A recent poll of Ireland’s citizens has revealed the desire for greater acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Catholic Church.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos MRBI, an opinion research establishment, on the day after Pope Francis had left the country from his two-day visit in late August. Participants from across Ireland were asked about Pope Francis and then about specific teachings within the Catholic Church. The Irish Times reported:
“In contrast to regular Irish Times political polls, which employ a face-to-face methodology where respondents are questioned by interviewers on their doorsteps, this poll was conducted by telephone among a sample of 750 adults – large enough to produce a snapshot of national opinion with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.”
“The results show that Irish people favour a more liberal, less dogmatic, church with huge majorities favouring an end to rigid Catholic teaching on celibacy, women priests, contraception and same-sex marriage.”
Respondents in the poll were asked to give their opinions about hot button issues, such as women in the priesthood, contraceptives, abortion, and of course, gay and lesbian marriage.
It turned out that 77% of respondents wished to see the acceptance of gay and lesbian marriage in the Catholic Church. As for the other issues, 90 percent of participants said that priests should be allowed to marry, and 86 percent wanted to see women priests in the Church.
The Irish Times noted two other important observations:
“Remarkably, the numbers are very similar for most questions among the population as a whole, and both practising and lapsed Catholics.”
“More than three-quarters of people (77 per cent) say the church should be open to those who do not follow all its teachings.”
Ireland had not seen a pope on the land since John Paul II visited in 1979. During a speech that was addressed to Francis during his visit, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed that the current Ireland was a “different place” than the one that was visited by John Paul II.
The Irish Times concluded that the opinion poll partly proves that Ireland has been changing its general ideological slant since the last papal visit by John Paul II in 1979. The amount of peoplewho describe themselves as Catholics has declined to 67%, and only 36% of those who identified as such said that they went to mass on a weekly basis. Furthermore, the poll reflected a strong call for “inclusivity and openness to diversity” in the Church.
I wonder if the decline in self-identifying Catholics as well as the small percentage of Irish who are practicing Catholics has anything to do with the transformed opinion surrounding issues such as gay marriage? Perhaps Irish citizens would be more likely to practice Catholicism if same-sex partners were allowed to marry within the Church. Or if women were allowed to be priests. Or if contraception was not still condemned by Catholic leaders. As the Irish Times summed up the state of the church in their nation:
“Irish Catholics remain attached to their church – but on their own terms.”
–Lizzie Sextro, New Ways Ministry, September 26, 2018