Iceland's Catholic Church Wants More Influence Over Politics - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland’s Catholic Church Wants More Influence Over Politics

Published October 21, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photo by
Wikimedia Commons/Jón Grétarsson

The Catholic Church in Iceland has not found much harmony with the Icelandic government, and they would like to have more influence on politics in the country, Kjarninn reports. The church’s views on a number of issues—not least of all regarding the queer community and the right to terminate a pregnancy—are diametrically opposed to the views of most Icelanders.

Iceland has been a Lutheran country since 1550, but Catholics still comprise about 4% of the population. Reverend Jakob Rolland, the priest at the Landakotskirkja church in Reykjavík, told reporters that they have repeatedly tried to have some kind of influence on Icelandic politics, to little avail.

“Our point of view, especially regarding issues affecting the nation, are not necessarily about religious issues,” he said. “Rather, these are national issues that matter to the church. Because we want to defend life and stand up for human rights. It matters that our voice is heard.”

The Catholic Church objected strongly when Parliament legalised same-sex marriage in 2010, and also objected to the expansion of abortion rights last spring. When asked if the church’s position towards same-sex marriage has changed since the law was passed, Jakob confirmed that he would rather go to prison than marry a gay couple.

“If two women came to us and wanted to marry, then I’d say, ‘Unfortunately that won’t work for us’,” he said. “If they wanted to press charges, I’d say, ‘Do it.’ If I go to prison, then I go to prison, but it won’t change my position.”

The last time the Catholic Church made headlines in Iceland was in 2012, when an internal investigation revealed years of sexual abuse of children at the Landakotsskóli school, which was run by Landakotskirkja until 2005. The Bishop at the time, Pétur Bürcher, publicly apologised to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests or other staff, and asked for their forgiveness.

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