30 May 2015
Over the past few days, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the gay-marriage votein Ireland. Several commentators mentioned that homosexual relations were illegal there as recently as 1993; abortion still is. This state of affairs has generated discussion of how there has been a sea-change in the Emerald Isle within a generation—often from the very same people who talk about the “grip” Roman Catholic bishops still have on the politics of that country.
I think both of those notions are true. As I mentioned in an earlier post, young Irish people—many of whom have gone abroad to go to school and work—have developed very different attitudes from their parents and grandparents about many issues. At the same time, nearly all of those who still adhere to any sort of religious practice are still Roman Catholics. (There is a small but visible community of Muslims, most of whom have emigrated to Ireland recently.) However, from what I’m hearing from people who have relatives or other connections to Ireland, those who adhere to their faith are doing so with a more independent mindset, as Catholics have done in other European countries in much of the Americas. (They are the sort of people one Cardinal decried as “cafeteria Catholics".) So, while they might go to church and otherwise profess their faith in God and allegiance to the church, they do not think in lockstep with the Church hierarchy.
It’s hard not to believe that such people are feeling encouraged by the current Pope. While he hasn’t endorsed same-sex marriage (and I don’t think it’s realistic to expect him or any Pope in the next couple of centuries to do so), he hasn’t spent any time denouncing it, or the Irish vote. He has said that his priorities are—and the Church’s should be—helping the poor and otherwise disenfranchised. I’d say he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
What all of this means, I believe, is that we might see same-sex marriage or civil unions legalized in places where we might not expect. I’m not thinking now about countries like Germany and Italy: I think they’ll eventually allow gay marriage if for no other reason than most of the other European Union countries, including France and England, have it. I’m thinking about other countries with young, educated people whose attitudes are changing as a result of their exposure to the rest of the world, whether in person or online. I won’t “name names”, so to speak. But, as I say, they will come as much as a surprise to many people as Ireland did with its vote.