The Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell has called for an easing of restrictions for churches. He has made the point that the current rule of just 10 people for funerals is too limiting and causing friction in families.
There is no doubt that the church is under pressure, both within the organisation, and from its parishioners, regarding the scaled-down ceremonies it is allowed to perform under Level 5.
However, some critics may wonder why a number of large funerals, and indeed weddings, were allowed to take place, against guidelines, in a number of locations around the country in recent weeks.
And while the numbers do look small for some buildings that could accommodate several hundred members of the public in pre-Covid times, it must also be noted that many of those who attend religious ceremonies on a regular basis are in the more vulnerable categories.
Polls have consistently shown that, when given a choice, the general public wishes to err on the side of caution when it comes to this insatiable virus. And the government has also pointed out that it is often not the event itself which causes the issues, but the movement of people before and after – whether by sharing transport or congregating outside afterwards for that inevitable ‘chat’.
However, the timing of the call from the archbishop came in the same week as the Vatican told its priests it should not bless same sex unions.
Many Irish priests immediately argued that the church should be more welcoming of gay couples, especially at a time when it is trying to retain as many of its faithful as possible.
In the May 2015 marriage equality referendum, 62% of Irish voters were in favour of gay marriage, and that number is likely to have increased since.
The Vatican’s statement was something of an ‘own goal’ for the Church, at a time when the rest of society is putting a renewed focus on kindness and inclusion.