The Association of Catholic Priests has decided not to make a recommendation for or against the proposal in the upcoming marriage referendum on May 22.
The association said consultation with its members had “indicated clearly a wide range of views”.
In a statement issued by Fr Brendan Hoban and Fr Sean McDonagh, it said would not adopt a position in favour or against the marriage equality referendum.
However they added that, at the same time, they would appeal for a “respectful and civilised debate” in which the issues involved could be discussed in a calm and reasonable manner.
“Sexual orientation does not debar anyone from God’s love,” they said.
“If as priests we are speaking on this matter, we need to remember that the use of intemperate language can cause deep hurt among gay people and their families, as well as doing further damage to an already ailing Church.
“The ACP asserts the particular responsibility that devolves on priests to measure their words carefully, and not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No,” the statement said.
They concluded by saying they looked forward to a debate characterised by freedom of speech and respectful listening “so that the best result for the Irish people might be reached”.
The move comes less than a fortnight after Limerick-based priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan said he was planning to defy Church teaching and vote in favour of the same- sex marriage referendum.
“It is not what I would see as the ideal, in fact I would disagree with it but I am willing to allow those that believe to live out their lives,” he said at that point.
Earlier this month, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement in which it said: “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.
“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. 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 fundamental meaning of marriage as commonly understood across cultures, faiths and down the ages?” added the statement.
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