23Mar Marriage Equality Referendum: ACP Statement

After a consultation with our members, the results of which indicated clearly a wide range of views, the Association of Catholic Priests has decided not to adopt a position in favour or against the Marriage Equality referendum.

At the same time we appeal for a respectful and civilised debate in which the issues involved can be discussed in a calm and reasonable manner. Sexual orientation does not debar anyone from God’s love. 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.

We look forward to a debate that will be characterized by freedom of speech and respectful listening so that the best result for the Irish people might be reached.

54 Responses

  1. Gerard Rodgers

    Funny, I was always under the impression that religion was more radical than this outcome. This to me is an example of avoiding the baseline requirement of exemplary moral leadership in the modern age

  2. Michael Boyle

    There are many who would wish to be led by the hand and told how to vote. And to gather as many followers as possible to draw comfort in their thinking. How so very convenient. My bed is always made for me. My dinner is always there. What we really need is courage to follow our conscience.

    I doubt that the God of love will question how we vote but rather the love in our hearts at the time of our decision.

  3. Pól Ó Duibhir

    I’m afraid the bishops may have queered the pitch here, so to speak, with their “mind you we’ve said nothing”, but we cannot support a Yes vote, so think about it and do the right thing.

    It was a disgraceful statement which shows that they have not yet absorbed the distinction between religion and civil society.

    Symbiosis still rules in some quarters.

  4. Adrian Grenham

    Bizarre

    I see – so the ACP has decided not to adopt a position in favour or against the Marriage Equality referendum – and then advises their members not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No.

    Hmm – I wonder whether you are acting ‘in persona Christi’ or in line with your Bishops (who you are supposed to represent) on this topic. I believe your parishioners deserve better than for its priests to surrender on such an important topic that will undermine the importance of the family – and will cause significant issues in regards to religious freedom and matters of conscience (you only have to refer to UK and NI for examples of this).

  5. Oilbhe Brady

    Congratulations on a very measured and respectful statement. I commend you for having the strength to listen to all of your members and for understanding that you are allowing for equality to be achieved in this area. I am certainly grateful for the delivery of your carefully devised statement which has once again given me hope that the church can be progressive and stand up for what is right or at the very least, not stand in its way.

  6. Pádraig McCarthy

    The question of how people with gay and lesbian orientation have been treated by Church and State clearly needs to be addressed. Whatever we decide, there are some aspects of the “debate” which are disquieting:
    1. The only remedy which the government has offered is that of subsuming same-sex relationships under the same legal provisions and definition as heterosexual marriage. There has been little or no discussion of other possible remedies which would respect what is distinctive in each kind of relationship.
    2. The Taoiseach, Minister James Reilly and Minister Aodhán Ó Riordáin have each stated that a No vote would indicate that we are an intolerant people. The implication of their statements is that any right-thinking Irish voter who votes No is intolerant; that any such person is in fact homophobic. This is not a respectful way for our legislators to treat those who may genuinely be convinced for good arguable reasons that there is a better way. In the event of a Yes vote, this does not bode well for those who for whatever reason conscientiously disagree.
    3. Almost all of the argument I have heard in favour of a Yes vote seems to arise from sympathy with those who or of gay and lesbian orientation and who have been badly treated. There is nothing wrong with sympathy, but this alone is not a good basis for sound legislation. It is often combined with an ideological stance.
    4. There has been little discussion of possible unanticipated legal consequences of the legislation.
    5. In the event of a Yes vote, twenty years from now will we have any word in our language to denote what we now refer to as “Marriage”?

  7. Paddy Ferry

    I agree with Oilbhe@5, I, too, think that it is a very measured and respectful statement and I would also commend the ACP for it.
    I have been very moved this evening -Tuesday – as I read Letter to the Editor on the front page of Sunday’s Sunday Independent “At 60 and gay ,I can dream”. Perhaps you are right, Padraig@6, when you say that sympathy, on its own, is not a good basis for sound legislation, but it certainly is a good starting point.

  8. Fintan J Power

    The statement by the ACP is extraordinary. Pastors have an obligation to speak the gospel in season and out of season. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” was what Jesus called on his followers to do. Now we have an organisation of Catholic priests who prefer an approach of indifferentism instead of engaging with the truth of the Gospels. This amounts to a dereliction of the duty of priests. One of the reasons for an “ailing Church” is the failure of some priests to face up to their obligation of speaking the truth of the gospel. Jesus saw the foundations of marriage as our being created male and female by God, as well as our capacity to unite as man and woman as ‘one flesh’(Matthew19 and Mark 10). Christ accepted the natural reality and goodness of marriage as part of God’s creation, part of his plan for men and women, and for society. His earliest followers continued this teaching and rejected anything which was contrary(Romans1 and 1 Corinthians 6). But today we have an organisation of Catholic priests which is standing away from all that and no longer prepared to speak the truth. If this is the best that the ACP can do then it is time it disbanded or if not then it should get off the pitch as it is no longer fit for purpose.

  9. Tom Carew

    Who exactly made this decision in ACP ? How many members are there, and how many were *consulted* ? And what was the majority view ? *Wide range of views* is just a cop-out. This issue is not about rules of Canon Law or Church Dogma or the State being subservient to either, but about the Right of EVERY child to both [a] know, and also [b] to be reared by their OWN Mother and Father. That is a Universal Human Right and Art 16 of the UN’s Dec 1948 UDHR clearly recognizes it as such, where the only discrimination outlawed is that based on race or religion or ethnicity, but not on gender. ACP is refusing to stand over the universal definition of Marriage.

  10. Soline Humbert

    @8 “our being created male and female by God”…
    How does the church define “woman”and”man”for the purpose of ordination and marriage? On what grounds does it excludes some people ?
    Human beings are created male AND female, not male OR female, and science shows us a male/female multi-dimensional continuum rather than a strict dichotomy.
    Not as black and white, but more all the colours of the rainbow…
    http://www.womenpriests.org/body/meehan2.asp

  11. Tony Burke

    The fifth point made by Padraig McCarthy is particularly interesting – “In the event of a Yes vote, twenty years from now will we have any word in our language to denote what we now refer to as
    “Marriage”? An article by Conor Brady in the Sunday Times of Feb. 1st. was headed “Why the word ‘marriage’ is making it hard for many to say yes”. Can the meaning of a word be changed at the stroke of a pen? Brady’s article says that “it is difficult,historically, to find the word ‘marriage’ or its synonyms applied, other than facetiously, to relationships between persons of the same gender.Perhaps I am not alone in having misgivings on a linguistic basis about the proposed wording of the referendum.

  12. Martin Ospedale

    Homosexual inclination or orientation is not in itself sinful as I understand and interpret church teaching on this matter. However are homosexual acts sinful? I may be wrong but as I understand it any homosexual acts are regarded as sinful? In that case how can an association of Catholic priests take a ‘neutral’ stance on the issue of same sex marriage? I find this confusing and bizarre.

