The Marriage Referendum: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin explains why he is voting No; Fr. Pádraig Standún explains why he will be voting Yes

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin 
Speaking notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin to Diocesan Communications Officers Consultation Day
All Hallows College, Dublin, 6th May 2015
I think that I should begin by saying that I intend to vote No in the upcoming Referendum on Marriage. Why do I say that? I do not usually announce how I intend to vote or how I voted in an election. I will vote out of personal conviction. But I say so publically because in a recent curious report in the Irish Catholic, the editor of the Catholic Voice is quoted as saying that I had “confused” the press by my attitude to the referendum and had given constant solace to the yes campaign. The occasion for the “confusion” was a lengthy address I gave to the Iona Institute, the content of which neither the editor of the Irish Catholic or that of the Catholic Voice considered worthy of reporting.
I refer to that Iona Institute address because I set out there what my concerns about the referendum were based on. These are the same fundamental concerns which Pope Francis espoused in his address at his General Audience on 15th April.
For me the fundamental question is about the complementarity of men and women, of male and female, in the nature of humanity. This is a philosophical concept which some will easily put aside, but for me it is the fundamental one. Why do humans exist as male and female? Is that distinction simply marginal? Is it simply a social construct? I am not saying that men and women do not share equality, but that one can only understand and tease out what that equality means within the concept of complementarity.
One of the big challenges in human rights theory is a tendency by some to absolutise an individual right, overlooking the fact that all rights can only be exercised within the context of the right of others and in an understanding of relationships that exist within society. We are not isolated individuals. That we exist as male and female is not a marginal dimension of being human.
What does that complementarity of male and female entail? There are theological arguments which Pope Francis has clearly set out:
“Man and woman alone are made in the image and likeness of God: the biblical text repeats it three times in two passages: man and woman are the image and likeness of God. This tells us that it is not man alone who is the image of God or woman alone who is the image of God, but man and woman as a couple who are the image of God. The difference between man and woman is not meant to stand in opposition, or to subordinate, but is for the sake of communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God”.
Some will object saying that the current debate on marriage in Ireland is not a religious debate, so theological language has no place in it. I find it interesting that many of those supporting the yes campaign object to the use of religious language, but they are not shy in quoting Pope Francis in support of their arguments, although I feel that their knowledge of Pope Francis’ repertoire is somewhat restricted. The fact that an argument is set out in theological terms does not mean that it may not have relevance for societal reflection, if presented in appropriate rational language.
I developed this reflection in an earlier talk I gave in Tralee some weeks ago. Let me quote from it:
“Marriage is however not just a theological reality. There are many in Ireland today who will say that my reflections [on marriage]… are really an internal matter for the Catholic Church. Ireland, they will say, is a pluralist society and while there is freedom for believers to reflect on and discuss openly theological views, they are only marginally relevant in today’s society where marriage is looked on now differently.
It is often said that Church leaders have every right to make statements but that they should limit themselves to the religious sphere. I am told that no-one is challenging my view on religious marriage but that changes are taking place which deal with what others want and which will not affect my view on marriage”.
How do I respond? Does this mean that views which emerge from a Christian tradition are always to be considered inappropriate for the discussion on issues of public concern? What is the relevance of faith in the debate on social issues in a pluralist society? Should we Christians return to a Nicodemus style existence and keep the insights of faith within our own hearts alone?
We should not forget that so much of what is cherished as good in secular society is, in fact, the fruit of Christian culture. Bishops regularly speak out on social issues and their comments are often – if not always – welcomed. Indeed they are often criticised for not taking positions on social issues. In the heated debate today this relevance of rational reflection inspired by religious belief is being reduced by some at times to a level of banality in which faith in Jesus Christ and his teaching is being placed on the level of belief in leprechauns.
In other cases, rather than become involved in rational argument about concerns proposed by Church leaders, politicians simply respond with broken gramophone-like quick sound-bites.
The problem in many ways is that the Church has often in the past presented its message poorly. What is a message of love was presented in language that was harsh. What was rational argument was presented as a dogma which all should accept. The truth about Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed in love. This is a challenge in today’s culture where often there is a clash of viewpoints and where we find it difficult at times to bring the message of our faith into a culture where faith is considered out of place in public discourse. The fact that in the past the Church was dogmatic in its attempted imposition of its views rather than engage in rational societal debate, does not justify people today replacing “sound-bite-ism” for dogmatism as a way of avoiding rational debate.
Let me come back to my original question. What does it mean to be male and female? Is it simply a social construct? Yes there are some social constructs around the roles of man and women which have evolved in our societies which do not reflect the true understanding of men and women and which must be changed. Stressing that the fundamental male–female relationship of complementarity is not just social construct does not mean wanting to put women back in the kitchen or pay them a lower wage.
My position is that there is something irreplaceable in the fundamental complementarity between a man and a woman and that complementarity is not irrelevant to our understanding of the transmission and the nurturing of human life, within an intergenerational framework which contributes to the stability of society. I take up on what I said at that Iona Institute talk:
“No person exists who is not the fruit of a male and a female. Even if it were possible to clone a child, that child would still bear the genetic imprint of a male and a female. An individual man or an individual woman cannot generate another human being just on their own.
Genetic parentage is not irrelevant. We are all children of a male and a female and this must have relevance to our understanding of the way children should be nurture and educated. Genetic make-up is a fundamental dimension of the intergenerational reality of family.
The fundamental male/female relationship inevitably has significance when we come to reflection of generating and nurturing children. The generation of children is not just about biology. This is not the same as saying that people in differing marital and other relationships cannot be good parents, much less to deny that they even deserve the title parents. Nor does it mean that all heterosexual parents are by that fact alone automatically good parents.
It is important always to stress that all children, whatever the circumstances of their birth, should be loved unconditionally and treated with the same rights and dignity. This applies also to their rights within the Church. Pope Francis has spoken very strongly against any priest who might refuse baptism of a child simply because of the particular conjugal relationship of their parents or guardians.
