Bishops: Reflect deeply before voting

Irish Catholic bishops have appealed to people voting in the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum to “reflect deeply” on the impact of their decision.

A statement, issued on the second day of the spring meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, outlines opposition to the proposed amendment, claiming: “We are concerned that, should the amendment be passed, it will become increasingly difficult to speak any longer in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

The statement came as Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin described comments from Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran on homosexuality as “unfortunate”.

Bishop Doran had said that gay couples with children “are not parents” and that “the jury’s out” on whether people are born gay.

Speaking in Maynooth yesterday, Archbishop Martin said: “I think that was an unfortunate phrase. I hope people were not offended by it. We talk about adoptive parents, we talk about lone parents: there are very, many, many definitions. I think we should look on that variety of situations, and look at it in a way that is more positive — and we shouldn’t use phrases that may offend people.”

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said he had spoken to Bishop Doran, who had said he was sorry for any offence caused and did not intend any hurt.

The bishops said in their statement yesterday:

“We cannot support an amendment to the Constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children.

“What will we be expected to teach children in school about marriage? Will those who sincerely continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their conscience? Can a way be found to protect the civil rights of gay people without undermining the fundam- ental meaning of marriage as commonly understood across cultures, faiths, and down the ages?

“The effects of this proposed amendment will be far-reaching for this and for future generations. We say to all voters: Marriage is important — reflect before you change it.”

The bishops said that they respected the views of people who thought differently on the issue and hoped their “sincerely held views, grounded in faith”, would also be respected.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said gay marriage was not about weakening one of society’s strongest institutions but about making it inclusive for all.

Mr Varadkar, who recently revealed he is gay, said: “There are good and honourable people in the country who are unsure about marriage equality. They are not prejudiced. They just have concerns.

“We should not dismiss or ignore their concerns, but should attempt to answer and alleviate them.”

Delivering a speech in the Dáil on legislation for May’s referendum on same-sex marriage, Mr Varadkar said: “This is not a threat or a challenge to existing marriages in this country. Rather it recognises that it is precisely because marriage is so important that we want to be able to extend its benefits and protections to others, not restrict them.”

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