  13. Darlene Starrs

    Underlying some of the conversation above…is a notion..that..that the R.C. Church needs to be “pure”…that is to say…made up of only bonafide “Good” people…”Good” as understood by God for sure…and maybe by us more judgmental type..I cannot believe and do not believe..there has ever been a “purely good” RC Church….The Lord himself is quoted as saying..that the “weeds” and “wheat” must come up together…and…ultimately…it is only God…who knows who is weed and who is wheat…The worldwide view, in both secular and sacred places…appears to be that every two legged creature, called a human being…is a child of God…no matter how flawed…so..in other words…anyone is good for redemption…so,…this is the way…with or without biblical support. Our churches and our church life is going to include everyone..and only God..really…upon our dying breath..knows different…If you or I know differently…well…it’s just going to have remain unspoken…to do say or do anything else in pointless…The ACP knows this…I’m sure…

  14. Prodigal Son

    This statement is not as comprehensive as it may seem. The question is broader than one relating to the dignity of people of same sex attraction. Ordinary rational people respect this dignity. The issue at stake is much broader. It primarily concerns the question of marriage.

    Take just one aspect of what is under consideration, namely, the two concepts of marriage which are at issue.

    One is the conjugal view of marriage: a “comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union that is intrinsically ordered to producing new life. It unites spouses at all levels of their being: hearts, minds, and bodies, where man and woman form a two-in-one-flesh union. It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, on the biological fact that reproduction requires a man and a woman, and on the sociological reality that children benefit from having a mother and a father. As the act that unites spouses can also create new life, marriage is especially apt for procreation and family life.

    Uniting spouses in these all-encompassing ways, marriage calls for all-encompassing commitment: monogamous, permanent and exclusive.
    Marriage, understood in this way, brings together the two halves of humanity (male and female) in a monogamous relationship of complementarity. Marriage provides children with a relationship with the man and the woman who made them.

    The second concept is the consent-based idea that marriage is essentially an emotional union, accompanied by any consensual sexual activity the partners may desire, in any sexual orientation context. Marriage becomes a mere public affirmation of private love (self-giving i.e., agape, or otherwise) which to date the state has never bothered with. No same-sex union can produce a child. And no same-sex relationship can provide a child with a mother and a father. Redefining marriage to make it simply about emotional companionship sends the signal that moms and dads are interchangeable.

    Given the centrality of the teaching on marriage in the Gospel, does the statement also advise priests not to relate to the faithful the Church’s teaching on marriage? Does the statement also suggest that the said teaching conveys no benefits on society?

  15. Pádraig McCarthy

    We need to distinguish between the morality of an action and the function of civil law in regard to the matter. It is this second matter which we address in the coming Referendum.

    It is not a question of what each person’s moral viewpoint is on homosexuality or on formalised same-sex relationships. While moral values and civil law are related, they are not identical. We see tobacco and adultery and lack of physical exercise and telling lies as harmful, but we have not criminalised them. We know that gambling can lead to great harm, and yet the State has institutionalised it in the National Lottery, for the common good. St Thomas Aquinas asked about law and moral evil: “Whether it belongs to the human law to repress all vices?” (Summa Theologica Ia IIae Q96, Article 2). He replied with three arguments that “It would seem that it belongs to human law to repress all vices.” This, of course, gives us the clue that his conclusion is the opposite. Human law, he says, forbids “chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.”

    Aquinas advised that unwise imposition of law when many are unable to deal with it would lead people to “break out into yet greater evils: thus it is written (Proverbs 30:33): ‘He that violently blows his nose brings out blood’; and (Matthew 9:17) that if ‘new wine,’ i.e. precepts of a perfect life, ‘is put into old bottles,’ i.e. into imperfect human beings, ‘the bottles break, and the wine is lost,’ i.e. the precepts are despised, and those people, from contempt, break into evils worse still.” (For Proverbs 30:33 see the Vulgate or Douai translation.) Aquinas had a lot of common sense about him!

    Given that same-sex relationships are an established fact of life, it is wise to have provision in law to address those relationships. We then arrive at the question: When the government presents this particular “solution”, is it a good way to address the situation? Are there possible unaddressed undesirable consequences? Has sufficient consideration been given to other solutions which would address all the questions before us equally well, or even better?

    My own answer to these questions is that we have not considered the matter sufficiently, and that there are possible unaddressed undesirable consequences. It seems wise to me to vote No in the Referendum. And Yes: I am aware that many reach another conclusion!

  16. Prodigal Son

    Darleen, #13
    Not a trick question, but how does Matthew 19:21, “Jesus said to him, “If you would be PERFECT, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” fit into your analysis?

    Does Christ not expect us to seek to be faithful, to pray and do good works, to seek not to give in to temptation, to avoid occasions of sin, to seek to act with virtue, to inform our conscience?

    All of us in varying degrees are recurrently called to conversion. “There is more joy etc.” If I read the Pope accurately, he directs Catholics to constantly engage in the act of encouraging everyone to respond to this call. There are many well-known testimonies of people of same sex attraction who have responded to this call and live a vocation of witness to the Love of God and to the teachings of the Church.

    They testify to the teaching of the Church as good news.

  17. Darlene Starrs

    Dear Prodigal Son…
    My life is exactly what is called for in that passage…and it would seem that not everyone is called to live a radical discipleship. Otherwise…you’ll need to explain your question..as I’m not connecting with what you are saying. Unless..you are just commenting on what is perfection…One of the best definitions of perfection comes from St. Teresa of Avila..who said…perfection or the way of perfection is to do the will of God perfectly…ordinarily..a huge undertaking..as most people would not know what God’s will is to exactness…however, the big S saints as I call them..did exactly that…and my life is hopefully moving with that inspiration….Can I expect that of every Catholic in the pew…I don’t know..it’s a pretty tall order…I agree with you regarding same sex couples who are striving to live the Gospel…as I say…the Gospel is for everyone…whether those relationships, or any relationship is right with God..only God knows…

  18. Darlene Starrs

    Excuse me…Prodigal Son…In re-reading your question to me..I think, what you were saying is that…there are Catholic people..who have renounced their same-sex attraction to live in accordance with the Gospel and Church Teaching…Well..yes..there are probably people of such description…I am not familiar with this…All I know is that there is an expectation on the part of the Church and God that people who are baptised Catholic Christian and Christian live a life worthy of their vocation…whether..anyone..truly..lives such a life…adhering to the Word of God and Keeping It…only God knows again!…Of course..you are assuming that same-sex relationships are inherently sinful..if acted out…If it is…God is the only one who is able to judge. We have no words from Jesus in the scriptures..where He specifically says…that such relationships are against God…

  19. Damien Murphy

    Taking this statement at face value, it would seem that the evidence for both sides are equal. That would explain why the ACP can’t decide. Because of that I think the ACP should talk with there fellow priests in England of whom 500 signed a letter saying they would defend marriage – real marriage

  20. Darlene Starrs

    Further, Prodigal Son, I do not like to reduce a theological defence to simply saying…”Jesus didn’t say anything about it”, but, in this instance, I am. There is, what I call…a global Christian theology today, which says…everyone is a child of God…so…gays and lesbians according to this idea..are also children of God…and indeed, created by God…and it would appear that God created them exactly the way they are…with an attraction for the same sex. Therefore, as the logic goes..how can they be at fault for acting according to their God given nature. All Christian Churches are asked to accept this and the RC Church will be hard-pressed to reject it. Now, there will be Catholic Christians who cannot accept this theological and moral position…and that is why I say…the RC Church might well experience tremendous upheaval….more any woman’s ordination issue could produce.