What is the current understanding of the male/female relationship in the Irish Constitution and would this be changed in the Referendum? There is no formal definition of marriage in the Constitution, but the consistent legal interpretation of the Constitution is that it refers to a marriage between a man and a woman and that this recognition is fundamental and goes beyond any particular understanding of marriage that may have existed at the time of the writing of the Constitution. There are legal scholars who maintain that there is no need for a referendum and that the legislature could change a definition of marriage. The government has clearly thought otherwise in stressing that what is proposed requires a referendum. For the Constitution, a referendum is not a public opinion survey, but is required only when the Constitution is being changed and what we are being asked to change is an article of the Constitution on marriage. It is a question of changing.
Is the proposal simply to extend accessibility to marriage or is it a real change in the definition of marriage which has significance for all citizens? You cannot take one article of the Constitution in isolation. Marriage is not simply about a wedding ceremony or about two people being in love with each other. Marriage, in the Constitution, is linked with the family and with a concept of family and to the mutuality of man and women which is the fundamental foundation for the family as it exists in the constitution today. Such fundamental questions about the good of society are clearly the concern of all.
Bruce Arnold has drawn attention to another indication of how the consistent legal interpretation of marriage is that of being between a man and a woman. He refers to the legally binding guarantees which the Irish government obtained about the protection of the integrity of Article 41 and Article 42 of our Constitution from being overridden by European law.
Discussion on marriage and in the referendum are difficult in that the Church argues from a somewhat abstract view point about the understanding of the nature of sexuality and of the uniqueness of the mutual relationship between male and female. Others argue from concrete examples of people that they know and their personal hopes, frustrations and desires. Where can these different strands meet?
Where the Church argues from general principles, there is inevitably the feeling on the part of others that it is somehow against the concrete individual men and women who have a different viewpoint. This is made more complex when language is used which is insensitive and overly judgemental. The Church has to learn to voice its criticism clearly and without fear, but it must always do so in language which respects her Master.
We are all struck by the manner in which Pope Francis seems to be able to speak clearly about doctrine, and yet respect and embrace those who cannot find their way to follow that doctrine. In the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, Pope Francis was unequivocal in his judgment about its non-admissibility, yet he consistently told people not to judge any individual. Many find that a position of that kind is untenable: certain things, they will say, are simply wrong and to be condemned and there is no way in which we can countenance any response except repentance and change of life style. Others will say that the only way in which the Church can show mercy is by changing its teaching. Pope Francis espouses neither of these positions in isolation.
An ethics of equality does not require uniformity. There can be an ethic of equality which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference. A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship. I know that the harshness with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – may make it hard for LGBT people to accept that I am sincere in what I am proposing.
General principles of social ethics may feel abstract to some, but they are vital in setting out the values for social cohesion. Despite the sound-bite culture of some, minimizing the significance of what is changing, both sides in the referendum debate really recognise, yet to varying degree, that what is involved in the referendum is about the values which a changing society wishes to embrace.
The referendum will come and go. A yes vote will approve fundamental changes to the understanding of marriage with the consequences that this would involve. But the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family and its relevance to social ethics will remain the same, no matter the referendum result.
The real problem is that the Church has been negligent in presenting more effectively its own teaching. The Church in Ireland for far too long started out from the position that the majority of Irish men and women understood and accepted the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage. For too long Catholics felt that the fact that Catholicism was the majority faith in Ireland and thus numbers were on their side and were their strength. As time went on and the culture of Ireland changed, the numbers decreased and the cultural factors which affect all western countries are just as active in Ireland as elsewhere.
The Synod of Bishops will be a crucial moment in the renewal of the Church’s teaching especially to young people who aspire to a happy and fulfilled marriage and family life as one of the most vital dimensions of their lives.
Fr. Pádraig Standún
I’m voting ‘Yes’
‘WE don’t do God’ is a phrase attributed to Alastair Campbell, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesperson and spin-doctor. ‘We don’t do equality’ is a phrase some might use with regard to the church to which I have given more than 50 years of my life since going to Maynooth in 1964.
The Roman Catholic Church does not have gender equality behind its altars, and its leadership is not in favour of a yes vote in the marriage equality or same sex marriage referendum. Leading Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin have been careful to ask voters to think seriously about changing the traditional meaning of marriage, rather than asking them to oppose the change that is proposed by the government.
This is fair enough, even though I suspect that more Roman Catholics will in practice support the proposal than vote against. The sensus fidelium, the view from the pew, which is as powerful as any other church infallibility, says that now is the right time. The people of God have moved on. Leaders please follow.
I am one of those clergy-persons who intends to vote yes, not to cock a snoot at the leadership of my church, or to jump on a popular bandwagon, but because I think it is the right thing to do. As a follower of Jesus, the a lá carte Jew who recognised when certain laws had run their courses, I am convinced that now is the right time to have marriage equality.
Perhaps it is the end of marriage as we knew it in relatively recent times, but marriage has gone through many changes down through the centuries. In the lifetime of the Bible itself, marriage changed greatly from Abraham to Jesus despite our emphasis on certain quotes that back up particular arguments.
We are discussing changes in the civil law in the forthcoming referendum. Churches can and will retain their own emphases in the celebration of marriage, but in a pluralist, live and let live society, I have no problem with the law of the land being more inclusive.
Right now I think the Roman Catholic Church and other churches and religions should be devising appropriate liturgies for the blessing of gay and lesbian marriages of those who would welcome such ceremonies. Many people who choose civil marriage for one reason or another still request and appreciate blessings on such important milestones in their lives. Could any clergyman or woman refuse a blessing asked for in sincerity?
Groupthink was one of those words applied to RTÉ executives in the wake of the defamation of Father Kevin Reynolds a couple of years ago. It can equally be applied to clericalist acceptance of certain arguments without question or proper theological examination.
We in the Roman Catholic Church have made so many mistakes in the past half century or so that we need to stand back and question our motives in taking certain stances, in fighting unnecessary battles with outdated catchphrases.
It is time to be positive, to welcome gay, lesbian and transgender to the top table.
* Fr. Pádraig Standún, writing in this week’s column, Standún’s Station, in The Connaught Telegraph

