Not long ago, Ireland was considered one of the most devout nations in the world. Catholicism was synonymous with the Irish identity, and for most of the 20th century, the Catholic Church in Ireland was an immovable, unparalleled force in Irish society. The institution had its hand in education, in hospitals and in private life.
But in the latter part of the century, Ireland shifted its course.
At the hands of the "Celtic Tiger" — Ireland’s 1995 economic boom — the country moved toward a modern European republic, and away from a monotheistic state. In the 1970s, more than 90 percent of Irish Catholics said they regularly attended Mass. That number is now just under one third.
Why have Irish Catholics lost their reverence for the once almighty Roman Catholic Church? A slew of factors come into play, but the slow erosion of faith is due mostly to damning revelations of clergy sex abuse scandals and the church's intolerance in the face of changing social mores.
Women's rights and gay marriage are chief among the concerns listed by those whose faith dwindles. Irish LGBT life has radically changed in the last decade — homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, more gay people are "out" in society, and with the advent of civil partnerships there has been a growing push for marriage equality.
Despite such strides, the LGBT community still faces discrimination at the hands of the church. Homosexual acts are considered a sin, and the Vatican remains a staunch critic of the gay rights movement.
Brian Finnegan is deputy editor of GCN, the longest-running LGBT magazine in Ireland. The former Catholic says despite the church’s teachings, it’s only a matter of time until gay marriage becomes a reality.