Irish Church faced a challenge on doctrine but failed to present a unified front and carry out a coordinated campaign to get its message across. On many occasions there were dissenting voices from within the Church leadership that only served to confuse people—an opportunity opponents gladly seized with open hands! 

Put simply, Ireland’s yes vote on May 22 was the result of a concerted campaign which began in the United States of America in 2000. It worked on a simple principle: use money and influence to buy radical social change around the world. Same-sex marriage campaigners in Ireland have benefited to the tune of millions of dollars from Atlantic Philanthropies, the organisation that funds socially liberal causes. 

According to the organisation, it transferred $93 million (US$12 million) to the Irish Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), as well as to two other agencies between 2005 and 2011. This generous aid was used to promote the same sex marriage campaign, says an Atlantic Philanthropies report. Not many in the mainstream media picked up on this story and there were no reports to suggest that the Irish Church had any such coordinated campaign at all! 


What happened in Ireland is not an end, but a beginning. This issue is gaining momentum in Hong Kong too. And this is the wake up call for the Church. The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has established a commission for the pastoral care of the persons with same sex attraction. But the question is: are we doing enough to get the message across to the people and how well equipped is the Church to counter the campaign strategies of the world. Can the Church attend to the roots of the illness that destroys the faith and promote strong faith formation in Catholic families? Cherukara CMF