The Irish Examiner has published the first version of the new Catholic Church rulebook, which is expected to be published in mid-February.
The book, which has been in the works for years, contains some of the most detailed, and controversial, descriptions of the Catholic church in decades, including its treatment of homosexuals, abortion and contraception.
A group of academics has called for a revision to the book which they say is likely to include some of those changes, including a reference to “Catholic values”, the creation of a new “Church of Ireland” and the “right of conscience”.
The changes have been welcomed by many Irish Catholics who have long argued the Catholic faith should not be conflated with religion.
But critics argue the changes do not go far enough, and that the Catholic churches teaching on abortion and homosexuality have become “obsolete”.
“The new rulebooks are not going to have a very radical effect on the Church of Ireland, but they will have a profound effect on all Catholic churches,” said Martin McPherson, a Catholic priest and former Bishop of Cork.
“The whole Catholic Church is going to be under a microscope for a very long time.
There are going to a lot of very conservative bishops, who will be very disappointed by the outcome of the reform.”
The book was drawn up in response to the deaths of two nuns in 2013 and a nun who had her head removed in 2014.
A number of amendments were made to the text, including allowing priests to marry their same-sex partners, the creation a new body, a new Council of Bishops, the introduction of new books and more.
The Irish government had initially resisted the new rules, saying they did not go as far as they needed to go, saying that the new version was “not yet ready”.
However, the revised version has been welcomed in some quarters.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Dublin, the diocese in which the two nuns died, said it was “great news”.
“It has been a long time coming,” said a spokesman.
“It has taken us more than two years to get this far, and it is a welcome step forward for the whole Catholic community.”
“We thank the Government and its elected representatives for their support in ensuring this important work was properly done.”
The new rules will be released in late February, but the Catholic press will be allowed to publish the text as soon as possible, and the publication of the text will not be delayed.