He gave a clear and very accurate account of the Catholic Church’s understanding of, and teaching on, the institution of marriage – both in its natural and supernatural dimensions. He set it in the context of the choice now facing the Irish people – whether or not to radically change the definition of marriage enshrined in their republic’s constitution. He clearly indicated that such a change was against all that he had described and could not be supported by the pastors of the Catholic Church.
That was the story.
In the Q&A which followed his lecture Ireland’s liberally-biased media again became to focus of frustration – even of anger – in the audience. Archbishop Martin did not take sides on that one. He said that in his experience he had nothing to complain about. He had always been fairly treated by the media.
He had to wait only a few hours to have that trust and confidence grossly betrayed.
In his lecture on marriage, in no more than an aside, he had mentioned that some letters he had received about the current issue of the constitutional referendum on marriage – proposing to open it up to same-sex couples – people had betrayed a very unchristian attitude to homosexuals. He reproached them for it. However, there was no impression that these came from anything more than an unrepresentative handful.
No journalist with respect for the speaker, or respect for themselves, would manipulate the event to turn this remark into the story of the night.
What happened? In one media outlet the following morning – recycled in online and broadcast media – the story ran under the following headline: “Archbishop Martin hits out at ‘obnoxious jibes’ at gay community from ‘No’ camp”. This was the headline and this was the story. The truth is that it was not the story. That the reception of a handful of letters from a few unrepresentative individuals with appalling judgement and poorer taste should overshadow the serious substance of everything else the Archbishop had said was nothing short of a betrayal of the man, a disregard for his office and for the public who should have expected an honest and balanced report of what he said. What they got – something they are pretty used to getting now – was a media establishment’s dishonest trick of turning the lecture event into an instrument of its own moral agenda, undermining the message of the Archbishop and his effort to explain the teaching of his Church.
Betrayal by those whom he though were his friends came swiftly on the heels of his honest expression of trust and confidence in their integrity. Sad story.