  21. Fintan J Power

    @18 Darlene Starrs. Try reading Leviticus 18:22-30; Matthew 19: 3-6 and Mark 10: 1-12

  22. Darlene Starrs

    Dear Fintan…

    The current situation with the acceptance of same sex marriage is going to exist with or without biblical support and while the Catholic Church will resist blessing these unions…and you quote some of the reason to not bless them…the pressure for acceptance is going to be great and is going to cause division. While we can infer from the New Testament passages…that Jesus regards marriage between male and female…he does not say…there cannot be same sex marriage…that is going to be problematic for those who are opposed to such unions. I also caution against you assuming that I have revealed my position on it.

  23. Darlene Starrs

    Fintan, you have two views regarding homosexuality…and any resulting same sex marriages…a Church view…and a world view…As I say above…the world’s Christian theology…does not exclude gay and lesbian people…No matter what scripture you may quote, even from Leviticus, I believe…the current world’s Christian view will persist and triumph….Note…I combine world and Christian view…because…the Churches are for the most part, incorporating society’s views on homosexuality and same sex marriage. Todays Churches, people and pastors are encouraged to be pastorally sensitive, so that is going to mean..that our emphasis is on compassion and not judgment. You know at one time…suicide..was so taboo in the RC Church..it was considered mortal sin and families went through terrible pain…now…there is a compassionate point of view…at least..I understand there is..from .my experience in Canada. The Church on earth is made up of all sorts of people and from all walks of life….We cannot assume that God is excluding anyone.We always have to put compassion first….That is why the Pope himself said…Who Am I To Judge? For people..who need that right and wrong clearly marked at all times…well…maybe there are such things to concentrate on such as human trafficking, fraud, isis and so on.

  24. Neil Bray

    Going back to the original focus of this thread, it is often mistakenly thought that Catholicism declares heterosexuality to be the norm. But this is not so. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are very much social constructs, and as far as I am aware, both terms did not exist in the English language prior to the mid-19th century.

    The norm in Catholicism is chastity – seeking to be faithful to those instruments of Divine Love otherwise known and the Commandments or the teachings of the Church. There is no such thing as the heterosexual/homosexual personage, trapped in orientation essentialism, that is, in behaviours deemed essential to an orientation. Thus in the context of the so called heterosexuality framework, behaviour deemed virtually essential in the “boys will be boys” social construct, is not inevitable. The social construct is deconstructable. Consequently in such situations many males display traits of character, virtue and conscience that kick in despite the perceived attractiveness of the opportunities that present themselves.

    Sexual inclinations are not identity-constituting. No behaviour is exempt from moral evaluation. Jesus Christ, (given the week that’s in it – His blood), liberates from all the posited essentialisms in whatever sphere of life. Pity it doesn’t all happen in one go!

    The debate on the upcoming referendum and the non-existent debate on the Child and Family Relationships Bill, are conducted mainly on secular social grounds. The “yes vote” is grounded to a large extent on the principals of orientation essentialism. So too is much of the “no vote”, appealing as it does to the availability of Civil Partnerships. The Bishops are doing their bit, relaying on two occasions how the Church cannot support the referendum. But the central appeal to chastity which is at the core of the Good (liberating) News for peoples of all sexual attraction seems to be absent from the awareness of Catholics.

  25. Joe O'Leary

    Once again what most persuades me to embrace samesex marriage is the bad arguments against it.

    There are many fine married samesex couples who exhibit the virtues of what Prodigal Son above calls “the conjugal view of marriage”. Ah, but their marriage is not “intrinsically ordered to producing new life”! Well neither are the vast amount of marriages where the woman is past childbearing age — should these be discredited as not longer “conjugal”? Or do marriages cease to be marriages when the wife reaches menopause or the children grow up? Should the husband then be released to impregnate a younger womsn? Interestingly neither Genesis 2 nor Genesis as quoted by Jesus make any reference to new life.

    ” It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary, on the biological fact that reproduction requires a man and a woman, and on the sociological reality that children benefit from having a mother and a father.”

    Again this would exclude all marriages that are not in fact capable of producing children.

    ” As the act that unites spouses can also create new life, marriage is especially apt for procreation and family life.”

    Nowadays only about two sexual acts in the decades-long history of a marriage produce children. The State encourages but cannot impose marriage as the best context for having children. Encouraging marriage more widely, as between samesex couples, has the good side-effect of ensuring that there are more such stable contexts in which children can grow up. The prevalence of single parents or of unstable couples is what the State should seek to reduce. It cannot do so by forbidding singles and unstable couples from having children, so the best it can do is provide marital stability as widely as possible.

    “Uniting spouses in these all-encompassing ways, marriage calls for all-encompassing commitment: monogamous, permanent and exclusive.”

    That is an ideal, but the State must also deal with marital breakdown. Divorce should be discouraged even in cases where one or both of the partners fall short of this ideal.

    “Marriage, understood in this way, brings together the two halves of humanity (male and female) in a monogamous relationship of complementarity. Marriage provides children with a relationship with the man and the woman who made them.”

    Fine, but lots of marriages do not involve any children, and lots of individuals and couples adopt children when the ideal of having them brought up by their biological parents cannot be realized. The State provides legislative contexts for these situations as well as form the model textbook marriage and family.

    “The second concept is the consent-based idea that marriage is essentially an emotional union, accompanied by any consensual sexual activity the partners may desire, in any sexual orientation context.”

    The Church also insists that marriage is consent-based and wants it to be an emotionally valuable union. The Church is much less nosy and censorious about consensual sexual activities within marriage than it used to be. Traditionally, sexual orientation was treated as something irrelevant, so you had gay man marrying straight women and vice versa, often under social duress and producing great unhappiness. Today we are more human and take the actual sexual orientation of partners into account.

    ” Marriage becomes a mere public affirmation of private love (self-giving i.e., agape, or otherwise) which to date the state has never bothered with.”

    Yet the State celebrates and honors sterile marriages between elderly persons. They are treated as equal in the eyes of the Law.

    “Given the centrality of the teaching on marriage in the Gospel, does the statement also advise priests not to relate to the faithful the Church’s teaching on marriage? Does the statement also suggest that the said teaching conveys no benefits on society?”

    The Gospel refers to marriage about 5 times, and it refers to renouncing wives for the Kingdom quite blithely. St Paul speaks of marriage only as a remedy for fornication (corrected in the deutero-Pauline letter to the Ephesians). On the other hand the Gospel and St Paul speak of love (agape) very often, providing a platform for Christian thinking on friendship, marriage, and the human meaning of sexual desire.

  26. Joe O'Leary

    “Heterosexuality and homosexuality are very much social constructs, and as far as I am aware, both terms did not exist in the English language prior to the mid-19th century.”

