Monday, August 24, 2009

Pontificating, as always

Cardinal Sean Brady, speaking in St John's Cathedral at the weekend, attacked the Government's move to normalise same-sex civil partnership for tax and social welfare purposes.

Well that's hardly a surprising statement, is it? After generations of moulding the shape of Irish society in its conservative image, one can hardly expect the Catholic Church to suddenly change tack on homosexuality, what with the filth and the nonsense of it all.

Thankfully, this country has matured to a point whereby the Primate of All Ireland can condemn one of the most significant pieces of civil legislation in years, and the rest of us can simply shrug and carry on with the realpolitik of living in a modern world.

In 1937, De Valera wrote a constitution that was in effect an iron rod for the values and provisos of Archbishop Byrne and the Church. The result, on a social level, was almost 70 years of cultural conservatism that made it impossible for any debate on divorce, abortion or sexuality to take place without the condescension of the clergy and the placards of their congregations.

Opinions are the fuel of democratic society, of course, but in Ireland it was always the priest who claimed the deciding vote. No more.

Only the most rigid minds will be able to say that the rationalisation of civil partnership law to protect non-traditional family units, such as gay couples and long-term cohabiting partners, will be a bad thing.

Cardinal Brady may not like the movement away from the traditional nuclear family model, but not liking something does not make it vanish.

The fallout of the Ryan Commission's report into the institutionalised rape and abuse of generations of children under the eyes of the Church has broken whatever respect Irish people once had for the will of the cardinals.

The Ryan report was a traumatic moment for this country, but if the long-term result is a rational, secular society, it may yet prove its worth.

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