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Irish bishops issue multiple statements on same-sex marriage referendum

May 18, 2015

For the second consecutive week, many Irish Catholic bishops issued pastoral statements about the nationwide referendum on same-sex marriage that will take place this week.

In their individual statements, the bishops reinforced the fundamental message of the joint statement they had issued in March: that voters should think carefully before approving a referendum that would re-define marriage. The bishops did not specifically call for votes against the referendum—which has been commanding majority support in opinion polls—but raised a number of arguments against it.

“The change is not simply about extending marriage rights to others; it is not just a debate about religious views,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin; “it is a fundamental change in the philosophy which underpins cohesion in society and thus affects and concerns every citizen.”

“Voting no in this referendum is voting to retain our definition of marriage,” said Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway. Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns quoted US Chief Justice John Roberts, saying that proponents of same-sex marriage are “not seeking to join the institution, you're seeking to change what the institution is.”

Several bishops reminded their faithful that the Irish constitution pledges support for marriage. Bishop Donal McKeown observed that this is “not for theological reasons, rather because it believes – in common with most other countries - that stable marriage serves the common good of society.” Bishop Liam MacDaid of Clogher suggested that political leaders “may be reluctant to take their shoes off as they enter this sacred space.”

Bishop John Fleming of Killala criticized the government’s handling of the referendum campaign, saying that Ireland’s political leaders have “chosen to deal with an issue that is exceptionally complex, both legally and morally, in a simplistic manner and with a lightweight approach.”

Several bishops also voiced their fears that if the referendum is approved, Catholics and others who oppose homosexuality may find their freedom of expression curtailed. Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly warned: “Should this amendment be passed it will be difficult to speak about marriage as it has been traditionally understood.”


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