Votes threaten Church power: Last stand for Irish bishops.
The South’s May 22 gay marriage referendum and the North’s Conscience Clause campaign represent a Custer’s Last Stand for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Lose both battles and the Irish Bishops will be permanently confined to the dustbin of history so far as political influence is concerned.
George Custer was a famous American commander and Indian fighter. He took his invincibility for granted.
But in June 1876, he led his troops into the Battle of the Little Big Horn in the Montana Territory against the Indian tribes – and got himself and most of his soldiers massacred.
There is the real danger the referendum and clause campaigns could be used to register a massive vote of no confidence in the Catholic Church because of the clerical abuse scandals and allegations of cover-ups.
And heaven knows what other sexual abuse allegations have still to surface. During the presidency of Eamon de Valera, Ireland was a Catholic bastion and one of the Vatican’s leading global examples of the Church and State partnership.
With opinion polls so far indicating the Catholic Church will lose both votes, de Valera must be spinning in his grave with rage at how the Church leadership has lost control of the nation.
The Catholic leadership’s cassocks are in such a twist, it has even climbed into bed politically with Robbo’s DUP at Stormont to try and save the Conscience Clause from defeat at the hands of the Shinners and their allies on the issue.
In the South, mainstream Prod churches will keep quiet publicly on how to vote in the referendum so as not to rock the boat as the Protestant population in the Republic begins to rise after generations of decline.
Privately, these mainstream Prod churches will advise their flocks to vote No. Publicly, the No campaign will be fronted in terms of Prod churches by the Baptists and Elim Pentecostalists.
Win or lose, the results north and south should prompt the need to reform the Irish Catholic Church. My three-fold plan is needed to rescue the Church from eventual social oblivion.
Firstly, it must allow priests and nuns to marry; celibacy should be optional, not compulsory.
Traditional Catholic claim that if priests’ marriages ended in divorce, the women could walk away with the keys to parochial houses. That’s a red herring.
Relaxing the celibacy pledge would also scupper the stereotype that the priesthood and holy orders were havens for homosexuals.
Secondly, the Irish Church must distance itself from the Vatican in the same way many of the more politically active churches in South America have achieved. The Irish Church urgently needs to declare structural independence from Rome rule.
Thirdly, the Irish Church must follow the example of Christ Himself when he advised the rich young ruler to sell all his possession and give the money to the poor.
Given the cash-strapped Dail, the Irish Church is ironically in a prime position to use its vast wealth to help those caught in the poverty trap.
Such a move could also restore the Irish Church’s influence in the community to the privileged non-elected role it enjoyed during the de Valera era.
Whatever the referendum outcome, the Irish Catholic Church is facing its biggest upheaval since the Reformation which created Protestantism.