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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    An tAthair Brian O Fearraigh, Catholic Priest from Gweedore, will be voting Yes on May 22nd, and here is why.
    “I’m of the belief that this referendum is purely a civil question and that the State cannot discriminate against its citizens.
    This Civil Marriage constitutional referendum in my opinion, is about giving statutory recognition and protection, irrespective of sex, to the relationships of all people who publicly want such recognition by the State, nothing more, nothing less. I don’t believe that a yes vote will actively impact children’s well being. What is important, irrespective of the family configuration that children are a part of, and I think we all recognise that there are many different kinds of family formations, is that every child is valued, loved and accepted”

  2. I help in a food bank in the UK which is based in the Anglican Church. The lady vicar had been asked to bless a new community building and the ceremony included every room. She came back and said “I can’t believe it I have just blessed a toilet and I’m not allowed to bless a same sex partnership”

  3. Joe O'Leary says:

    I don’t think anyone in their senses is trying to get male and female downgraded to mere social constructs. This is a bogeyman invented by the Vatican on the premise that the more extreme ideas of Judith Butler are driving the gay marriage campaign. In fact it is driven by the very same values that sustain marriage in general — those of love, creativity, mutual flourishing, and the common good. On the common good, a notion reduced in Catholic polemic to a mantra of social conservatism, we need to reread Gaudium et Spes 26, which can provide a Catholic platform for marriage equality:
    “Because of the increasingly close interdependence which is gradually extending to the entire world, we are today witnessing AN EXTENSION OF THE ROLE OF THE COMMON GOOD which is the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, TO REACH THEIR FULFILLMENT MORE FULLY AND MORE EASILY. The resulting rights and obligations are consequently the concern of the entire human race. Every group must take into account THE NEEDS AND LEGITIMATE ASPIRATIONS OF EVERY OTHER GROUP, and even those of the human family as a whole.
    “At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness of the sublime dignity of human persons, who stand above all things and whose rights and duties are universal and inviolable. They ought, therefore, to have READY ACCESS TO ALL THAT IS NECESSARY FOR LIVING A GENUINELY HUMAN LIFE: for example, food, clothing, housing, THE RIGHT FREELY TO CHOOSE THEIR STATE OF LIFE AND SET UP A FAMILY, the right to education, work, to their good name, to respect, to proper knowledge, the right to act according to the dictates of conscience and to safeguard their privacy, and rightful freedom, including freedom of religion.
    “The social order and its development must constantly yield to THE GOOD OF THE PERSON, since THE ORDER OF THINGS MUST BE SUBORDINATE TO THE ORDER OF PERSONS and not the other way around, as the Lord suggested when he said that the Sabbath was made for men and women and not men and women for the Sabbath. THE SOCIAL ORDER REQUIRES CONSTANT IMPROVEMENT: it must be founded in truth, built on justice, and enlivened by love: it should grow in freedom towards a more humane equilibrium. If these objectives are to be attained there will first have to be a renewal of attitudes and FAR=REACHING SOCIAL CHANGES.
    “The Spirit of God, who, with wonderful providence, directs the course of time and renews the face of the earth, assists at this development. The ferment of the Gospel has aroused and continues to arouse in human hearts an unquenchable thirst for human dignity.”

