“A changing Ireland makes the scene of our own hypocritical and petty politics even sadder. Wake up, Italy!”
Nichi Vendola, the chairman of the Italian socialist party “Left Ecology Freedom,” is just one member of the Italian left taking advantage of Ireland’s gay marriage vote to push for its acceptance in Italy, trying to shame Italians into following the example of the Emerald Isle.
Though Ireland abandoned its Catholic roots many years ago, the new mantra among the Italian left is: “If ‘Catholic’ Ireland can recognize gay marriage, so can we.”
Pressure is already mounting on other European states to follow Ireland’s example in embracing same-sex marriage, even if the vote is barely a day old. Once a conservative, Catholic nation, Ireland is being held up as an example of how to overcome one’s hidebound past to emerge into the bright light of modernity.
The world has received “a lesson in civilization from Catholic Ireland,” said Vendola, adding that Ireland’s vote represented “a victory for the beauty of the right to have rights, of love over prejudice and of freedom over obscurantism.”
Meanwhile, the Italian President of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini stated that “we have received an extra boost from Ireland. It is time for Italy to adopt a law on civil unions. Being European means recognizing rights,” she said.
Ireland has turned into the perfect storm of gay marriage legislation for political and cultural liberals, since in many people’s minds it is still associated with backward Catholic farmers who bless themselves every time the Pope sneezes.
That was then (maybe), this is now. For decades the Irish have been rebelling against their Catholic past, eager to prove to the world that they are not only modern, but “a beacon of equality and liberty to the rest of the world,” as Ireland’s openly gay Minister for Health Leo Varadkar put it.
While Ireland was once known as the world’s most Catholic country, attendance at weekly Mass has been on a steady decline for years. “People are rejecting something they don’t even remember,” says Malachi O’Doherty, whose 2008 book, Empty Pulpits: Ireland’s Retreat from Religion, chronicled the impact of secularization on Ireland.
Euphoric after leaving behind their traditionalist past, many Irish see the marriage referendum as a definitive break with Catholicism and a sign of “pioneering leadership,” as Fine Gael politician Enda Kenny described the vote. Ireland’s reinvented liberal identity is all the more powerful because of its conservative past, and will be “heard loudly across the living world,” according to Kenny.
But despite Ireland’s need to assert its place in a post-Enlightenment world, Italy and the rest of Europe must still wrestle with a social arrangement whose real social effects—especially on children—are still largely unknown, and what is known doesn’t look good.
David Quinn, the director of the Iona Institute, who spearheaded the campaign against gay marriage in the recent referendum, spoke with Breitbart News about the social backdrop to the vote.
“Ireland is still going through a tremendous backlash against its Catholic past,” said Quinn. “The only lesson to be learned for the rest of Europe is not to overreact to your history.”
Quinn also noted that while the Irish think they have entered into a new age of free thinking, they have merely switched their unquestioning allegiance. “Earlier,” he said, “there was an iron consensus in favor of Catholic belief in Ireland; now there is an iron consensus against the Church. We have gone from a homogenously Catholic culture to a homogeneously anti-Catholic culture, all walking in lockstep.”
Whether it is bravery or foolhardiness that has led Ireland to rush into gay marriage must still be weighed by nations who share Ireland’s Catholic past, but may not share its need to demonstrate its anti-Catholic credentials.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter: @tdwilliamsrome