Yes vote forces Vatican rethink of gay 'message'

By Claire Mc Cormack And Nick Bramhill
Irish Independent
May 31, 2015

Although Pope Francis and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church had anticipated a Yes vote, experts believe the volume of people in favour was "surprising" to the Holy See

[with video]

The outcome of Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum will be "a point of tension" at this year's Synod of Bishops in Rome, leading Vatican experts told the Sunday Independent.Although Pope Francis and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church had anticipated a Yes vote, experts believe the volume of people in favour was "surprising" to the Holy See.

Others admit that while the Church's teaching on marriage is "not up for debate right now", serious discussion on how the Church interacts with members of the gay and lesbian community is looming.

The "working document" for this year's Synod of Bishops on the Family, which will take place in October, will be published over the coming weeks.

Following the global interest in our referendum, experts are now confident the Church's response to so called "irregular" relationships - including civil marriages, co-habitation and same- sex couples - will be on the agenda.

"There will be bishops who will say that we need to do something to affirm what is good in these relationships even if they are not ideal and many bishops will be ready to say we need to affirm very clearly the Church's teaching about these things and I think that will be a point of tension," said Francis X Rocca, Vatican correspondent for The Wall Street Journal said.

Although the Vatican writer, who regularly travels on the Papal plane, stressed that Catholic teaching on marriage "is not going to be changed on paper in any way," he said tone and emphasis around the value of same-sex relationships is "already changing".

"Catholics of good will, even at the highest level in the hierarchy, can differ about these things and that it is a reasonable and acceptable view to say that we should affirm elements of value in so called irregular relationships," said Mr Rocca.

Despite remarks from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, that the Yes vote is a "disaster for humanity", Rome remained "largely silent" on the outcome.

Gerard O'Connell, Vatican correspondent for America Magazine said: "By and large they will leave it to the Irish bishops. They saw it coming, that this was going to be the vote. But the size of the vote was surprising and many have been trying to understand the deeper background to the whole question."

In the wake of result - with 62pc in favour and 38pc opposed - Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the Catholic Church needs a "reality check".

The assembly of bishops in Ireland will discuss the outcome of the referendum at their summer meeting in Maynooth in June.

Meanwhile, a representative of a group representing over 1,000 Catholic priests has said the chasm between Church leaders and the public is now greater than ever following the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Fr Brendan Hoban, a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests, described the bishops' failed campaign against gay marriage as an "unmitigated disaster".

He said the public's overwhelming vote to carry the referendum was also boosted by "tens of thousands of ordinary Catholics" who rejected the bishops' hardline No stance.

The Mayo-born priest said: "For the Catholic Church, the campaign has been an unmitigated disaster. It was clear from the beginning that the bishops' decision in policy terms to campaign for a blunt No vote was alienating even the most conservative of Irish Catholics."



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