    Radical social constructionism cannot logically be invoked in natural law arguments. Judith Butler would say that male and female genders are social constructs as well, and the Vatican goes into a tizzy about this. In fact the Vatican has never spoken of homosexuality as social construct and uses the language of “homosexual persons”.

    “There is no such thing as the heterosexual/homosexual personage, trapped in orientation essentialism, that is, in behaviours deemed essential to an orientation.”

    No one says that sexual behaviours are determined as part of one’s nature; what they do say, and correctly, is that one’s sexual orientation is part of one’s nature.

    ” Thus in the context of the so called heterosexuality framework, behaviour deemed virtually essential in the “boys will be boys” social construct, is not inevitable. The social construct is deconstructable.”

    Here the phrase “social construct” no longer refers to sexual orientation but to actual behaviours. That heterosexual men have sex with women is “deemed virtually essential” only because most heterosexual men in fact do, at least at some stage of their lives. But I am not aware of anyone building an essentialist argument on this.

    “Sexual inclinations are not identity-constituting.” Bur orientation lies much deeper than “inclinations”. So much so that Genesis and the Gospels treat a man’s sexual desire for a woman (or rather for a companion, who for many would be one of the same sex) as something much, much more profound than a mere inclination.

    “Christ liberates from all the posited essentialisms in whatever sphere of life. Pity it doesn’t all happen in one go!” It is true that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, gay nor straight in Christ Jesus; but that does not mean that women must suppress their feminiity or that Jews and gays must vanish as such.

    All this misleading talk about “orientation essentialism” just wishes away the reality of countless men and women who desire to spend their lives with a person or the same sex in much the same way that countless others desire to do so with a person of the opposite sex. The attempt to say that such desire does not really exist, or that desire doesn’t matter anyway, is a formula for the sort of inhumanity and abuse that we now see to have caused much suffering in Irish life.

  27. Joe O'Leary

    Grandmothers are all in favour of marriage equality, having seen generations come and go and having reached their own conclusions about how their children and grandchildren can best flourish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdZvbJ5t6dU

  28. Neil Bray

    The only point at issue at # 24 above was that chastity not so called heterosexuality is the norm in Catholicism for sexual behaviour. It is not clear from his reply at #26 whether Joe O’Leary addresses this or not.

    I am not going to engage Joe on his interpretations and extensions to scriptural texts.

    Orientation essentialism is anything but “misleading.” It impacts on the way decisions are made in politics, business, war, concentration camps and played a some part in the response to child abuse by some members of the Irish Hierarchy. Dare one say that it raised its head in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ struggled with his decision there – the thought “am I really expected to do this?”

  29. Darlene Starrs

    Well…I see my following comment flows very well from Neil’s …
    when he says…did Jesus…think…Am I really expected to do this?…as He anguished in Gethsemane….My position is…the only ultimate marriage for any of us to be concerned about…is our “mystical marriage”…our union with Christ.

  30. Prodigal Son

    Reply to Joe O’Leary at number 25 re his reply to number 14.

    Having a friend tell you that his/her son is “gay” and that they naturally desire that he and his partner be permitted to marry evokes sympathy for all concerned and challenges one’s own convictions.

    The state has a necessary compelling interest in meeting the genuine needs of all citizens. Unfortunately the interests of two groups often clash with each other and it must be asserted that the greater more critical interest must take precedence.

    Should the Children and Family Relationships Bill be passed in its original form and should the closely-related Referendum succeed, the impact on the Constitution will be such that the state will be have no choice but to institute marriage without a woman, and create families without a mother. Some children already miss out on a mother through death or separation – but nobody would ever wish that loss on a child. Irrespective of the numbers involved, no government should ever impose that loss on a child – and yet the current Dail plans to do exactly that.

    A comment from Heather Barwick, who grew up with loving a lesbian mother, connects here. “I’m not gay, but the relationship that was modelled before me was a woman loving a woman. So I’ve struggled as an adult figuring out how to be in a relationship with my husband,” she said. “It really wasn’t until I came to Christ that I felt that burden lifted off of me.” She said she realized gay marriage is wrong for kids as she observed her husband interact with their children.

    In the case of same-sex marriage the state must either side with adult desires or side with children’s rights. It cannot do both. A trade-off, albeit a difficult one, between critical rights of children and genuine emotional desires of adults is required.

    In recent decades the state has sided with the adults in much of its social legislation. The outcomes can be shocking, but unsurprising. Take the case of Edinburgh grandparents who sought to adopt their five-year-old grandson and four-year-old granddaughter whose 26-year-old mother was a recovering heroin addict. At 46 and 59 (Younger than Elton John) they were deemed too old to adopt. Reluctantly, they agreed to adoption by another couple, on the basis they would be brought up by a loving mother and father figure. But although several heterosexual couples were available to adopt them, the children were handed over instead to two gay men. When the devastated grandparents objected they were threatened that unless they dropped their opposition they would never see their grandchildren again on account of their ‘negative’ attitude towards gay adoption.

    Given the rights of inheritance, next of kin, work benefits et al covered by Civil Partnership, a large minority of people having same-sex attraction regard the change to marriage as primarily symbolic and unsuited to their needs. At the civil level, it expedites the flourishing of a minority lifestyle and does not create a totalitarian-type assault upon family life and freedom of speech that has tended to follow the enactment of same-sex marriage elsewhere. Catholicism, of course has to seek to bring the good news of the gospel to bear on all life practices.

    P.S. The statement in 14 above – “Christ liberates from all the posited essentialisms in whatever sphere of life. Pity it doesn’t all happen in one go!” refers to myself.

  31. Joe O'Leary

    “The only point at issue at # 24 above was that chastity not so called heterosexuality is the norm in Catholicism for sexual behaviour. It is not clear from his reply at #26 whether Joe O’Leary addresses this or not.”

    I don’t think it’s controversial so I did not address it.

    But you made many other points that are controversial. You suggested that homosexuality is just a social construction and that to talk of homosexual persons (as the Vatican does) is “orientation essentialism”. You characterized homosexuality as a mere “inclination” and used this redescription to deny that sexual orientation can be “identity-constituting”. You complained that the debate on the referendum is “conducted mainly on secular social grounds”, as if this were incorrect in our democracy (though in fact people have chiimed in from both sides on religious grounds as well, as is their democratic right). “The “yes vote” is grounded to a large extent on the principals of orientation essentialism,” you claim — that is, it recognizes that gay people have no desire to marry someone of the opposite sex but often do desire to marry someone of the same sex. “The central appeal to chastity which is at the core of the Good (liberating) News for peoples of all sexual attraction seems to be absent from the awareness of Catholics.” Oddly enough, this takes you back to the position that Fr Iggy was trounced for — the suggestion that this is a law and morality issue (as is confirmed by your disapproval of civil partnerships as well). Your emphasis on chastity does become controversial when it sounds as if you want the State to impose chastity by law. This would be incompatible with freedom of conscience and thus undemocratic. You would say that there is a difference between tolerating unchastity and providing positively for occasions thereof. Given your interpretation of civil partnerships and gay marriage as unchastity that is logical; but of course the State also provides positively for unchastity by its divorce legislation; such legislation is an attempt to deal with real life human situations.

