A former Orange Order assistant grand master has said there is “no pressure” on the Grand Lodge of Ireland to consider lifting its ban on members attending Catholic church services.
David McNarry was commenting after the Grand Lodge of Scotland announced it was dropping the centuries-old prohibition.
The rule states that members of the order “should not countenance by your presence” any act or ceremony of Catholic worship.
Mr McNarry, a former assistant grand master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, said he sees no sign that the membership on this side of the Irish Sea will take their lead from Scotland.
“I can’t speak for the grand lodge [of Ireland] but I don’t think they will be feeling any pressure. I don’t know where the pressure is going to come from within. I can’t see them moving quickly to adopt anything that has happened in Scotland.”
According to a report in Glasgow’s Evening Times earlier this week, one Glasgow lodge member said the announcement had received “a mixed response,” with some expressing opposition to the change.
The member, who did not wish to be named, said: “The change was rushed through two months ago. Some of the membership are up in arms. There was an argument about it and it could have a drastic effect on the organisation.”
In response, Mr McNarry said: “We are a very democratic organisation and if a brother wanted to present this to grand lodge, or go through the channels of his own lodge ... with a proposal it will certainly be discussed. But it is not a discussion that people are falling over themselves to have.”
Mr McNarry said he has attended Catholic funeral services without hesitation – or concern over whether he was breaking any order rules.
“I felt that I wanted to pay my respects to them. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone would haul me over the coals about it,” he said.
Asked if he would be happy to attend a wedding in a Catholic church, Mr McNarry said: “I haven’t had to think about that. Would I do that? I don’t think so. I think going to a funeral is saying goodbye to someone.”
However, Mr McNarry said: “I would wish any Catholic friend of mine every happiness in their marriage.”
Speaking in 2016, the then grand chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Ireland Rev Mervyn Gibson said the ban “harked back to a different era” and that personally he would like to see it changed.
Rev Gibson, who is now the organisation’s grand secretary, said it was important to recognise the difference between attending a Catholic service and actually taking part.
“It does split the institution and it is quite emotive. Can you imagine how members, who missed family events because of that rule, how are they going to feel if it gets changed ... the hurt that must have caused, so it is quite an emotive issue for some. But if people feel strongly about it they can bring it forward.”
A Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland spokesman declined to comment on whether they had any plans to propose a similar rule change.