Iceland’s Catholics are calling for more influence on politics in the country, apparently on “life” and “human rights” issues but also to condemn same-sex marriage and abortion.

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“Our point[s] of view, especially regarding issues affecting the nation, are not necessarily about religious issues”, Reykjavík priest Jakob Rolland told Kjarninn, as The Reykjavík Grapevine reports.

“Rather, these are national issues that matter to the Church”, the parish priest at Landakotskirkja church explained.

“Because we want to defend life and stand up for human rights. It matters that our voice is heard”.

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Catholics make up a minority of just 4% of the some 360,000 people who live in Iceland, which has been officially Lutheran since 1550.

That’s one of the reasons why politicians have paid little heed to the country’s Catholic leaders, who have pushed and pushed to be heard in policy making, to very little avail.

The Icelandic Catholic Church objected strongly when politicians recently passed a law permitting abortions up until the end of the 22nd week of pregnancy, up from 16 weeks under the former 1975 legislation

It also protested vigorously when Parliament legalized same-sex marriage in 2010.

But the progress made by Icelandic society hasn’t convinced priest Rolland, who said he’d rather go to jail than to officiate a same-sex marriage.

“If two women came to us and wanted to marry, then I’d say, ‘Unfortunately that won’t work for us'”, the priest admitted.

“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”.

Why it matters

In his interview with Kjarninn, Rolland said the Church is also committed to “social issues”, the “protection of the environment”, “human rights” and the “fundamental values of human life”.

But apart from a fierce opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and greater rights for women, the priest didn’t explain what the Church’s investment in “social issues” otherwise stands for.

The last time the Catholic Church hit the headlines in Iceland was in 2012, when an internal investigation revealed decades of physical and sexual abuse at the Landakotsskóli, a Church-run school.

Then-bishop Pétur Bürcher issued an apology to the victims, saying he was “ashamed and scandalised” by the abuse.