Defying the exhortations of Church leaders and their proxies, Irish people voted by a landslide to repeal the 8th amendment of the constitution, and to top off what has been a spectacularly bad few weeks for the church, legislation was passed in The Dáil to halt their long-standing practice of institutionalised religious discrimination in schools.
Sensing the loosening of the stranglehold the Catholic Church once had over Irish life, Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin told mass-goers after the referendum that the vote indicates that the Church is in danger of being seen with indifference by Irish society and that it – once seen as the arbiter of all that was acceptable – was now becoming a marginal voice with minimum influence.
Demonstrating a self-awareness which you don’t typically associate with Catholic prelates, Archbishop Martin said that people may see the Church as lacking compassion and suggested the organisation needs to renew its commitment to life and to support people with more actions than words.
In August the Pope arrives to a very different Ireland than the last Papal visit. In 1979, when John Paul II alighted on our shores, it would have been hard to even conceive of the social transformations we would undergo over the following four decades. But it’s worth remembering that the Church fought tooth and nail to block each and every social movement towards personal autonomy. Had they won those battles we would still be the conservative backwater we once were.
From contraception to divorce, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion – even in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities – the Church has been there acting as a bulwark against any form of significant social change, and never once did they offer any compassion to those they campaigned against.
Few people should mourn their waning influence. This is an institution which facilitated the creation of an Irish society that shamed, dehumanised and enslaved women, raped and beat children, sold and trafficked children to their wealthy patrons. The bodies of children who died in their ‘care’ were left to rot in septic tanks.
Most people with even a tangential connection to such horrific crimes would possibly restrain themselves from self-righteous moralising. Lecturing people on sexual morality or their reproductive choices is a tough look to pull when you have spent years and significant amounts of cash to avoid compensating victims of your crimes against humanity.
Even now, for all their talk of renewing their commitment to people and demonstrating compassion – it’s all talk. The Catholic Church still owes the state over a billion euro for their share of the abuse compensation bill and they show no signs coughing up.
The Catholic Church, both here and internationally, has always been about the maintenance of power. At its core, the Church is a misogynistic and homophobic hierarchy and when faced with threats, the men in that hierarchy – the patriarchs – will, quite literally, prop up fascists rather than cede power. We should be glad they’ve lost the power they once had over our lives, and we should hope that other countries will follow the beacon Ireland represents in this respect.
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