The Internet is full of people gloating over what they see as the defeat of the Catholic Church. Ireland, being long seen as a bastion of Catholicism, has voted for “same sex marriage” (62% voting yes) and the critics of the Church think this is a win-win situation. In their mind, either the Church changes her teaching and becomes what they want her to be or she refuses and goes extinct. In other words, they get what they want either way. At the same time, there are a lot of Catholics are looking for someone to blame. There are accusations being leveled that if the Church had done things differently, this would not have happened. In other words, both sides seem to look at this as a permanent loss for the Church.
There is no doubt that the implications of this vote are serious. Catholics have become so uninformed about that their faith that they think they can reject Church teaching as if it was an opinion, or even that it is compatible with the “greater truths” of the faith—as if Catholicism could be compartmentalized or one part set against another. But despite this apostasy in Ireland, this is not the “end of the Church.” Not universally, and not in Ireland (which Catholic bloggers love to ask as headlines).
The Church has faced setbacks and attacks all throughout her history where rulers or people turned on her. At one time the majority of the Roman Empire chose the Arian heresy over the Catholic faith. England turned on the Catholic Church during the Reformation. Japan expelled all missionaries and sought to exterminate the faith during the 16th century. France turned on the Church during the Revolution. Anti-clerical forces attacked the Church in Italy (19th century) and Mexico (20th century).
The Church has always survived and continued to preach the Gospel. That doesn’t mean that everything turns out peachy in the end. Sometimes the relationship of the Church with the people of a nation is permanently altered as a result (England once was a solidly Catholic nation for example). But the Church will survive.
That doesn’t mean we can take the attitude of “God’s going to win, so lets sit back and wait” however. The fact that 62% of the Irish voters approved of something completely incompatible with the Catholic faith shows that a lot of hard work needs to be done there to bring the message of Christ back to the people. It’s not just Ireland for that matter. Even though, in America, the imposition of “same sex” marriage” is largely done by judicial diktat, the fact remains that there is a growing number of people who have been deceived into thinking this is good and the Christian teaching is based on “hatred.” It’s remarkably similar to how the ancient Romans thought Christians were the enemies of humanity (which I suspect we’re not all that far away from again).
It means Catholics have to abandon the attitude of “Let Father/The Bishop/The Pope do it!” No. Every one of us is called in the role of Priest, Prophet and King” to go out and evangelize the whole world. The people of the world have been deceived into thinking self interest can be labeled as good and virtue can be labeled as judgmentalism and hate. So we need to start again, teaching people that sin exists and we need Jesus as our savior—which includes going and sinning no more (John 8:11).
This may seem to be a hardship. But read the lives of saints throughout history. They spent their lives laboring in the vineyard of the Lord despite tedium or hostility. That’s our task as well. Some of us may suffer martyrdom. Some of us may be persecuted in other ways. This is not something new to the history of the Catholic Church. But we need to stop pointing fingers at others in blame. We need to stop expecting others to do the task. We need to pray to be shown our own task, and then carry it out—in communion with the Pope and bishops to go out to the whole world preaching the good news (Matthew 28:18-20)