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Irish Catholic leader says Church needs 'reality check'

Ireland's top Catholic leader said that the Church needed a "reality check" as the country voted to approve same-sex marriage through a referendum in what he called a "social revolution".

world Updated: May 23, 2015 23:00 IST

Ireland's top Catholic leader said that the Church needed a "reality check" as the country voted to approve same-sex marriage through a referendum in what he called a "social revolution".

"I think the Church needs to do a reality check right across the board... Have we drifted away completely from young people?" Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, told national broadcaster RTE.

"It's a social revolution that didn't begin today," said Martin, who had called for a "No" vote arguing that gay rights should be respected "without changing the definition of marriage".

"There's a big challenge to see how we get across the message of the Church.

"We're becoming a Church for the like-minded and a safe space rather than the Church that Pope Francis is talking about that is reaching out," he said.

The Catholic Church once controlled virtually every aspect of Irish life but its clout has been vastly reduced by the impact of secularisation and a wave of child sex abuse scandals that discredited the clergy.

Ireland has followed a more secular narrative in recent years, highlighted by Prime Minister Enda Kenny's scathing attack in 2011 on the Vatican's handling of clerical child abuse.

Its inability to properly deal with the issue showed "the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism" of the culture at the Vatican, he said then.

Attendance at masses has dropped sharply in recent decades, though 84.2% of the population still identified as Catholic in the last census in 2011.

Despite their opposition to the referendum, bishops framed their arguments in a conciliatory manner, admitting that gay and lesbian people were treated in a harsh way by the Church in the past.

It follows similar comments from Pope Francis, who posed the question, "Who am I to judge?" when asked his views on homosexuality. He has since repeated his opposition to same-sex marriages, however.