Sir, – During the marriage referendum, the stance of the Church of Ireland bishops of Cashel and Cork, Michael Burrows and Paul Colton, was alone among senior church leaders in giving a Christian perspective to the Yes argument. As is now clear, their voices authentically resonated with the overwhelming majority who voted Yes. Included in that majority are churchgoers with deeply held Christian values, many of whom are members of the Church of Ireland.
And yet the formal stance of the Church of Ireland and the majority of its bishops is that of an exclusively traditionalist view of human sexuality. This was underlined in the resolution passed at the 2012 general synod, which was in the aftermath of my entering into a civil partnership with my partner of over 20 years. As a response to the outcome of the last Friday’s referendum, this traditionalist view has now been restated by the house of bishops in what many regard as a crude and graceless press release.
In the light of the referendum, there can be no doubt that the Church of Ireland faces a crisis. With dramatically declining numbers, its soul in recent years has been captivated by a conservative agenda which we now know to have little resonance in this State, perhaps even among its own adherents.
If the Church of Ireland in the Republic is to survive, part of its own “reality check” will be to address the cul de sac into which it has been led by a highly vocal element within it. In this regard, it may be time for the Church of Ireland in the Republic to reflect on the seismic differences which now exist between its southern and northern constituencies. This might wisely form a basis for reclaiming the church we remember as one of openness to the challenges and complexities of the modern world. – Yours, etc,
Very Rev TOM GORDON,
Dean of Leighlin,
Sir, – Patsy McGarry ("All churches in Ireland in need of 'reality check'", Opinion & Analysis, May 24th) tells us that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has had "close pastoral relations with gay people in the city and their representative groups. It was clear his heart was with them in this campaign but his church was not".
This is an extraordinary assertion. Just a few days before the referendum, Archbishop Martin assured us in this newspaper that he was voting No to marriage equality (“I encourage everyone to vote and to reflect carefully”, Opinion & Analysis, May 19th).
The archbishop would now have the Catholic Church do a “reality check”. But many Catholics, including clergy, did their reality checks before the referendum and concluded that a Yes vote was in order.
Did the archbishop forget to do his? – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Reality check? Stable door, Archbishop Martin, stable door. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – We have been continually told by the No campaign that there is 38 per cent of the population not represented politically in parliament. But less than a year ago in the European elections, the last national election, Senator Rónán Mullen, one of the No leaders, ran for a seat in the Midlands North West constituency, the Euro constituency with the highest No vote in the referendum. He received less than 6 per cent of the first-preference vote and was eliminated after the third count. Less than one in seven of the No voters in the subsequent referendum supported his policies. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – The breadth of the margin of victory for the Yes side in the same-sex marriage referendum will come as no surprise to the professional teaching community in Ireland. The majority of voters between the ages of 18 years and 30 years – and that is a sizeable proportion of the population – have been schooled in a system where the tenets of fairness and equality of access for all are recognised and guaranteed. Long gone are the days when anxiety and fear – fear of failure, fear of asking the wrong questions – fulfilled a role in the school curriculum.
The modern Irish school system continues to play an important part in eradicating discrimination and in promoting democratically chosen collective goals. – Is mise,
Co na Mí.
Sir, – Omar G Encarnación ("Ireland's referendum, however inspiring, is not a step forward for gay rights", Opinion & Analysis, May 26th) claims "Spain became the first Catholic-majority nation to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2005, at the time only the third country in the world do to so, after the Netherlands and Belgium". Belgium is in fact also a Catholic-majority nation, which just like Spain, still has a Catholic Royal Family.
And as it happens, Catholicism is also the most common religious affiliation in the Netherlands.
I would be curious to know why Prof Encarnación considers Ireland and Spain to be Catholic countries, but not Belgium. It is clear that his assessment is not based on black-and-white demographic data, but rather on some sort of subjective assessment of these different societies.
It may be reasonable to argue that Spain is “more Catholic” than Belgium, but by the same token, the influence of the Catholic Church in Spain cannot be equated with that in Ireland. For example, Spain legalised divorce in 1981 and abortion in 1985.
As such, it is completely illogical for Prof Encarnación to dismiss Ireland’s introduction of same-sex marriage as “nothing historic”, while simultaneously claiming that Spain’s decision in 2005 represented a first. – Yours, etc,