    “Orientation essentialism is anything but “misleading.” It impacts on the way decisions are made in politics, business, war, concentration camps and played a some part in the response to child abuse by some members of the Irish Hierarchy.”

    Your critique of “orientation essentialism” is a concoction between social constructionism (a false philosophy) and a desire to say that gays do not really exist (an ancient trope of homophobes that has done far more damage than what you allege “orientation essentialism” to have inflicted). Basically you are telling young and vulnerable gays — “it’s only a phase, you’ll get over it”. Curiously enough the same people who say that also tolerate or encourage a truly Manichean essentialism, as when “identities” such as “pansy” or “queer” are fastened indelibly on the vulnerable children — something that has gone on for a long, long time.

    ” Dare one say that it raised its head in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ struggled with his decision there – the thought “am I really expected to do this?”” The idea that Christ died to save people from their homosexual orientation, if that is what you mean, is both irreverent and absurd.

  32. Joe O'Leary

    The trouble with social constructionists is that they cannot explain why very young children, and huge numbers of teenagers, are fully aware of their attraction to the same, not the other, sex, with no coaching from “orientation essentialists”. Those who maintain that male and female identities are socially constructed and that there is no such think as a man or a woman in reality have a stronger case, since most children are indeed coached in adopting their sexual identities. The only area where social constructionism has some validity in my opinion is at the points where sexual identity is uncertain — not all children are unambiguously male or female — or where sexual orientation is bisexual rather than simply homo- or hetero-sexual. Some societies encourage people to behave homosexually even if they are not homosexual (ancient Greece) and others encourage people to behave heterosexually even it they are not heterosexual (homophobic modern cultures) but this social conditioning cannot fundamentally turn heterosexuals into homosexuals or vice versa.

    I suppose social constructionism was meant to be a liberating idea, to save people from being trapped in socially imposed gender roles, and to rescue homosexual identity from its medicalization as a diagnostic category. But then it was opportunistically taken up by culture warriors and turned into a new instrument of oppression: “Your sexuality is just a social construct, so just get yourself reconstructed (aka “fixed”) and you’ll fit happily into society at large; don’t ask society to bend to accommodate you.”

  33. Joe O'Leary

    Troubling questions are raised by Prodigal Son:

    “to institute marriage without a woman, and create families without a mother. Some children already miss out on a mother through death or separation – but nobody would ever wish that loss on a child.”

    I am against surrogate motherhood and sperm donation, and I also think adoption should favour heterosexual couples, all else being equal. But single adoptive parents and samesex couples will still have plenty to offer in the sphere of adoptiong.

    “A comment from Heather Barwick, who grew up with loving a lesbian mother, connects here. “I’m not gay, but the relationship that was modelled before me was a woman loving a woman. So I’ve struggled as an adult figuring out how to be in a relationship with my husband,” she said.”

    I think a lot of children of heterosexual couples have the same struggle.

    Heather Barwick thinks that unlike children of divorcees children brought up by two women are not allowed to mourn the absence of their dad. There are many children of single parents today — I wonder how big an issue it is that the children lament the absence of the other parent?

    “In the case of same-sex marriage the state must either side with adult desires or side with children’s rights. It cannot do both.”

    In practice the legislation promises to guard the rights of children already being brought up by gay couples. That is, the rights of children do not weigh exclusively on the “no” side of the scales.

    The Edinburgh story is murkier than Prodigal Son’s account. Even The Daily Mail reports that the authorities deny saying what they are alleged to have said. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1132053/Youll-grandchildren-Social-workers-warning-couple-spoke-gay-adoption-row.html
    See also http://www.ionainstitute.org/index.php?id=2379

    A similar tangled situation could arise in many adoption scenarios not involving a gay couple — for instance if the grandparents disapproved of the religion or ethnicity of the adopters. The grandparents were against giving the children for adoption at all, irrespective of the nature of the adopters.

    In short, the story seems hardly illustrative of any problems specific to samesex marriage legislation.

    “Given the rights of inheritance, next of kin, work benefits et al covered by Civil Partnership, a large minority of people having same-sex attraction regard the change to marriage as primarily symbolic and unsuited to their needs.” True, but usually that is a matter of their individual preference, and they will admit the right of others to the more satisfying symbolism of marriage, albeit without enthusiasm. Moreover, these gay sceptics about gay marriage are prone, like everyone else, to rethink their position in light of new experiences (as one gay man I know did when he witnessed his nephew’s marriage).

    ” a totalitarian-type assault upon family life and freedom of speech that has tended to follow the enactment of same-sex marriage elsewhere.”

    An exaggeration surely. It could equally be argued that the flourishing of gay couples reinforces and enriches the culture of matrimony, and that the only freedom of speech it curtails is speech that undercuts respect for persons (just as we also have suppressed discriminatory language used in the past of single mothers and “illegitimate” children).

  34. Martin Harran

    21 @Fintan J Power
    You told Darlene Starrs to read Leviticus 18:22-30. Do you also agree with chapter 20:13 that tells us to put homosexuals to death?

  35. Fintyan J Power

    @Darlene Starrs 22 and 23.
    Genesis 2:24 tells us that “a man leaves his father and mother, and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh”. Jesus reiterates the point and reinforces it (Matthew 19: 3-6 and Mark 10: 1-12). I think it is quiet clear therefore that neither God nor his son Jesus had in mind that marriage would involve two people of the same sex.

    How would you see two people of the same sex consummating a union in the same way that members of the opposite sex do and then becoming one flesh?

    Jesus was a radical. He was compassionate when he needed to be, but his philosophy challenged the religious, civic and military attitudes of his time and he did not abide with hypocrisy. He suffered the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs.

    You attribute a quotation to Pope Francis entirely out of context and without completing it. Supposedly in an off-the-cuff interview on an airplane early in his pontificate Pope Francis said, when asked about homosexuality, ‘Who am I to judge?’

    Except he didn’t. He was asked about the alleged ‘gay lobby’ of homosexual Vatican employees, and replied, in part, ‘A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?’

    That didn’t stop millions from parroting a partial quote out of context to justify any absurd defence of the modern gay agenda, but people with an axe to grind rarely let awkward facts get in the way. You’d expect Christians to know differently.

    Of course, any Christian would know that the key to his answer was not approval of some currently popular behaviour or obsession, but of a very particular word with a very particular meaning in our faith: judge. And remember this is about someone ‘who is seeking God’ and ‘is of good will’. It is not about someone who is not seeking God and is not of good will.

