Abbot of Glenstal comes down on No side of referendum

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Abbot of Glenstal, Mark Patrick Hederman.
THE ABBOT of Glenstal has given a considered No in the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum.

THE ABBOT of Glenstal has given a considered No in the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum.

Mark Patrick Hederman was asked by the Limerick Leader for his opinion and he gave it as part of the wider debate..

“In the coming referendum anything but a resounding and almost unanimous affirmation from the Irish people will be interpreted by the LGTB [Lesbian Gay Transgender Bisexual] community as further condemnation.

“For centuries now this minority has been persecuted and oppressed, not just by the Catholic Church, although certainly most violently and vociferously by this and other religious institutions, but by society and societies as a whole. Until recently anything other than sexual relationships between consenting heterosexual adults was a criminal offence. This continues to be the case in many countries where even torture and the death penalty are and were used against such so-called deviants from the heterosexual norm,” said Abbot Hederman.

“We have to accept that, not just as a country or as a religion, but as a world, we have been mislead and unjust to all those who, for whatever reason, find themselves unable to be satisfactorily heterosexual,” said the Benedictine monk.

“The Catholic Church has been one of the most vociferous and intransigent upholders of this misunderstanding about the variegated nature of human sexuality. The doctrinaire decision that sexuality was primarily for the purpose of procreation overshadowed the equally important role it played in the nurturing of mutual love.

“Over the centuries we have learned that the mystery of sexuality is much more complex and variegated than we had imagined, and slowly, much too slowly, a more tolerant acceptance of different kinds of loving between people is beginning to impinge on our consciousness. And so we arrive at the present situation where, as John McGahern put it, “The Irish people seem to have skipped a century and moved directly from the nineteenth to the twenty-first without pausing for a half-time team talk’,” said Abbot Hederman, who finds it difficult and disappointing that “we, once again, try to squeeze all the very different kinds of loving into another straitjacket”. Surely there must be as many ways of expressing and celebrating the different possibilities of human interconnection as there are people on the planet, said the Abbot.

“Marriage has been understood in a certain way for several centuries. Our present view of this reality is as much influenced by Hollywood as by any other cultural dictation. I find it somewhat pathetic to see [as I did in San Francisco when a so-called ‘gay’ marriage became legalised] one of the two [in this case] male partners dressed in a white wedding-dress complete with high-heeled shoes and a veil.

“There must be other ways of describing the different kind of loving which every one of us experiences as a unique and unrepeatable mystery, whenever it happens to us in whatever combination or form it takes. This is true for second relationships between more elderly people as it is for those who find that their love has vanished and they have to separate from each other. There should be different and distinguishable rituals and ceremonies that mark each and every one of these combinations and stages of sexual love,” said Abbot Hederman, who finds it restrictive and impoverishing to try to gather all these variables under the one category of “marriage”.

“I understand that the aim of such an ambition is to ensure equality for every and all relationships. However, a respect for difference should be as important as a demand for equality. Things can be equal in all respects without having to be uniformly homogenized.

“We have had over fifty thousand years to work out the titles, the costumes, the rituals and the celebrations of marriage between women and men, we should allow breathing-space for the newly acknowledged possibilities of other kinds of inter-human sexuality to determine their own particular beauty, their own rituals, dress codes, choreography and appellations,” he said. Regarding the question of the right of every couple to have children - Abbot Hederman says it should not be determined without the say-so of children themselves.

“Studies have been undertaken and must be even more comprehensively and scientifically commissioned to examine the effect which parenting of whatever kind or quality has on children. Well-meaning love is not enough to ensure that a child has the circumstances and the environment needed to flourish. Until we are sure that our home, our relationship, our nurturing environment is adequate to the fundamental right of each child to growth and well-being, it is pure selfishness to demand that we be afforded the inalienable right to have one.”