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Teenage sex, the TD and the bishop
gender and sexuality |
Saturday February 03, 2007 13:41 by Julia Doherty - WSM
Recent legislative proposals to have the age of consent lowered from 17 to 16 have been met by opposition from the Catholic bishops. A committee on child protection in the Dail put forward the suggestion, an effort to resolve the controversy caused by the laws on statutory rape that were introduced in the summer.
Most youth welfare groups welcomed the decision but condemnation could be found in the voice of the Catholic church and that of Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael. Although there is opposition in the Dail to the proposal, there is not much being done about it as it has been deemed too hot a topic to handle coming up to a general election.?? Lowering the age of consent by one year would seem like a fairly obvious way for the State to update legislation with reality, but the Church attacks it as the first step towards moral chaos and a downward spiral to eternal damnation. Or something.
Either way, it seems a little strange for an institution responsible for a vast legacy of sexual and physical abuse to hold forth on lessons of morality. Despite the hollowness of their moral authority, the clergy is not shy of lecturing, and it seems that they are desperately trying to fight against their own growing irrelevance. Those with power will fight to hold onto it, and the power of the Church is the hold it has over the minds of the population.
But as new generations grow up aware of the Church’s legacy in Ireland, the parish priest will be the last place to turn for advice on sex. After all, the thought of an institution which enforces celibacy on its clergy and preaches abstention before marriage as having any healthy lessons to offer on sexuality is obviously absurd, without even mentioning their protection of clerical rapists.
Young people becoming aware of their sexuality do not need censure from the pulpit, they benefit from education, and from being confident enough to express their boundaries and be aware of, and in control of their own sexual relations. But this is unlikely to happen as long as the impact of the Church is still felt in Irish society. As teenagers will not be able to vote on the matter it will just be another piece of legislation that is irrelevant to them.
And yet again the decision making process goes right over the heads of those it affects. The youth are left with politicians who are concerned mainly with public image and a church whose own morality is too questionable to decide their maturity and moral path for them.