    The LGBT community worldwide is determined to silence any opposition to the suggestion that same-sex marriage is wrong. Brendan Eich, who co-founded Mozilla was forced out of his position as CEO when it became known that he had given a donation of $1,000 to a group in California opposed to same sex marriage; a child of 10 in England went home crying to her parents because she wasn’t able to answer questions about homosexuality. Her parents complained. Ofsted stepped in and supported the school. The Catholic adoption agency in the UK has had to fold up its operations in the face of same sex adoptions. In Massachusetts, when adoption agency Catholic Charities was told it would have to place children equally with married homosexuals, it had to close. When a teacher put her support for traditional marriage up on her facebook site she was forced out of her job. Businesses that refuse to support gay marriage on conscientious grounds face prosecution. The state of Denmark has legalised gay marriage. All state churches are now required to carry out same sex ceremonies regardless of pastoral objections. The cultural consequences of legalising same-sex marriage therefore includes the stifling of conscientious freedom.

    The LGBT community are out to criminalise Christianity. As Canadian QC and lesbian activist Barbara Findlay said, “The legal struggle for queer rights will one day be a showdown between freedom of religion versus sexual orientation”.

    The Irish proponents of ‘same sex marriage’ along with many of their supporters worldwide would also like us to believe that marriage is not about having children. But it is. Most marriages produce children. “Marriage is fundamentally about the needs of children”, writes David Blankenhorn, a supporter of gay rights in the US who nevertheless draws the line at same-sex marriage. “Redefining marriage to include gay and lesbian couples would eliminate entirely in law, and weaken still further in culture, the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child”.

    Blankenhorn warned, that where the law is reformed, ‘even to say the words out loud in public – ‘every child needs a father and a mother’ – would probably be viewed as explicitly divisive and discriminatory, possibly even as hate speech.”

    From the age of 3 children in the UK are taught about homosexual, transsexual and bisexual issues. This is likely to happen in Ireland if this referendum is passed. Parents will more than likely lose the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes as has happened elsewhere. Is it really appropriate to promote confusion and corruption of school children? Has Ireland learnt nothing from the abuse of its children?

    Marriage is not a fashion or a fad to be cut to shape according to social whim. The father of modern anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss, called marriage “a social institution with a biological foundation”. Marriage throughout history is society’s effort to reinforce this biological reality: male, female, offspring. All our ceremonies and laws exist to buttress nature – helping bind a man to his mate for the sake of social stability and for the sake of the child they might create.

    No man in a ‘same sex marriage’ can take the role of the child’s natural mother; no woman in a ‘same sex marriage’ can take the role of the child’s natural father. There are now disturbing reports coming from the USA about the experiences of children being raised by same sex pairings; confusion about sexual identity, being brought up in a perverse social environment, missing the essential elements of a normal upbringing that an adult male role model or an adult female role model brings to the rearing as the real mother or father.

    So this then is our brave new world. This is the brave new world that the Irish Government and the opposition parties, foregoing the normal procedures of white papers and green papers and an Oireachtas committee open for public submissions that usually precedes a referendum, want to us to vote for. This is the brave new world that the great majority of the secular Irish media also want us to embrace. Jesus came to change the world for the better. Lest we fall into the abyss that this brave new world would want us to tumble into, we, his followers, have a duty to speak up and act accordingly.

    Homosexual couples now enjoy equality with male-female couples in just about every way short of marriage. It must stop short of marriage, because the demands of adults must end where the birthright of a child begins. Marriage and family formation is about something much deeper than civil equality; it is about a natural reality which society did not create.

    A group of Christian churches in Ireland has come together and clearly stated its opposition. The Catholic Bishops have also stated their opposition. The ACP to its collective shame has adopted an uninvolved position. It is acting like a nervous parent on the side of the pitch instead of being one of the teams involved in the fray.

    Priests speaking on the issue should of course ‘need to remember that the use of intemperate language can cause deep hurt among gay people and their families’ but priests also have a duty to speak the truth on this issue and not shirk that obligation.

    I will be voting No.

  36. Neil Bray

    Reply to Joe O’Leary at 31
    At its inception the category “homosexuality” implied a “life form,” which was everywhere present in the person: was at the root of all his/her actions because this life form was the insidious and permanent active principle of all his actions. As such the category “homosexuality” is nothing more than a social construct so I do not equate “homosexuality” and inclination. Inclination refers to the nature of sex attraction a person has. As was said somewhere in this website a few weeks back, personal identity does not collapse into ones sex attraction.

    A definition of “orientation essentialism” as “behaviours deemed essential to an orientation” was given at 24 and 28 contains examples. It can operate at the level of personal inclination or in the context of any cultural orientation, micro or macro. For instance in politics orientation essentialism refers to instances where legislators vote contrary to conviction or conscience because of overall party policy pressure or because of public opinion. An attitude of “surely you don’t expect me to act contrary to the cultural orientation” prevails.

    As regards Gethsemane, I remember Eamonn McCann a few years back describing Christ’s decision as “a bit over the top.” The conventional wisdom would have advised that he did not need to, or indeed should not go through with His passion. Christ did not succumb to what I term “orientation essentialism.” Instead as Hebrews 12 makes clear he exemplifies how to deal with orientation essentialism – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

    Christ may not have died save people from their kleptomania, (miracles do happen) but he did die to save them from their theft. We are meant to preach the freedom whereby Christ has made us free. In treating any sin (theft, adultery, uncharity) as a prima facie proof of an identity, are we not, in the guise of compassion and sensitivity, helping bind the sinner to his/her sinful inclination, and so laying on him/her a burden that is too great to bear without perhaps moving a finger to lift it? Orientation essentialism does not determine behaviour.

    “Orientation essentialism” is a reality that recognizes reality, including the lived reality of temptation for people with all sex attractions, not as a phase to be got over in the case of people with same sex attraction (although sometimes it is such), but an inclination to be dealt with, say either by living the gay lifestyle or perhaps seeking the freedom advantages offered by Church teaching. In Catholicism chastity is the norm.

  37. Prodigal Son

    Bad things happen to good people. People fall into life circumstances where the preferential, not to speak of the ideal is impossible.

    Children are very good at accommodating to rough life circumstances and many emerge “alright” from these. But using this as an argument for providing “make do” life experiences for children in their formative years is not acceptable.

    No category of people has a monopoly on the provision of self-giving love. But, all else being equal, a loving father can never be a mother. Based on personal experience, my concern is with the deliberate and unnecessary (both deliberate and unnecessary) state action to deprive children of paternal and maternal presence in their formative years.

    Marriage precedes the state and when the state decides to invent a new form of it, its first duty is to ensure optimal environments for children in their formative years.

    Families without women and children without mothers is not optimal. Yes some children are deprived of mothers through tragedy when young, but that is different from the state or state agencies deliberately designing and expediting such deprivation. Comparisons between outcomes due to circumstances on the one hand, and designed conditions on the other, do not address or justify any irresponsible actions of the state.

    A study of the consequences of same sex marriage in other jurisdictions does not bode well for the consequences of a “yes” outcome to the referendum. In short, bringing this to a philosophically logical conclusion involves a massive change in many areas of the culture, which few have taken on board. It will be slow at first but will accelerate.

    I invite people to read Article 41 of the constitution in its new format and outline how, on foot of it, that surrogacy will not be necessary to the vindication of the equality of same-sex marriage in terms of family creation. And whose duty will it be to ensure the provision of surrogacy? This is not a rhetorical question.