  4. I have just read an excellent article by Fr. Tony Flannery in last Sunday’s Sunday Independent which would be a another valuable contribution to this debate if we could have it on our ACP site.
    Also, well done to my namesake, Fr. Brian, at home in Donegal.

  5. Just like the night of the Bank Guarantee when we had all the so called brains of the country available to come up with a solution ,they failed miserably and the ordinary citizens of this country will be paying for their mistakes for a long time to come. On May 22nd we are now expected to believe that the Definition of Marraige will not change. I think that there is far too little information available outlining the consequences of this very serious change in our Constitution. The elected representatives of this country of all parties appear to be singing off the same hymn sheet on this issue .What amazes me is that they cannot agree for five minutes in Dail Debates on most issues. The children of the future deserve better than this. They say that hard cases make bad law and allowing ourselves to be carried along in a sea of emotion is just as futile.

  6. Very sound advice from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to politicians to engage in rational discussion and leave out the short and repetitive sound bites which add nothing to the debate. This good advice should be accepted by others and not just limited to politician. Rational discussion is essential followed by making a decision to vote YES or NO on the basis of conscience. Also, prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance is very necessary.
    To help with developing a rational discussion, the article “Many faiths do not share common view on marriage” by Canon Patrick Comerford in the Irish Times on 7th May would be worth reading.

    1. Association of Catholic Priests says:

      Association of Catholic Priests.
      Padraic McCarthy had earlier submitted the following on the topic of the Marriage Referendum. We attach it as part of this thread rather than start another.
      Movement on same-sex union in Europe
      Pádraig McCarthy
      As we debate the Marriage Referendum, and as the US Supreme Court examines same-sex marriage, there are two diametrically divergent movements in Europe. Gregor Puppinck of the European Centre for Law and Justice in Strasbourg has a report, Same Sex Unions and the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights), which is available on line. The paper does not take a position, but presents information. (The Centre is a Christian-inspired international, Non-Governmental Organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe and worldwide. The ECLJ holds special Consultative Status before the United Nations/ECOSOC.)
      The Williams Institute at UCLA Law has a study, LGB Families and Relationships, which analyses information from the 2013 US National Health Interview Survey. Gary J Gates of the Williams Institute also has a study of Family Formation and Raising Children Among Same-sex Couples. These too are available on line.
      As a preliminary, the American Psychiatric Association ( says: “No one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. Homosexuality was once thought to be the result of troubled family dynamics or faulty psychological development. Those assumptions are now understood to have been based on misinformation and prejudice. Currently there is a renewed interest in searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. However, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality.” So, for the Association, there is no confirmation whether LGB people are “Born That Way.”
      A little of the information from Puppinck and from Williams is summarised here.
      Puppinck writes of the contrasting developments: legalisation of same-sex marriage in Western Europe, while in Eastern Europe jurisdictions have moved to enshrine marriage as heterosexual in their constitutions. Beginning with the Netherlands in 2001, 11 European States have legalised homosexual marriage: Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, France, England and Wales, and Luxembourg.
      On the other hand, 13 States have defined marriage as strictly hetereosexual and monogamous in their constitutions: Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
      The ECHR in 2010, in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights, recognised that article 12 only guarantees “man and woman” the right to marry and found a family. Therefore, “as matters stand, the question whether or not to allow same-sex marriage is left to regulation by the national law of the Contracting State” (§61). The Court added in this regard “that it must not rush to substitute its own judgment in place of that of the national authorities” (§62). The Court concluded “that States are still free, under Article 12 of the Convention as well as under Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 8, to restrict access to marriage to different-sex couples.”
      In Schalk and Kopf, 2010, Court was “not convinced” by the argument that the rights attached to marriage and civil partnership should be equivalent. “It considers on the contrary that States enjoy a certain margin of appreciation as regards the exact status conferred by alternative means of recognition” (§108). But this difference of rights would have to manifest the difference of purpose between marriage and civil partnership: the first being the foundation of a family (Sheffield and Horsham v. UK, ns. 22985/93 and 23390/94, [GC] 30 July 1998 § 66), the latter the organisation of the private life, corresponding approximately to the difference between, respectively, articles 12 and 8.
      On July 16th 2014, the ECHR, answering in Grand Chamber for the first time on the question of a “right to homosexual marriage”, gave a response in which its formulation appears definitive, indicating that neither Article 8 nor Article 12 of the Convention can be understood “as imposing an obligation on Contracting States to grant same-sex couples access to marriage” ( §71 and 96) The Court clarified “ the fundamental right of a man and woman to marry and to found a family” assuring that Article 12 “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.” Duly noting the absence of consensus on this matter in Europe, the Grand Chamber concluded that “while it is true that some Contracting States have extended marriage to same-sex partners, Article 12 cannot be construed as imposing an obligation on the Contracting States to grant access to marriage to same-sex couples” (§96).
      The question whether there could be a positive obligation on Member States to provide for another form of legal recognition (for example, Civil Partnership in Ireland) to same sex couples is open. The Grand Chamber of the ECHR (ECHR, Nov. 7th 2013, n° 29381/09 and 32684/09) judged unjustified and therefore discriminatory the fact that the ability to contract “civil unions” is solely reserved to heterosexual couples in the Greek law. Arising from this, there may be a question over whether Ireland is in contravention in restricting Civil Partnership to same-sex couples.
      The Williams Institute study, LGB Families and Relationships, reports that “an estimated 19% of same-sex couples observed in the NHIS data were raising children under the age of 18 in the home (see Figure 4)1, lower than the 42% of different-sex couples who were raising children. The portion of LGB individuals who were not in a couple and reported raising children was also 19%.”
      Unexpectedly perhaps, it also reports: “In considering the total extent of parenting among LGB adults, it is important to consider that some LGB parents are raising children as part of a different-sex couple. This is particularly true for bisexual parents. Among bisexual adults with children, 51% were married with a different-sex spouse, 11% had a different-sex unmarried partner, and 4% had a same-sex spouse or partner. Among adults who identified as gay or lesbian and were raising children, 18% had a different-sex married spouse and 4% had a different-sex unmarried partner.”
      The report does not identify whether in some cases LG persons may have had those children before “coming out” and then stayed together on account of the children or for other reasons; or whether they entered the relationship freely and knowingly. The fact that they are still together with an opposite-sex partner indicates that a primary sexual orientation is not necessarily a determinant of the relationship choices made.
      Definitions of sexual orientation vary. They may include components of at least one of three elements: behaviour, attraction and identity. Some definitions include all three. Some who identify as gay or lesbian report some sexual partners of the opposite sex. Our tendency to categorise people may not be always appropriate. Fixed choice questionnaires may offer only A or B or C, and not allow for an answer such as “Mostly A”, etc. The “Yogiakarta Principles” of 2007 (available on line), not universally accepted, offer the following definitions:
      “Sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.”
      “Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or
      function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.”
      For further details, see the original studies.
      A final reflection on surrogacy. An internet search will show that it is a major “industry”, almost a series of surrogacy supermarkets offering an array of choices. Many websites deal specifically with surrogacy for gay couples. India has tightened legislation, and Nepal has become a major centre, costing far less than other jurisdictions. The Guardian newspaper (UK) reported on Monday 27 April that “Israel has begun evacuating surrogate-born babies and their Israeli parents from Nepal, on the return legs of flights sent to provide earthquake relief.” 26 babies had then been evacuated to Israel, with perhaps 100 more pregnant surrogate mothers waiting to be evacuated. One surrogacy agency operating in Nepal says: “We Offer a Guaranteed Pregnancy and Live Birth Package With Egg Donation and Surrogacy.” It is not clear how they can offer such a guaranteed “Package.”

