Despite the efforts of the Irish Catholic church, the Iona Institute, the US-based National Organization of Marriage, and other conservotrad and traditionalist groups, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by a popular vote. And what a vote it was, with 62 percent voting in favor and 38 percent voting no. This is a great victory, not just for the advancement of human rights, but for the Irish people, who after centuries of enduring some of the most dreadful clericalism imaginable, have finally stood up to the bishops.
I was surprised by how lop-sided the vote was, but in a way, I shouldn’t have been. Spain, another deeply Catholic country that spent the bulk of the twentieth century backwards and underdeveloped, legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. While Latin America is not a region often associated with LGBT rights, same-sex marriage is available in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and parts of Mexico. As I mentioned in an entry a few days ago, a majority of American Catholics are in favor of same-sex unions. While the bishops may have decided that they’re going to fight gay marriage to the bitter end, many members of their flocks have moved on.
I think that the Catholic church will eventually come around to accepting gay marriage — in about 100-200 years, that is. We’ve seen this with other contentious issues in the church, including the castrati, the heliocentric model, liberal democracy, usury, the status of the Jews, and the state of Italy (Pius IX said it was an abomination). In all these cases, the older teachings officially remain on the book but are de-emphasized to the point where they might as well not exist. Meanwhile, new teachings come up and the hierarchy insists that this was what was always taught. Perhaps something like the “blood brother” ceremony mentioned in John Boswell’s Same-sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe could be re-introduced into the church’s liturgy. The beauty of such a ceremony is that it’s purposely vague and can refer to many different types of relationships, including those with an asexual or platonic component (just for fun, I’m assuming that the church will also accept the concept of asexuality in 100-200 years).
But for the time being, it’s safe to say that the hierarchy and their conservotrad allies will be fighting gay marriage in any way they can. I expect that Ireland’s vote in favor of same-sex marriage will be interpreted by American conservotrads as further proof of Europe’s dying Christian heritage and the need for them to maintain an oppositional stance to protect “the Truth.” What conservotrads fail to see is that many (possibly most) Catholics don’t see the bishops as moral authorities, and haven’t for some time. While conservotrads make a big deal of looking to the bishops for guidance on homosexuality, abortion, contraception, and euthanasia, they won’t listen to them on, say, the environment or economics. It’s a bit rich that conservotrads have no problem with having the minutiae of the liturgy or their bedroom activities micromanaged by faceless, celibate bureaucrats in Rome, but take offense when these same men insist on the same obedience on working to end inequality or reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
So as conservotrads and traditionalists wail and gnash their teeth about what this world has come to when Catholic Ireland can vote to legalize same-sex marriage, I offer this message from Bald Bull on behalf of everyone who supports LGBT equality: