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  • Catholic bishop defends church teaching on same-sex marriage

In 2015 a referendum will take place in Ireland concerning the extension of the right to marry to same-sex couples. Opinion poll data suggest strong public support for this proposal.

Against this background, the Catholic bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, has defended the church’s teaching on marriage as the key human institution for the bearing and raising of children. He said the introduction of same-sex marriage would sunder this relationship between marriage and reproduction.

For more detail, see the Irish Times.

  • 6 June 2014: Tuam mother-and-baby home controversy highlights past church-state interactions

Following the establishment of the Irish state in 1921, the running of much of the country’s social service infrastructure was handed over to religious institutions. Industrial schools, Magdalen laundries, and mother-and-baby homes were all part of this infrastructure and catered to particular stigmatised individuals in the society including young offenders, children born outside marriage, and single mothers. The latter were termed “fallen women” because they were perceived to have violated the society’s sexual code.

Women who had children outside marriage were frequently sent to mother-and-baby homes run by Catholic female religious and authorised by the state. In early June 2014 a story about the graves associated with one of these homes located in the west of Ireland town of Tuam, Co. Galway, came into the public domain as a result of the efforts of some local people to determine the history associated with the home in their locality. This gave rise to a public controversy about what happened to the children and mothers concerned and the burden of responsibility for their experiences.

For more detail, see Raidió Teilifís Éireann and the Irish Times.

  • 3 June 2014: Catholic archbishop sees church workforce shortages as spur to lay activism

Since Vatican II, the Catholic Church in Ireland has experienced a quite dramatic decline in Catholic vocations. In 1970 there were 8 seminaries for the training of priests, compared to just one – St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth – today. Ordinations have also dropped quite drastically, such that the ordination of a single priest is newsworthy not just in Catholic media but in the secular press as well.

Against this background, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has stated that the shortage of new callings in the church compared to earlier times may spur greater lay activism. He was speaking at an ordination ceremony for newly ordained priest, Fr. Séamus McEntee.

For more detail, see the Irish Times.

  • 15 january 2014: Historical Abuse Inquiry begins public hearings

The Historical Abuse Inquiry, set up by the Northern Ireland Assembly to inquire into abuse of children in state and church institutions in Northern Ireland in the 1922-1995 time period, began its first public hearings on the 12 January 2014 in the courthouse in Banbridge, Co. Down.

For more detail, read more at the BBC here and here.

The role of institutions of the Catholic Church, which has an all-island jurisdiction, will be a significant focus of the inquiry, following recent similar inquiries relating to institutional abuse in church-run institutions in southern Irish society.

D 26 September 2014    ABrian Conway

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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