On same-sex marriage, the Irish bishops are inoffensive

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 10, 2015

“Marriage is important—Reflect before you change it.” That, believe it or not, is the title of a statement released today by the Irish bishops’ conference, regarding the country’s May referendum on same-sex marriage.

Nowhere in the full statement do the Irish bishops suggest that Catholics should oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Oh, sure, they announce that they will oppose the measure. But they do not instruct the faithful to do likewise, much less explain why it is a moral obligation to do so.

Instead the bishops suggest that voters should “consider very carefully the profound implications” of the referendum. They should “reflect deeply before changing it.” And if, upon reflection, a confused Catholic decides to support the referendum? There’s nothing in the bishops’ statement to suggest that he would be wrong.

”Reflect before you change it.” That advice could be read as a concession that the change is inevitable. Which it probably is, if this is the most muscle the opposition can flex.

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin did push back a bit against the gay lobby, with a radio interview in which he argued against the proposition that same-sex couples are as qualified as married couples to raise children. Bishop Doran remarked that “people who have children are not necessarily parents.”

That statement—which would seem to express a simple biological fact—was in the news for about 24 hours before Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin apologized for it. “I hope that people were not offended by it,” he said. “We shouldn’t use phrases that may offend people.”

You’ll have trouble finding a phrase in the Irish bishops’ statement that could offend anyone. That’s precisely the problem. At a time when the gay lobby is ready to pronounce its outrage at the slightest indication of forthright opposition, it’s simply impossible to avoid giving offense without conceding the debate.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Dec. 01, 2016 9:07 AM ET USA

    I hope that the whole, somewhat chaotic, discussion will teach and solidify two things: 1. The primary importance of Mercy being the expression of Charity, and equally important, 2. Mercy is never stripped of Truth and Reason; it never needs to be.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 30, 2016 9:55 PM ET USA

    I don't often question Fr. Schall, but this time I must. He said: "Evil always exists in some good." I guess my concern is a matter of precision. By my understanding, evil is not a being, but rather a privation of a being or of a good. Thus evil can _inhere_ in a being, but cannot _exist_. It's sort of like an accident, an appearance of something that requires a being to serve as its basis. For example, a red wall exists because of the wall, not because of the red. It appears red as an accident.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Mar. 10, 2015 9:37 PM ET USA

    Petroleum is important--Reflect before filling your tank.