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Irish gay marriage referendum a "disaster" for Catholic church, say priests

by Desmond Busteed

On Friday Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by a referendum, in which 62.1 per cent of voters backed the change.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Fr Brendan Hoban, of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said: "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."

Another ACP co-founder, Fr Tony Flannery, said "the day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the church."

What was "particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation".

"The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese," he said.

He also felt Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin "allowed himself to be bullied by the extreme conservative Catholic papers into adopting the same rigid line as the other bishops".

"It was obvious that he was uncomfortable with it, but to me he showed great weakness in not standing up for what he really believed."

Speaking to reporters after mass at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on Sunday, Archbishop Martin said the Church had to "find a new language which will be understood and heard by people."

"We have to see how is it that the Church's teaching on marriage and family is not being received even within its own flock," he added.

While neither the Pope nor the Vatican have reacted officially to Friday's Irish referendum result, Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano daily described the outcomes as "a defeat", that highlights a gap between the Church and modern society.

It spoke of "a challenge for the whole Church," and of "the distance, in some areas, between society and the Church."

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