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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pluck o' the Irish

Things that had looked impossible can suddenly become reality.  

Pluck Of The Irish: Same-Sex Marriage Vote Shows Yearning For An End To Clerical Domination

by Rob Boston - June 8, 2015
A provocative headline from Reuters news service last week caught my eye. “Irish plunge stake through Catholic Church’s heart,” it read.
The headline is perhaps a bit hyperbolic. The column, by John Lloyd, co-founder of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, is a thoughtful analysis of how quickly the Catholic Church’s influence has fallen in Ireland – and why that has happened.
As Lloyd notes, the church’s grip on Irish society was strong for many years. “[I]n the early 1920s, Ireland became an independent republic, education was handed over to the Church, as was moral guidance,” Lloyd writes. “Divorce was hard, abortion forbidden, censorship strict. James Joyce’s Ulysses wasn’t banned, but only because his publishers believed (correctly) that it would be, so they never tried to sell it in the republic.
“In the past few decades,” Lloyd continues, “the descent of the once-omnipotent Church has been swift. The writer Damien Thompson believes that, because of the many instances of priests engaged in pedophilia and because of its ‘joyless’ aspect, ‘hatred of the Church is one of the central features of modern Ireland.’”
“Hatred” is probably a strong word. I’d say “indifference.” Something like 84 percent of Ireland’s residents remain at least culturally Catholic. Undoubtedly the pedophilia scandal frayed some of those ties, but there’s little evidence that a large number of Irish citizens have abandoned the church entirely. They have simply decided that they don’t have to listen to the bishops.
The recent referendum on marriage equality is an example of this. An overwhelming 62 percent backed making same-sex marriage legal in the April 29 vote. Church officials seemed shell-shocked by the results.
What’s even more surprising is how quickly this change came about. Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland until 1993. Divorce wasn’t legalized until 1996. Even today, legal abortion is difficult to obtain, and the church still dominates the country’s educational system.
Late in 1987, Americans United received a call for assistance from a group based in Dublin called the Campaign to Separate Church and State. The fledging organization had targeted state funding of religious schools and hospitals as an initial effort. They were even publishing their own version of Church & State magazine. (The group still exists with a slightly different name.)
We offered what advice and help we could, but most of us felt that the struggle in the Emerald Isle was going to be uphill. We advised our Irish friends to be in it for the long haul, which turned out to be good advice. Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done in Ireland, but attitudes are shifting, especially among the young. Short of some sort of nightmarish totalitarian theocracy, the church is unlikely to regain the measure of control it had as recently as 25 years ago.
Times have changed. The church has not. It’s as simple as that.
As Lloyd notes, “In the world that has accepted homosexuality as neither an abomination in the sight of the Lord nor an unnatural practice deserving of punishment, earlier bigotry is being debated and confronted with an impressive amount of liberalism and maturity. Quite recent state-sanctioned discrimination against gays is being revealed in all its casual cruelty, and people are recoiling at what they now see clearly.”
Religious zealots, of course, aren’t likely to give up. We’ve seen their staying power here in the United States. We know that if the Supreme Court upholds marriage equality later this month, the Religious Right won’t quietly accept that. Rather, its legal and legislative arms will swing into action and look for ways to gum up the works.
But we’ll be there to fight them. As we do so, we can remember the example of Ireland and take comfort in the fact that, given some time and the natural bend of the arc of justice, things that had looked impossible can suddenly become reality.
Original.  Things that had looked impossible can suddenly become reality.  Indeed.

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