  7. Surrogacy should not be an issue in recognizing people’s marriages. If we measure a marriage by the danger of possible resort to surrogacy, then we would have to downgrade the marriages of sterile couples as well as of gay couples, or forbid such marriages altogether. And of course unmarried couples may haver recourse to surrogacy too.

  8. Soline Humbert says:

    In the context of this discussion and discernment process,a reminder that the film TAKING A CHANCE ON GOD will be shown tomorrow evening,MONDAY 11TH MAY @7:30PM (sharp)in the Milltown Institute,Arrupe Room,Dublin 6. All are welcome.(no fee,donations welcome)
    The film is about the life of former Jesuit priest JOHN McNEILL,
    a truly prophetic figure: John McNeill was an American Jesuit Priest from 1959 to 1987 when he was forced to leave when he came out as an openly gay priest. His book “the Church and the homosexual” was a pioneering theological book on the subject.
    One year after the publication of The Church and the Homosexual (with the permission of Jesuit General Pedro Arrupe) McNeill received an order from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , ordering him to silence in the public media. He observed the silence for nine years while continuing a private ministry to gays and lesbians which included psychotherapy, workshops, lectures and retreats. In 1988, he received a further order from Cardinal Ratzinger directing him to give up all ministry to gay persons which he refused to do in conscience. As a result, he was expelled by the Vatican from the Society of Jesus for challenging the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the issue of homosexuality, and for refusing to give up his ministry and psychotherapy practice to gay men and lesbians. McNeill had been a Jesuit for nearly 40 years. John McNeill has been devoting his life to spreading the good news of God’s love for lesbian and gay Christians.
    (55 minutes) with an introduction by the film’s Director, Irishman Brendan Fay.Followed by Q & A and discussion after the film.
    To attend:

