The Irish Referendum: Marriage Has Not Changed, Ireland Has
On Friday, May 22, 2015, the people of Ireland failed to heed the warning the Apostle Paul gave to the Christians of Rome.
They “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” (Romans 1: 18-30) In this case, they exchanged the truth of natural marriage for the lie of false equality and fake tolerance.
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the Irish Times that the referendum amounts to a social revolution and the Catholic Church needs to do a reality check because “most of those people who voted yes are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years.”
That is why the Catholic Church in Ireland, and throughout the West, needs a new evangelization.
Many fellow Christians have asked me how this could happen since “Ireland is Catholic.” It happened because, for all practical purposes, this is not true. The Irish have what the Apostle Paul described — a form of religion but they deny its power. (2 Tim. 3:5) There are no doubt faithful Christians in Ireland, but they are clearly in the minority.
Prime Minister Enda Kenney joined the crowd claiming “with today’s vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.” His Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burden called the vote a “magical moving moment.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Referendums cannot change reality. What has changed is Ireland. It has rejected its Christian roots. The veneer of Ireland as the home of Christian missionaries has been ripped away.
On the Feast of St. Patrick I wrote a tribute to the missionary, suggesting that we take our cue from St. Patrick, and “start to view our culture as pre-Christian, since that points to our hope in the supernatural work of God that can change the entire trajectory of a civilization.” I reminded readers, “If our culture is pre-Christian rather than post-Christian, then that means it’s time to get to work!” The Irish referendum simply shows how much work there is to do!
Marriage Did Not Change
No matter what some dissidents predict, however, the Catholic Church will never change the doctrine concerning marriage. It is affirmed from the first book of the Bible to the last and defended by the Councils of the Church in an unbroken tradition. “Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained. “It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.”
That same congregation affirmed that “no ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.”
This is not a truth available only through special revelation but is revealed in the natural law. “The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world.”
The Smoke of Satan
So how could Ireland, by a 2 to 1 vote, exchange this truth for a lie? In 1968, Pope Paul VI warned in his letter On Human Life that separating the unitive and the procreative dimension of the conjugal embrace in marriage would lead to a degraded view of human sexuality. Rather than sexual intercourse in marriage being the gift of self, it becomes the use of another. The manufacturing of life in a test tube or use of the body of a third party as a carrying case in surrogacy replaces the beauty of bearing children.
In the sexual revolution, western culture embraced all of these things, and we are now tasting its bitter fruit. Sin separates us from God and from one another. It also separates us within ourselves — body, soul and spirit. What God meant to be joined together, we have rent asunder.
But there is still more to it. Paul VI warned in 1972 that the “smoke of Satan” had crept within the Church. It has. We face real opposition from a real enemy. At its root, the attack on marriage is diabolical.
But this is not counsel of despair.
On Pentecost we remember the Holy Spirit falling upon the early disciples. One of the fruits of this experience was unity. The diabolical war on marriage can be dispelled by a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is unity and we need this unity to withstand what lies ahead.
No Law at All
The Irish referendum sets faithful Christians on a collision course with the Irish state, the laws of God against the laws of fallen men. With such conflicts, the faithful must follow God and not men. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws.” He then affirmed, “Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
“How does one determine,” he asked, “whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
The Irish referendum is an unjust law, since it amounts to a national repudiation of the natural law. Cultures do not so much break the natural law as break themselves against it.
When an entire country freely chooses to reject both the laws of nature and of nature’s God, there will be consequences.
Let us pray that those consequences become an occasion for the Emerald Isle to repent and return to what it once knew.
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