  38. Joe O'Leary

    “Priests also have a duty to speak the truth” — well, the truth is that priests are divided on the issue, so the ACP deserve credit for truthfully admitting this in regard to their own members. Why is it expected that Catholic clergy behave as an undivided phalanx like the Chinese Communist Party?

    “Homosexual couples now enjoy equality with male-female couples in just about every way short of marriage. It must stop short of marriage, because the demands of adults must end where the birthright of a child begins.”

    No, the rights of children who de facto are adopted or reared by samesex couples are a factor weighing in favour of giving marital status to their adoptive (or real in the case of one partner) parents.

    ” Marriage and family formation is about something much deeper than civil equality; it is about a natural reality which society did not create.” Nonetheless society has shaped it and often restricted or extended it.

    “There are now disturbing reports coming from the USA about the experiences of children being raised by same sex pairings; confusion about sexual identity, being brought up in a perverse social environment, missing the essential elements of a normal upbringing that an adult male role model or an adult female role model brings to the rearing as the real mother or father.”

    Many such reports have been found to be flawed and ideologically motivated (e.g. Regnerus); most reports seem quite upbeat: http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/gay-parents-as-good-as-straight-ones/

  39. Joe O'Leary

    “From the age of 3 children in the UK are taught about homosexual, transsexual and bisexual issues.”

    This is scaremongering. In the past kids were taught to talk of “queers” from a quite early age. Today they are exposed to the media who speak quite openly of gay issues all the time. That the schools try to offer enlightened guidance is quite sensible. Unfortunately there are probably many schools who give their tender charges a dose of “Leviticus”.

  40. Joe O'Leary

    Neil Bray, you said earlier that the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality were invented in the 19th century, no doubt simultaneously. Therefore I can rewrite you paragraph substituting heterosexual for homosexual, getting this result:

    “At its inception the category “heterosexuality” implied a “life form,” which was everywhere present in the person: was at the root of all his/her actions because this life form was the insidious and permanent active principle of all his actions. As such the category “heterosexuality” is nothing more than a social construct so I do not equate “heterosexuality” and inclination. Inclination refers to the nature of sex attraction a person has. As was said somewhere in this website a few weeks back, personal identity does not collapse into ones sex attraction.”

    I would say that heterosexuality is more than just an inclination. It is rather an indelible aspect of one’s identity. Usually when people talk of homosexuality as an “inclination” or as a “tendency” it is to deny that it has the sturdy reality of a genuine sexual orientation. The latter is decried as “orientation essentialism” whereas it is simply the recognition of homosexual or heterosexual identity.

    Christ did not come to save anyone from their sexual orientation. Fundamentalists of the “ex-gay” stamp may say he did, and in doing so they have wrought untold destruction on vulnerable teenagers.

    Prodigal Son, when you say “A study of the consequences of same sex marriage in other jurisdictions does not bode well for the consequences of a “yes” outcome to the referendum” you ignore the fact that there are many studies of these consequences and that their findings are positive.

    You say that children can survive in all sorts of situations — but society is much tenderer about children now, refusing to stigmatize single parents, for example. Samesex civil marriage is protective of many children parented by samesex couples. It is not a “state action to deprive people of maternal and paternal presence” any more than benefits given to single parents are.

    Adoption, too, can be caricatured as depriving people of their real parents, and indeed now the rights of the real parents and of the children to know their real parents are being taken more seriously.

  41. Joe O'Leary

    The Yes campaign seems to have become consubstantial with the demand to valorize gays and their lives. See http://www.votewithus.org/video/gary-osullivan/

    Another winning plank is that gay marriage actually works: http://www.votewithus.org/video/adam-doherty/

  42. Joe O'Leary

    A third strong point is the full integration of gays into the community: http://www.votewithus.org/video/eoin-wilson/

  43. Joe O'Leary

    Another strong line: “We are a married couple and we believe everyone should have the right to marry if they want to”. http://www.votewithus.org/video/gerard-lovett-and-friends/

  44. Soline Humbert

    Some may be interested to know that Sr JEANNINE GRAMICK SL,co-founder of NEW WAYS MINISTRY will be speaking in the Unitarian Church in Dublin 2 on SATURDAY 18th APRIL from 3PM to 5PM. The theme for her talk and Q&A session will be : REFLECTIONS ON OVER 4 DECADES OF MINISTRY WITH THE LGBT COMMUNITY.Gay Catholic Voice Ireland are the organisers.http://gcvi.ie/index.php/19-events/96-sr-jeannine-gramick-talk-in-dublin
    For more information on Sr Gramick and her ministry:http://newwaysministry.org/co-founders.html
    Sr Gramick article on “The Place of Silencing in the Teaching of the Church” is on http://www.womenpriests.org/teaching/gramick.asp

  45. Pádraig McCarthy

    @42 Joe O’Leary: You write: “The Yes campaign seems to have become consubstantial with the demand to valorize gays and their lives.”
    I agree it is important to valorise the lives of gay and lesbian people, who have experienced such unjust treatment.
    What I’m not convinced of is that to extend the scope of Marriage to include their relationships is the best, even the only way to do so. Yet it is the only way the government considers.
    We have many kinds of close relationships in our lives for which we use a variety of terminology: friend, sister, brother, child, parent, partner, etc. This does not indicate that one is superior or inferior to the others. There has been a distinct lack of debate about other possible remedies for how gay and lesbian people have been treated. It seems just too simplistic to subsume them under the definition of what we have known up to now as Marriage.

  46. Mary Cunningham

    In order to have a respectful debate on this topic, it is important to look at empirical evidence from reliable research across several disciplines.

    It is clear that claims have been made by research that is funded by vested interests with a particular point of view. This can lead to claims being made that do not stand up to scrutiny. For example, copious studies have been quoted claiming that children being parented by same –sex couples do less well than other children.

    For a refutation of such findings see:

    Searching for Harm Same Sex Marriage and the Welfare of Children

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1800382#

    Current biological/social/psychological evidence supports Soline Humbert’s view that sexuality occurs along a continuum.
    It would also agree with Joe O’Leary that talk about orientation essentialism is misleading and that social construct theory cannot be invoked in natural law arguments. Both of these models are incomplete and neither can be definitively evoked as ‘causes’ of homosexuality.

    Robust studies have found that for a minority of people homosexuality is a normal variant of the human condition.

    Finally, can some of us be tempted to use the Bible in the service of our own convictions? By falling into literalism and ignoring the very different culture and context in which it was written, selected sections of the Bible may sadly be utilised to feed prejudice and discrimination.

    See link below:

    http://www.acireland.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Letter-to-Dr-Laura.pdf
    Thank you ACP for providing a forum for this debate.

  47. Eddie Finnegan

    While Pádraig McCarthy has raised necessary questions and responded (very helpfully, I think) to other contributors’ positions on the Marriage Equality Referendum on this site,I am sure that many would appreciate the fuller picture and argument he presents in his article, ‘The Church, the State and the Marriage Referendum’, in the April 2015 issue of The FURROW. A link to The Furrow is not possible, but it would be good if the full article could be reproduced here with the Editor’s permission before the end of April. I do not have a vote in the referendum, so in a sense I don’t have a dog in this particular fight. Pádraig has, however, done us all a service, whichever side of the discussion we may be on.