  9. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    “Make my love equal,” said one person at a rally for a Yes vote at Merrion Square today (Sunday 10 May). It’s a genuine call; but is this is what is before us in the Referendum? The question is whether the State should treat same-sex unions in the same way as man-woman unions. There are real differences. We have to decide whether they are relevant.
    The sexual union of man and woman is the only union capable of generating new life. Sexual activity between persons of the same sex is not capable of producing children. To produce a child they have to use one of a variety of means of assisted reproduction which go beyond the union of the two persons. The State has (or should have) an interest in the welfare of all citizens without distinction; but it is reasonable for the State to treat the union of man and woman as having a specific public importance which a same-sex union does not share. Because sexual conduct between persons of the same sex never results I children, legal reinforcement of a permanent bond between them does not serve the same public interest. It may of course serve other interests, and this is valuable. But because the interests served are quite distinct, it seems to me more reasonable and helpful to both kinds of relationship to provide them with different kinds of legal reinforcement.
    Some will see this as making one inferior to the other. Why this urge to interpret it in such a competitive model? Men and women are different, and are treated differently where relevant, but are genuinely equal (or should be treated so). It’s not discrimination to have separate Six Nations Rugby for men and women; it would not be wise to have a women’s team play a men’s team! Yes, the women’s contest gets far less media attention and public support, but perhaps this will develop with time. My impression is that the finals of the Women’s Tennis in Wimbledon gets around as much attention as the Men’s. Same-sex couples are under the disadvantage that, numerically, they are far fewer than heterosexual relationships which get far more representation in literature and song and film; it’s hard to see how any legislation can change this. They are also at a disadvantage that, in Ireland, Civil Partnership for same-sex couples has only been with us for four years, as against millennia for marriage. It could be significantly improved, but is has not yet had enough time.
    Would it help to change the meaning of “Marriage” to include same-sex unions? It seems to me not helpful: it would change the core of what Marriage is in the man-woman relationship; it would also not acknowledge what makes a same-sex union distinct from an opposite sex union.
    Pádraig Standún above says that groupthink “can equally be applied to clericalist acceptance of certain arguments without question or proper theological examination.” This is true; but I do not think that what I have written is an example of groupthink: swimming against the tide is more like anti-groupthink!
    DOM (@6 above) says the article by Canon Patrick Comerford is worth reading. Indeed it is; but oddly enough, for how the examples he quotes argue against his thesis rather than for it! He wrote: “There is no one common, unchanging theological understanding of marriage shared by all faith traditions … King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.” Solomon was missing one thing: there is no mention of Solomon having a husband. “David had many wives.” David also had a very close friend, Jonathan. At Jonathan’s death, David sang: “Very dear you were to me, your love more wonderful to me than the love of a woman.” (2 Samuel 1:26) No mention of marriage. Different relationships. In his examples, there
    is the “one common unchanging understanding” in faith traditions: their common understanding was that marriage is of man and woman. He quotes Bishop Michael Burrows: “the church’s understanding of the essential nature of marriage is capable of development.” This is good. Bishop Burrows didn’t say “the essential nature of marriage is capable of development.” He said the church’s understanding has developed.
    Joe O’Leary (@8) says: “Surrogacy should not be an issue in recognizing people’s marriages.” Indeed. Surrogacy is an issue in itself. It is an issue in relation to same-sex unions in that it is the only way (at present!) that two men can have a child genetically related to one of them.

  10. Joe O'Leary says:

    “Beginning with the Netherlands in 2001, 11 European States have legalised homosexual marriage: Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, France, England and Wales, and Luxembourg.” Don’t forget Scotland — first samesex marriages celebrated there on the last day of 2014.

  11. Prodigal Son says:

    The referendum is not about homosexuality, it is about marriage.
    The historical changes Fr Standun refers to always involved male and female, not same sex couples. As I understand it, on foot of a yes vote any two males will be able to marry and similarly any two females. The state has not and will not ever seek to pass judgement on the quality of intimate relationships in marriage. A “yes vote” is one for “adult-centric” marriage, which combined with no requirement for consummation and other factors, amounts to a new definition.
    With the additional 17 words to Article 41, it is practically certain that the State will have to provide he means for same sex couples to avail of surrogacy and assisted human production techniques. A “yes vote” is a vote for such provision.
    All “yes vote” advocates ignore or refuse to consider the consequences for children in the referendum. None can justify the totally unjust act of bringing children into the world with the express purpose of deliberating denying them the experience of either a maternal or paternal presence in their formative years, while keeping them in total ignorance of one side of their ancestry up to age 18.
    The state could have introduced same-sex marriage through Article 40 of the Constitution without affecting the welfare of children.
    As Keith Mills, Paddy Manning and other same-sex attracted people have said, marriage provides no extra rights than those conferred by civil partnership. The government minister concerned has on a number of occasions been unable to list any such extra rights.
    Thus advocates of a “yes vote” prioritise human desire over human rights.
    Advocacy for a “yes vote” is consistent with another pattern. It reflects ongoing support for a considerable amount of family law changes and developments over the last few decades which have ignored or minimized children’s interests, thus paving the way for the arguments same-sex marriage proponents advance today. For example, as against the idea that marriage and child well-being go together, state laws approving no-fault divorce and abortion do not take children’s presence in a household into consideration at all. Rather, they allow more and more children to be reared outside of households containing their married, biological parents.
    Happy voting everyone!

