Irish Catholic Church reels after Yes vote wins gay marriage referendum

(Photo: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)Director of Ceremonies Brian Whiteside (C) conducts a humanist wedding ceremony for groom Brendan Hastings and bride Suzy Addis at the Millhouse in the village of Slane, County Meath July 17, 2013. Traditionally Catholic Ireland has allowed atheist wedding ceremonies this year for the first time, but the few people certified to celebrate them are overwhelmed by the hundreds of couples seeking their services. Photograph taken on July 17, 2013.

The Irish Republic is still a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but the power the Church once wielded has clearly waned, the May 22 national referendum vote in favor of same-sex marriage shows.

Ireland officially passed the same-sex marriage referendum with the Yes vote overwhelmingly ahead with 62 percent to 38 per for the No vote, in a 60.5 per cent turnout.

In total, 1,201,607 people voted in favour with 734,300 against, giving a majority of 467,307.

"The Irish referendum on gay marriage was about more than just gay marriage. It was a politically trendy, media backed, well-financed howl of rage against Catholicism," Britain's Telegraph newspaper commented May 23.

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The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, a senior Irish cleric, who said he would vote No, told reporters after Sunday Mass at the city's St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral the Church needs to have a "reality check" after the vote.

"The Church has to find a new language which will be understood and heard by people," said Martin. "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 noted, "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."

Ireland becomes the first country to introduce same-sex marriage through a popular vote rather than through legislation or the courts.

Most Irish people still identify themselves as Catholic but growing secularisation and a wave of clerical child sex abuse scandals badly impacted the institution that was once seen as the bedrock of Ireland.

Irish bishops said they opposed changing the marriage law, but their voice was not heard.

The Catholic Church in Ireland also sent out pastoral letters insisting that opposing gay marriage is not homophobic, as the country prepared for the referendum.

SOCIAL REVOLUTION

"This referendum was about more than just the right to marry. Much, much more. It was the manifestation of a social revolution that's been simmering away in Ireland for some time," said The Telegraph writer Tim Stanley.

He said the pedophile 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.

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"For me, this is not so much a referendum, it is more a social revolution in Ireland," said Leo Varadkar, Ireland's health minister, The Financial Times reported. "It makes us a beacon of equality and liberty for the rest of the world."

The Telegraph also noted politicians in three leading political Ireland parties Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail backed the yes vote and that one election study found that Irish newspapers carried three times more articles favourable to Yes than No.

Stanley wrote that some of the outrages against the church 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."

Same-sex "civil partnerships" were introduced in Ireland in 2010, but advocates for marriage equality said those fell short of the recognition and protections afforded by marriage.

The No-campaign said it was focussed on protecting the traditional family.

"How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It'll require a lot of hard work and prayers," said Stanley.

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