In May next year Ireland will vote on a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage. The bishops of Ireland have recently published a pastoral statement which said that “to redefine the nature of marriage would be to undermine it as the fundamental building block of our society.”
The statement was published in English, Irish and Polish and included a couple of prayers for marriage and the family.
The bishops started their message by insisting that marriage is a unique form of love between a man and a woman that has special benefits for society. It is, they affirmed, “the single most important institution in any society.”
Re-defining marriage would undermine it and damage society, the statement argued. The understanding that marriage is between a man and a woman is present in all cultures and therefore maintaining this definition is not an act of discrimination or exclusion.
The Church, the statement pointed out in quoting the Catechism, teaches that persons who are homosexual must be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect.
“It is not lacking in sensitivity or respect for people who are homosexual, however, to point out that same sex relationships are fundamentally and objectively different from opposite sex relationships and that society values the complementary roles of mothers and fathers in the generation and upbringing of children,” they explained.
The bishops also pointed out that children have a natural right to both a father and a mother and that this situation provides them with the best circumstances in which to be brought up. “It is therefore deserving of special recognition and promotion by the State,” they concluded.
The statement relied on a variety of arguments. Scripture provides evidence that man and woman were created to collaborate with God in transmitting life. They also quoted the words of Jesus when he said that:
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mt 19:4-6).
A section of the statement also contained a reflection on the sacrament of marriage and the need to support marriage and family life in the parish communities.
Not imposing a religious view
In the end, the debate about the nature of marriage is not about a religious view of marriage but it is about the very nature of marriage and the environment in which children grow up in, the statement insisted.
“It is precisely the difference between man and woman that makes possible this unique communion of persons, the unique partnership of life and love which is marriage,” the statement continued.
The complementary relationship between a man and a woman is an essential characteristic of marriage and a mother and a father play unique roles in a family.
In fact, Ireland’s constitution recognizes the special place that family life has and the state is pledged to guard and protect the family.
Changing the definition of marriage to allow couples of the same sex would redefine its meaning and purpose and would obscure its vital social role, the bishops adverted.
“By introducing any amendment which presents homosexual partnerships as essentially equivalent to marriage, we would be saying that the permanent union of husband and wife and their generation of new life and their nurturing of it together is no longer to be seen as the foundation of society,” they explained.
Allowing new forms of marriage also means that the state will promote any normative environment for raising children. This implies, therefore, the affirmation that biological ties between children and their natural mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or society.
“We believe that the State should urgently provide more and better services in support of marriage in which mothers and fathers can provide the optimum loving and stable environment for children to grow and flourish,” the bishops said.
As it is the family is experiencing a time of crisis, along with difficulties in maintaining various types of social bonds. There is a tendency now to consider marriage as a form of mere emotional satisfaction, the statement warned.
“But the indispensable contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.”
“In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children,” the statement concluded.
The opposition of the Catholic Church to the re-definition of marriage, is not about homosexuality,” said Bishop Kevin Doran in a recent talk he gave at Ireland’s Iona Institute. Instead, he explained, “it is about the meaning of marriage.”
Irish bishop’s statement on marriage
Bishop Kevin Doran’s talk on marriage