This article from Catholic World Report correctly notes that in the ongoing struggle with the ever more secular government of Ireland, the bishops are at a disadvantage, but rather than merely “one hand tied behind their back”, the recent revelations of the predatory evil of sexual abuse occurring under their watch, virtually renders them powerless to, in any meaningful way, counteract the growing secularism.
The influence for a deeper Catholic impact on social change will most likely be coming—in America as well as Ireland—largely from the devout ranks of the laity and those individual bishops and priests untainted by the sexual abuse.
“Ireland’s new coalition looks set for a collision course with the Catholic Church after agreeing upon a program for government that will see a raft of liberal social reforms, including proposals on same-sex marriage and reducing the Church’s influence in education. The document, Towards Recovery: Program for a National Government 2011-2016, also contains an oblique but ominous plan to “regulate” stem cell research, which some activists are reading as a “green light” for experimentation with embryos.
“The center-right Fine Gael (Irish for Gaelic Nation) and the leftist Labor Party agreed upon the document after no party won an overall majority in the February 25 general election. The plan will see the two parties take power for the first time in 14 years. The last time the parties were in government together, a constitutional referendum narrowly overturned the country’s ban on divorce. However, a later Supreme Court ruling found that the government had misused public funds to influence the vote in favor of a change.
“The new program for government proposes holding a special constitutional convention to redraft the Irish Constitution, including plans to introduce same-sex marriage and remove the crime of blasphemy. Some activists fear that all references to God will also be removed from the document….
“The bishops do, however, enter the debate with one hand tied behind their back. More than 15 years of scandal have left many people in the Church exhausted and bishops’ moral authority diminished. Some politicians, for their part, have never missed an opportunity to capitalize on the Church’s misfortune. Ireland is undoubtedly in for some bruising battles on social issues, and the Church will have the difficult task of convincing the faithful that some things really are more important than the economy.”