Acquiescing to Alternative Voices
We’ve written at length in these pages about the substandard quality of religious education since Vatican II, and we’ve blamed this dispiriting phenomenon (which, happily, is being shored up in many areas) on the abundance of poorly formed Catholics in our time who bend like reeds in whatever direction the winds of social change are blowing. But the spectacle of Catholics supporting same-sex marriage, abortion, and other social movements that run counter to Catholic teaching can’t be blamed entirely on poor catechesis. Rather, based on the findings of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), explored in the preceding New Oxford Note, it is due to the absence of catechesis.
Catholics, especially young Catholics, whose opinions and attitudes don’t align with the tenets of the faith they claim to profess aren’t necessarily dissenting from or rebelling against what they’ve been taught; they simply haven’t been taught what the Church teaches. And what they do know about Church teaching has been filtered down to them through the media, traditionally no friend of Church teachings.
This might go a ways toward explaining the conundrum of Irish Catholics voting overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage on the Emerald Isle. On May 22 a full 1.2 million voters, out of a total of 1.93 million voters, cast their ballots in favor of amending the Irish constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry. According to the National Catholic Reporter (June 5), “More people voted in the marriage referendum than in any previous referendum in the history of the Irish state.” This in a nation where eighty-four percent of the population self-identifies as Catholic, and where forty-one percent of the population attends weekly Mass.
The campaign captured the interest of young voters, thousands of whom registered to vote for the first time in order to ensure the legalization of same-sex marriage. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin described the outcome as a “reality check” for the Irish Church. “It’s very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people,” he said, “then the Church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and get its message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in general.”
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