VATICAN CITY (Christian Examiner) -- Ireland's landslide adoption of same-sex marriage May 22 appeared to go unnoticed by the Vatican, until yesterday when Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin called the vote a "defeat for humanity."
"This result left me feeling very sad, but as the Archbishop of Dublin [Diarmuid Martin] pointed out, the Church will have to take this reality on board in the sense of a renewed and strengthened evangelization. I believe that we are talking here not just about a defeat for Christian principles but also about a defeat for humanity," Cardinal Parolin told reporters outside of a conference in the Vatican.
The Catholic Church had pushed back hard against the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland, calling on the Catholic faithful to block the measure. Older, conservative Catholics did, but the growing population of young people in the country – comfortable with the open acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage – did not. More than 62 percent of the population voted to approve same-sex marriage in the popular vote.
Following the vote, Christian Examiner reported Diarmuid said the Catholic Church was facing a "reality check" to determine how to proceed in the midst of such social changes.
"I think the Church needs to do a reality check, right across the board, to look at the things it is doing well and to look at the areas that we really have drifted away completely from young people," Martin said.
Dublin's archbishop also said in a subsequent interview that there was little more the church could have done against the mounting international pressure to adopt same-sex marriage. He said the victory for the "yes" vote was the result of a social revolution where an "individualistic idea of the family prevails."
"The concept of marriage as a fundamental element of social cohesion has been lost. A reasoning based on respect for the rights of the individual is more successful than one based on social ethics," Martin said.
Social revolution, however, does not mean Vatican leaders will soften on the idea of same-sex marriage. Pope Francis, even while making conciliator overtures to homosexuals, has said the church's teachings on traditional marriage and human sexuality would remain in place.
Francis and Parolin, however, may also be forced soon to deal with same-sex marriage in their back yard. There are signs that Italy, too, may be ready to shift into the win column for gay rights advocates.
In a survey published by Italian daily La Stampa, 51 percent of voters in Italy said they would support gay marriage. If not same-sex marriage, they will support civil unions. According to the survey, 67 percent of voters said they would endorse civil unions while 73 percent said they favor allowing gay couples to adopt.
According to La Stampa, the rise in favorable opinions toward same-sex marriage is directly related to declining church attendance in the traditional Catholic country.