In his masterpiece “The Soul of the Apostolate”, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard (1858-1935), Trappist Abbot of Sept-Fons, expressed this maxim: “A holy priest coincides with a fervent populace; a fervent priest – a pious populace; a pius priest – an honest populace; an honest priest – an impious populace” (Italian version, Rome 1967, p. 64). If it is true that there is always a degree less in the spiritual life between the clergy and the Catholic people, after the vote in Dublin on May 22, we should add: “An impious priest coincides with an apostate populace.”
Ireland in fact, is the first country where the legal recognition of homosexual unions has been introduced not from the top but from the bottom, through a popular referendum; yet Ireland is also one of the oldest Countries with a deep-rooted Catholic Tradition, where the influence of the clergy is still relatively strong in part of the population.
It is no novelty that the “yes” to “homosexual marriage” was supported by all the parties, the right, the left and the center; it is not surprising that all of the media sustained the LGTB campaign, nor that there has been massive financing from abroad on behalf of this campaign; the facts foreseen, were, that, of 60% of the population who voted, only 37% of the citizens expressed their “yes” and that the government had skillfully shuffled their cards introducing a law in January 2015, permitting adoption by homosexual couples, prior to the recognition of pseudo-homosexual-marriage. What provokes the greatest scandal are the silences, the omissions and the complicities by the Irish priests and bishops throughout the electoral campaign.
One example is enough for all the rest. Before the elections, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diamund Martin, declared that he would have voted against homosexual marriage but wouldn’t have told Catholics how to vote (LifeSiteNews.com, May 21). After the vote, he declared on Irish National Television that: “the evidence cannot be denied” and that the Church in Ireland “needs a reality-check” In merit of what happened Monsignor Martin added: “it isn’t only the outcome of a campaign for a “yes” and a “no” but it attests to a much deeper phenomenon” therefore “ we need to review the pastoral care of youth: the referendum was won with the votes of the young and 90% of the young who voted attended Catholic Schools.” (www.corriere.it/esteri/ May 24,2015)
This position reflects, in general (apart from a few exceptions) the Irish clergy who have adopted the line that Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference in Italy, had hoped for: to avoid polemics and clashes at all costs: “it is not about who makes the loudest outcries, the pasdaran [*Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards] of the two sides exclude themselves” (“Corriere della Sera”, May 24).
Which means, let’s set aside the preaching of the Gospel and the values of the Faith and Catholic Tradition, in order to look for a point of encounter and compromise with the adversaries. And yet on March 18th 2010, Benedict XVI in his “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland” had invited the Irish clergy and people to return “to the ideals of holiness, charity and transcendent wisdom”, “which in the past made Europe great and can still refound her” (no.3) and to “draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition” (no.12), which has not faded, even if “fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values” (no. 4) is opposed to it. In his “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland”, Benedict XVI states that in the 70s, it was “significant” , “the tendency on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel.” This tendency is the same one we find today.
It has been the cause of a process of degradation, which, since the years of the Second Vatican Council, like an avalanche, has swept away Catholic customs and institutions. If the Irish today, even by staying Catholic for the most part, abandon the faith, the cause is not only the loss of prestige and consensus of the Church following the scandals of sexual abuse. The true cause is the moral and cultural surrender to the world on the part of their pastors, who accept this degradation as sociological evidence, without posing the problem of their own responsibilities. In this sense their behavior has been impious, lacking in mercy and offensive with regard to religion, even if not formally heretical. Yet every Catholic who voted “yes”, and thus, the majority of Irish Catholics who went to the ballot boxes, have stained themselves with apostasy. The apostasy of a people whose constitution still opens with an invocation to the Most Holy Trinity.
Apostasy is a much graver sin than impiety, as it involves an explicit repudiation of Catholic faith and morals. However, the heaviest responsibility for this public sin lies with the pastors who have encouraged and tolerated it with their behavior. The consequences of this Irish referendum will now be devastating.
Forty-eight hours after the vote, the main exponents of the German, Swiss and French Episcopal Conferences, under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, gathered together in Rome to plan their action in view of the upcoming Synod. According to the journalist present at the meetings, “marriage and divorce”, “sexuality as an expression of love” were the themes discussed. (“La Repubblica” May 26, 2015). The line is the one mapped out by Cardinal Kasper: secularization is an irreversible process which pastoral reality has to adapt to. And for Archbishop Bruno Forte, he who asked for “the codification of homosexual rights” at the last Synod, and who has been confirmed by the Pope as special Secretary to the Synod on the Family, “it is a cultural process of forced secularization in which Europe is fully involved.” (“Corriere della Sera”, May 25, 2015).
There is a final question that cannot be evaded: Pope Francis’ sepulchral silence on Ireland. During the Mass for the opening of the Caritas Assembly on May 12, the Pope thundered against “the powerful of the world” reminding them that “God will judge them one day, and will show if they have really tried to provide food for Him in every person and if they have worked so that the environment is not destroyed, so that it may produce this food”. On November 21, 2014, commenting on the excerpt from the Gospel where Jesus throws out the merchants from the Temple, the Pope launched his anathema, against a Church that thinks only about business affairs and commits “the sin of scandal”.
Francis often rails against corruption i.e. the traffic in slaves and arms along with the vanity of power and money. On June 11, 2014, in reference to corrupt politicians i.e. those who exploit “slave-work” and the “merchants of death” the Pope admonishes “may the fear of God make them understand that one day it will all end and they will have to give an account to God.” The “fear of God” opens the hearts of men “to the goodness, mercy and the caress of God”, but “it is also an alarm in the face of obstinate sin.
Yet isn’t the application of laws regarding the vice against nature incomparably graver than the sins that the Pope recalls so frequently? Why didn’t the Pope launch a vigorous and heartfelt appeal to the Irish in the days prior to the vote, reminding them that the violation of the Divine and Natural Law is a social sin which the people and their pastors will one day have to give account to God for? With this silence, has he not also been an accomplice to this scandal?