  12. Joe O'Leary says:

    “Sexual activity between persons of the same sex is not capable of producing children. To produce a child they have to use one of a variety of means of assisted reproduction which go beyond the union of the two persons.”
    This is also true of sterile marriages, yet the latter are seen as equal in the eyes of the Law and of the Church. The objection that the marriage of the elderly or sterile is only de facto “defective” while the samesex marriage is inherently or essentially so does not seem terribly convincing to me. I think neither form of marriage is defective, and I happily celebrated my aunt’s remarriage at 70, to a 78 year old man, with no thought whatever of its failure to realize the procreative dimension. After all, he had done her dury in that line with 6 kids by her first marriage!
    “it is reasonable for the State to treat the union of man and woman as having a specific public importance which a same-sex union does not share.” Again, how is it reasonable for the State to accord full respect to the marriage of the elderly and not to the marriage of a younger samesex couple embarking on life together?
    Marriage is by no means a universally popular institution, and the State should encourage it not only for purposes of procreation but also to create better communal bonds. “Legal reinforcement of a permanent bond between them does not serve the same public interest”: it serves the same public interest as any childless marriage — this is not measurable in terms of procreation alone. “It seems to me more reasonable and helpful to both kinds of relationship to provide them with different kinds of legal reinforcement.” Well, there are plenty of gays, especially of the older generation, who shudder at the idea of marriage and find the idea of civil partnership more comfortable: and in France civil partnership has proved shockingly popular among heterosexual couples as an alternative to marriage. But there are others who want nothing less than the full commitment and social status of marriage, and it is hard to think of a really substantial reason for denying it them. Why not let both systems flourish? Everyone will find the niche that best fits them. The bishop of Limerick says that this would confuse children, who could no longer be taught that marriage is the union of male and female with a view to procreation. But again, why should children not learn differentiated thinking in this as in other areas? Certainly, the emphasis will shift more to a primacy of the unitive over the procreative, as is already the case in our societies.

  13. If the Referendum passes it will be legal for heterosexual couples to marry also perhaps for companionship,since the union of a man and a woman becomes irrelevant. does not this scenario appear farcical and makes a mockery of the meaning of marraige as we know it.

  14. I am disappointed that the contribution by Pádraig McCarthy “Movement on same-sex union in Europe” @ 7 was shoved into a thread rather than being given more prominence. The judgement of the ECHR is surely of key importance here as the YES campaign is basing its argument that SSM is a ‘civil right’ indeed ‘the civil right issue of our time’ as Eamon Gilmore put it.
    I find it astonishing that Catholic priests in Ireland are arguing in favour of this measure.

  15. Adrian Grenham says:

    Pope Francis has repeatedly said that marriage should not be redefined and that children deserve a mother and a father whenever possible.
    I wonder whether his opinion – or Fr. Pádraig Standún’s – is closer to God’s or our Mother Mary’s on this issue.

  16. Mary Cunningham says:

    Yes, Archbishop Martin, we are made female and male in the image and likeness of God. God also made some of us straight, gay, bisexual and transgendered.
    Your final sentence is puzzling. ‘Young people’ are not an homogeneous group.
    “The Synod of Bishops will be a crucial moment in the renewal of the Church’s teaching especially to young people who aspire to a happy and fulfilled marriage and family life as one of the most vital dimensions of their lives”
    Do you mean ‘especially to straight young people’? Otherwise, all you have argued before does not make sense.
    Pádraig O Standun cuts to the heart of the matter.
    What would the brave and compassionate Jesus do?
    Pádraig McCarthy, a few brief points:
    Have you explored who and what are behind the ECLJ, an offshoot of the US ACLJ? This was the brainchild of the extreme right wing ex US presidential candidate, Pat Robertson.
    The paper you quote from Puppinck, far from being information only, ends with a blatant agenda driven attack on civil partnerships.
    The ‘causes’ and definitions of homosexuality are irrelevant to the Referendum and to this debate.
    As you quote from,
    if you had scrolled down a bit further, you would have found the following:
    “Numerous studies have shown that the children of gay parents are as likely to be healthy and well-adjusted as children raised in heterosexual households.”
    Mary Cunningham

  17. At 14 . I omitted one word .I meant to say samesex heterosexual couples can marry . Also to Joe @13 .Couples who marry would be very unlikely to be aware that they were infertile and cannot have the longed for family . As for older people they just did not meet the right person when they were younger, that’s just life.

  18. Joe O'Leary says:

    With the advances of science, unfertile couples will no doubt be more and more aware of their condition before marriage. In any case, those who dread surrogacy could call for such marriages to be annulled once their infertility becomes apparent. Older people are often remarrying — something once regarded with something of a moral shudder.
    What is appalling is that society and the church put so many obstacles in the way of human happiness, typing people up in knots and condemning them to loneliness or unhappiness.
    “If the Referendum passes it will be legal for samesex heterosexual couples to marry also perhaps for companionship,”
    Why is that any more bizarre than marriages between a homosexual man and a homosexual woman, which are perfectly legal? (Classic instance: Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland.) The idea that “consummation” is of supreme importance for the sealing of the marriage bond (making a sacramental marriage indissoluble in Canon Law) is rather archaic.

  19. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Mary Cunningham @ 17:
    If I confined myself to sources without an agenda, I’d do very little reading! The fact that there is an agenda does not mean that there is nothing relevant to the debate. My agenda is to try to present material in a factual and balanced way. I try to consult every side – there are more than two!
    What you say about Puppinck does not mean that the data he presents are invalid. If you believe he is mistaken in what I quoted, perhaps you would help us by pointing out where.
    The Referendum arises from the reality of homosexuality. Understanding homosexuality is not the focus of the Referendum, but can be helpful background.
    I quoted from what was relevant to what I wanted to say. The discussion on the experience of the children of gay parents is a much bigger debate. I also ask myself what kind of agenda the American Psychiatric Association may have. I have stated above the agenda I try to follow; to what extent I am successful readers may judge. How would you state what your agenda is?

