This could go down as the week when the Catholic Church began to fight back. On Wednesday, two remarkable things happened. First, and despite the scandals, the bishops decided that they had to say something about the Civil Partnership Bill.
Second, Bishop Christopher Jones attacked the media for singling out the Church as though priests are responsible for the majority of child abuse in this country, when according to the one reputable study done in this area (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report, 2002) they are responsible for 3pc.
That is 3pc too much, of course, but given the preponderance of coverage given by the media to clerical sex abuse you would think the ratios were reversed, and that priests were responsible for 97pc of abuse while the rest of society was responsible for the remaining 3pc.
Suppose it hadn’t been the Catholic Church, but some other corporate entity. Like Tesco’s. And Tesco’s were responsible for 3pc of sex abuse (how on earth these things are calculated I have no idea. At any rate, sex abuse from a figure in a position of power can be much worse for the victim in many ways, not that there’s a ‘better’ form of sex abuse). What would you think about a loyal Tesco customer writing an opinion piece about how Tesco’s was responsible for only 3pc of sex abuse? The sense of entitlement on display here, by both Quinn and the Bishop, flows directly from the stranglehold the Catholic Church had on the people of this country for decades.
And then Quinn goes on to laud the ‘bravery’ of the bishops in opposing the Civil Partnership Bill, as though state recognition of equal rights for people who have the same sexual preferences as many Catholic priests and bishops were such a bad thing.
I reckon, without a shred of evidence, of course, that religious organisations passionately pursue state regulation of sexual associations because when it isn’t a transgression any more, it isn’t fun any more. So Saving Ulster From Sodomy, for instance, may have involved a substantial chunk of Saving Sodomy For Us.
The bishops describe the Bill as “an extraordinary and far-reaching attack on freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion which is guaranteed to every citizen”.
How does it do this? Here’s how. For one thing, a parish will be required by law to rent out its hall to a same-sex couple if they want to use it to hold their reception there following a civil-union ceremony.
I wasn’t aware that parochial halls were still rented out for holding receptions, but I assume they are. Does the objection to a same-sex couple derive from the fact that the union does not recognise the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman? Because if it does, then neither does a civil-union ceremony between a man and a woman, since the vows are not made before God, and therefore it is not a proper marriage. Therefore if the parochial hall refused to allow same-sex civil-union celebrations but allowed different-sex civil-union celebrations, it would be engaging in blatantly hypocritical discrimination that has nothing to do with religious practice. And as such, the law would provide the Catholic Church with freedom from bad conscience. Perhaps I am missing something here, since I’m unfamiliar with what the bill enables and what it does not enable, so would welcome corrective commentary.