The Vatican and the Irish Referendum

Those of us who have longed for most of our adult life for a more open, reform minded Church have been encouraged by the coming of Pope Francis.  We have listened to what he says, read Evangelii Gaudium and other interviews he gave, and watched his actions closely.  Mostly we have been excited by the new mood he has created in the Church; it is now possible to talk more freely about the problems that we face, and there is hope that the second session of the Synod next October will bring real change, if not in doctrine at least in pastoral practice.

But every now and again some of the things that come out of the Vatican seem to be setting us back to the ‘bad old days’.  Today was an example of that.  The comment by Cardinal Parolin that the Yes vote in Ireland was ‘a disaster for humanity’; and then the fact that it was backed up later in the day by the official spokesperson, Lombardi, is a case in point.

These have been extraordinary weeks and days in Ireland. The outpouring of joy that followed the result was described by a priest as a type of secular pentecost.  Whatever we might have thought about the result, it was hard not to be caught up at least to some degree in the sheer joy and exultation of the gay community.  So for Parolin to describe the result as a disaster for humanity was about as inappropriate and as untactful as it could possibly be.  We know well that the Vatican, and indeed the Church, has a different view of marriage, and that view is valid and valuable.  But this was a matter of civil law, not impinging on the teaching of the Church.

Do these people in the Vatican say things like this off the cuff?  Hardly.  I am sure the Irish result caused ripples over there, and they had a few days to think about it before Parolin came out with his comment.  I wonder do they consult anyone in Ireland before they speak.  And if so, who?  Who in Ireland would be foolish and out of touch so much to advise such a response from the Vatican? And of course, the other question is where does Francis stand in all this?  We know he does not approve of same-sex marriage. But does he too regard it as ‘a disaster for humanity’?

A lot of questions, and little chance of answers or explanations.  But one thing is sure.  These comments for Rome will do nothing to help the ‘reality check’ that Archbishop Martin talks about, and neither will they assist in bridging the wide gap that is now apparent between the Church and the younger generations in Ireland.