No, it is not that Ireland has kicked the Catholic Church out of the country – just out of its quotidian affairs. With an overwhelming margin, the Republic of Ireland has voted to amend its constitution, allowing for same-sex marriage. As the first nation to do this, it is even more remarkable that it was accomplished so decisively. That is as neat a repudiation of Vatican meddling as can be imagined.

Oh, the Irish still will attend mass and have the priest forgive their venal and mortal sins, but from hereon they will be dealing with the Big Boss directly – and will refuse to be dictated to by His puny, earthbound supernumeraries.

This is big! For centuries, being Irish meant being Catholic. That identification has caused them war, starvation and humiliation. The same-sex thing was merely a push become a shove. About five years ago, the Irish Republic allowed for same-sex partnerships, just short of marriage. The resultant drumbeat for marital equality, combined with the hardnosed Catholic position on abortion--topped by its cynical see-through vis-à-vis the unpriestly sexual indiscretions – turned same-sex marriage into a constitutional weapon of mass destruction against the formerly uncontested, dogmatic authority of the Catholic Church. This is a definitive declaration of independence; no longer your poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free… They will take the bread and wine, read the catechism, recite the beads and do the Hail-Marys. But, beyond that, they say: “Don’t mess with us!”

This is not the first time the Holy See has suffered mass, civil rejection – but not, defection:

  • France is studded with a plethora of architectural wonders, constructed for centuries of use by the faithful. Today, those abandoned monuments mainly are filled with the wondering eyes of tourists.
  • King Henry VIII of England, on a personal whim, converted the Catholic prayer book to a Protestant one. It caused wars, but the Vatican’s former booty still is under the control of the Church of England.
  • After its 20th century revolution, the Mexican constitution drummed out of its government the formerly all-powerful Catholic Church.  Its properthy was nationalized, and priests were defrock with regard to appearing in public.
  • The Catholic Church – along with all other religions – is constitutionally pre-empted from any role in the government of the United States of America.

The Irish chastisement of Mother Church should not be taken as rejection; rather, an indication that the kids have grown up. They have their own minds and will live their own lives. The relationship is not gone; it has changed. The Church no longer dictates how they think or what they do. They remain Irish and still Catholic – but with a difference.The great number of Irish citizens who returned home just for the purpose of exercising their franchise is a sign that same-sex marriage, per se, merely is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Irish may love the Church, but they want to keep it in perspective.

*****     *****     *****

In Rome, there’s a mother called “Church”.

She sits high, upon her own perch.

Her kids said, one day,

“We know our own way.”

The shock made that old mother lurch!

Green harp flag of Ireland

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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