Ireland is not the Vatican, and one referendum in a largely Catholic country doesn’t do a thing to change church doctrine. It is all the more disappointing then, when the immediate reaction out of Rome is to decry the decision of the Irish people to allow gay marriage as a “defeat for humanity.” The opposite is true.
In a country where well over 80% of the population are Catholic, the decision to allow gay marriage is supported by more than 60% of voters. Instead of chastising this decision as a defeat, the Vatican should declare victory that civil minded, God loving people can show such courage and respect to the family-minded GLBT community. The Irish should be proud of themselves.
Pope Francis, too, should be pleased to see fulfillment of his plea for tolerance and acceptance:
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”
– Pope Francis
There is no better will than committing your life to the love and care of a spouse and creating a family bond. By withholding judgement and urging respect for gay people, Pope Francis is also sending out a message of inclusiveness.
At a time when the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated “nones” are growing faster than any other religious grouping, it is important for all faiths of tolerance and respect to reach out to new communities who broadly share their values and beliefs. More importantly, in the context of the Irish referendum, it is essential for the Vatican to respect the separation of church and state and recognize that the institution of marriage is no longer only a matter of spiritual identity, but a legal institution that has consequences for couples and families committed to caring for one another.
As the Vatican prepares to discuss family issues at the Synod of Bishops in October later this year, let us pray for a spirit of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect. That would be a true victory over the hateful and parochial attitudes of vengeance and dogmatism that only leads people to reject spiritual identity altogether.