  48. Brendan Cafferty

    With ref to post 9 above, the ACP represents about 1000 priests. I am sure they have their own leadership structure to deal with matters as they arise, its not usual go back to general membership for every decision as happens in all walks of life. The ACP is the authentic voice of priests here and has its eye firmly on the ball, even before Pope Francis was elected. In fact one Bishop has remarked that perhaps he is copying them !

  49. Paddy Ferry

    Some of us who contribute to this site had become rather concerned that, recently — over the last 6 months or so — the site had become rather quiet. However, the excellent debate above has turned that all around. I think we all owe a vote of thanks to all those who examined the issues involved in the forthcoming Marriage Equality Referendum so thoroughly. Even though a lot of it was well over my head, I did learn a lot and I think I may even understand now what “orientation essentialism” is!!

    I watched the first part of a BBC 2 TV series tonight dealing with how the church has shaped our understanding of our human sexuality — “Sex and the Church” presented by Prof. Diarmaid McCulloch. I add the link below. It is well worth a watch. it is truly amazing how innocent some of us were! The title of tonight’s 1st part “From Pleasure to Sin” says it all. There will be 2 further parts in the coming weeks.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05ql6hf/sex-and-the-church-1-from-pleasure-to-sin

  50. Pádraig McCarthy

    Paddy Ferry @ 49:
    The bad news, Paddy, is that the BBC Player BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only.
    I watched the programme. Diarmaid MacCulloch has a light-hearted humorous style of presentation. I did think, however, that his treatment of St Augustine was selective and one-sided for such a complex character: I think he gave us a caricature rather than a balanced account.

  51. Soline Humbert

    The following was written already 10 years ago,but is very topical….
    CHRIST INVITED TO THE MARRIAGE FEAST OF LIFE

    A Letter from Lawrence Freeman OSB ,Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation( December 2005)

    Dearest friends,
    It was a very wonderful wedding.The service was meticulously prepared and apart from a near stumble of a minister of communion down the altar steps, everything went to plan.

    The radiant couple exchanged their carefully prepared vows before God,their family and friends as if they were just composing them ,between tears and laughter. It was a perfect ceremony balancing planning and presentness. Later at the reception there was a procession into dinner led by the family and just before the bride and groom came the bride’s sister and her female partner who helped lead the dancing.

    It was as natural and simple as everything else on that happy occasion where the community of family, friends and church pledge their support and share their blessings on the new union.

    As I watched the bride’s sister share her love in the same community without fear or un-ease, I remembered the anxiety and fear the family had gone through a few years ago before she came out.

    She had become very withdrawn and depressed and her parents felt unable to help her.

    Then she and her sister asked for a family meeting.They sat in the living room and she gave her parents a letter explaining that she was a lesbian..

    As her father described it to me it was the greatest relief of his life that she had trusted them to know what the struggle was.Her parents embraced her immediately and assured her that their love for her was total and unconditional for her as a whole person. They are a devout and loving catholic family.

    Before the wedding,it seems,the sister had asked if perhaps,for propriety’s sake,she should bring a young man to the wedding and lead the dancing with him.

    But the rest of the family dismissed the idea as a falsehood that would impair the whole of that special and sacred day for them.

    So,what everyone knew and privately accepted anyway was publicly acknowledged and everyone, aunts and uncles and acquaintances,so it turned out,was glad to be able to celebrate without repression or fear.

    Would the churches and the world be so truthful and so loving? In such ways is Christ, the truth that dissolves divisions, invited to the marriage feast of life.

    Lawrence

  52. Mary Vallely

    “…to celebrate without repression or fear” for how can it be called a ‘celebration’ otherwise? Thank you Soline for posting this reminder of a wonderful example of true Christianity in action. It’s a beautiful, inspiring story. 🙂

  53. Paddy Ferry

    Pádraig@50, thank you for your response. I am disappointed that it is not possible to access the program via my link. My grasp and understanding of modern IT is quite limited, I’m afraid. Many of my friends and neighbours at home now have SKY and so they can get all the British channels and much more besides. I am sure most priests will have SKY. I am quite envious as we cannot get RTE over here — what I would give to be able to watch the 9.00 o’clock news every night and the “Late, Late” at the weekends, even without Gay.

    Regarding your comment about Prof. McCulloch’s treatment of Augustine, I must confess I knew very little about Augustine until about 20 years ago when I first read about him in Peter De Rosa’s “Vicars of Christ” ( Chap.17, An Unloving View of Sex). This chapter explained very well the immense influence Augustine had in shaping our understanding and attitude towards our sexuality — a very bizarre, weird and unhealthy attitude, I can now say though, sadly, it took me a long, long time to reach that reasonable conclusion. I have just had a quick look at Chap. 17 again when I read your post and I have to say, Pádraig, I think Augustine got off very lightly in Diarmaid McCulloch’s commentary.

    Somewhere in the middle of the program Prof. McCulloch asserts that “Jesus is not at all representative of what was destined to become a very sexually repressive religion”. It would be very difficult for any of us to try and challenge that statement.

    Those medieval forefathers of ours, the Irish monks isolated away in their monasteries , often island monasteries, busying themselves making their lists of potential sexual sins and preparing forgiveness tariffs– are they called penitentials? — certainly have a lot to answer for. I spent most of my life feeling a great sense of pride due to the great reputation of our Island of Saints and Scholars. I am not so sure anymore. I wonder what Fr. Sean Fagan makes of Prof. McCulloch’s program. I hope he has SKY. I feel blessed to have a copy of “What happened to sin”.

    The excellent discourse above was, of course, prompted by the forthcoming Referendum. In the program, Prof. McCulloch explains that the only definitive condemnation of homosexual relations in the New Testament is in Paul’s letter to the Roman. This involves a total of 40 words out of nearly 200,000 words that comprise the New Testament. Yet, despite that , to this day we are still obsessed with this issue.

  54. Pádraig McCarthy

    Paddy Ferry @53: In the Free State(!) we get BBC on Sky and UPC and others. The problem here is with BBC Player, for looking back at missed programmes.
    Re Augustine: As I understand it, he was writing in the context of the opinions of Jovinian, who disapproved of asceticism and virginity. St Jerome seems to have reacted to the other extreme, devaluing marriage in order to exalt virginity. Augustine was much more balanced. He had his own personal history, of course. Not that he got everything right like we know today (?), but he writes positively on marriage and sacrament. (This is not “sacrament” in the sense defined 800 years later.)
    In “The Good of Marriage”, Ch.21, he wrote:
    “As therefore the Sacrament of marriage with several of that time signified the multitude that should be hereafter made subject unto God in all nations of the earth, so the Sacrament of marriage with one of our times signifies the unity of us all made subject to God, which shall be hereafter in one Heavenly City.”
    My problem with Diarmaid MacCulloch is that he chooses just the bits which suit his agenda. He is a church historian, so he should take account of the historical context.
    From his account, one would never suspect that Augustine could have written the bit just quoted.


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