Fr standn im voting yes

‘WE don’t do God’ is a phrase attributed to Alastair Campbell, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesperson and spin-doctor. ‘We don’t do equality’ is a phrase some might use with regard to the church to which I have given more than 50 years of my life since going to Maynooth in 1964.

The Roman Catholic Church does not have gender equality behind its altars, and its leadership is not in favour of a yes vote in the marriage equality or same sex marriage referendum. Leading Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin have been careful to ask voters to think seriously about changing the traditional meaning of marriage, rather than asking them to oppose the change that is proposed by the government.

This is fair enough, even though I suspect that more Roman Catholics will in practice support the proposal than vote against. The sensus fidelium, the view from the pew, which is as powerful as any other church infallibility, says that now is the right time. The people of God have moved on. Leaders please follow.

I am one of those clergy-persons who intends to vote yes, not to cock a snoot at the leadership of my church, or to jump on a popular bandwagon, but because I think it is the right thing to do. As a follower of Jesus, the a lá carte Jew who recognised when certain laws had run their courses, I am convinced that now is the right time to have marriage equality.

Perhaps it is the end of marriage as we knew it in relatively recent times, but marriage has gone through many changes down through the centuries. In the lifetime of the Bible itself, marriage changed greatly from Abraham to Jesus despite our emphasis on certain quotes that back up particular arguments.

We are discussing changes in the civil law in the forthcoming referendum. Churches can and will retain their own emphases in the celebration of marriage, but in a pluralist, live and let live society, I have no problem with the law of the land being more inclusive.

Right now I think the Roman Catholic Church and other churches and religions should be devising appropriate liturgies for the blessing of gay and lesbian marriages of those who would welcome such ceremonies. Many people who choose civil marriage for one reason or another still request and appreciate blessings on such important milestones in their lives. Could any clergyman or woman refuse a blessing asked for in sincerity?

Groupthink was one of those words applied to RTÉ executives in the wake of the defamation of Father Kevin Reynolds a couple of years ago. It can equally be applied to clericalist acceptance of certain arguments without question or proper theological examination.

We in the Roman Catholic Church have made so many mistakes in the past half century or so that we need to stand back and question our motives in taking certain stances, in fighting unnecessary battles with outdated catchphrases.

It is time to be positive, to welcome gay, lesbian and transgender to the top table.

 * Fr. Pádraig Standún, writing in this week's column, Standún’s Station, in The Connaught Telegraph