  20. The Church is very intent on preserving marriage for heterosexual couples to the exclusion of other kinds of relationships. But the Church has not made it easy for heterosexual married couples to remain in the Church. With its myriad of rules and regulations of how heterosexual couples conduct their sexual relationships the Church has forced many married couples to leave the Church.
    Also something does not sit right with the analogy of the Church as Bride and Christ as the Bridegroom. Bride and Bridegroom suggests a sexual relationship. Yet Jesus of Nazareth is portrayed as celibate. In his book Paul, a Critical Life, the late Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, when discussing Paul’s marital or non-marital status says that it was not normal for a young Jewish man not to be married. And those who decided not to marry were considered abnormal by their contemporaries. So Jerome Murphy-O’Connor assumes that Paul was married at some stage in his life. If Jesus, a young Jewish man, is like us in all things except sin, then why was he not married? And why is this not mentioned in the Gospels.
    Also the Church is comprised of an all male, celibate hierarchy so what kind of relationship is that between a celibate Christ, the Groom, and a celibate all male hierarchy, the Bridegroom? Also we have an all male God-head, made up of three divine male persons, eternally in love with each other. Nowhere in all of this male celibate doctrine is there room for or mention of the complimentarity of heterosexual marriage. Something does not add up.

  21. Neil Bray says:

    My wife and I while on a leaflet drop for the “no” vote met a self confessed atheist who explained (very politely) he is voting “yes” confident that an overall “yes vote” will be the final nail in the coffin of Catholicism in Ireland.
    If he is right, is there a chance that given the public proclamations of a daily increasing number of priests and religious regarding their intentions to augment his “yes” vote, that the said priests and religious are perhaps engaging in a “hoist with their own petard?”
    They probably join our atheist friend in his “bring it on” wish. If they have a convincing argument that his prediction is mistaken, possibly changing his to a “no” vote, presumably the said priests and religious will delay informing him about his error of judgement until after May 22.
    Given that the outcome will be a landslide “yes vote,” predicting which of the priests concerned will be the first to witness to a “catholic same-sex wedding” adds a certain excitement to life. Unfortunately Paddy Power isn’t biting. Its affect on the said coffin (often implicitly alluded to on this website) is unknown. But be not afraid – the lid on this coffin tends not to get sealed.
    “Thy will be done” on the 22nd and here’s to a great World Cup in the Autumn.

  22. Mary Cunningham says:

    Pádraig Mc Carthy @20
    The core of my decision to vote ‘yes’, lies in the hope that ALL of our young people can,
    “aspire to a happy and fulfilled marriage and family life as one of the most vital dimensions of their lives”,
    as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wrote above.
    I deeply feel that this blessing should not be confined only to heterosexual people.
    How will the essence of my marriage, or indeed anyone else’s, change by extending it to our brothers and sisters?

  23. There was no need to hold this Referendum if we had political leadership in this country.I was reading an article in the Irish Times today written by Anthony Coughlan who is Director of the National Platform EU research and Information and retired associate professor of Social Policy,Trinity College Dublin. He claims that the most effective way of doing justice to the LGBT people would be to put Civil Partnerships into the Irish Constitiution parallel to the status of marraige as it has always been understood. Building on Civil Partnership would be a creative social policy initative which would do justice to the one to two per cent of the population who are homosexual without redefining marraige for the 98-99 per cent who are not, with many unconsidered and unintended consequences. He states : No country in the world has put same-sex marraige into it’s written Constitution because of the permanent irreversible and unforeseen consequences of such a step. On Social policy grounds we should not do that either on Friday week 22nd May. There is a lot more in the Article about the Lisbon Treaty Protocol and the wider effect a yes vote would mean for all 28 EU States. What we have now is a situation where almost everyone wants the LGBT community to be embraced as equals and we are been asked to take sides when it could have been avoided .

  24. Prodigal Son says:

    The pattern continues. People favouring a “yes vote” still decline to address the unfair treatment of children copperfastened by a “yes vote.”
    Padraig McCarthy has done very well. He may even agree with my contention. The central question in the referendum is complementarity, parental, physical, psychological and emotional. A “yes vote” renders complementarity merely accidental constitutionally.
    However complementarity is the great distinguishing fact between marriage and so called gay marriage. Will the constitutional drive to paper over it succeed? If not the quest for equality gets frustrated. This realisation is one reason why some people of same sex attraction are voting “no.”

  25. Joe O'Leary says:

    Lots of gay folk dislike marriage, including gay marriage, but still feel they cannot deny the right to marry to those who want it.
    If there was a referendum to abolish civil marriage altogether, I suspect it would garner some support.
    Equality under the law is not the same thing as sameness in all respects. The idea that marriage is about procreation has stumbled on the fact of our full recognition of marriages of the elderly and the sterile. Now the idea that marriage is about complementarity is being touted. But two people who want to get married are really not that caught up in an ideology of complementarity. It is the complementarity between the two as unique individuals that means most to them. There is not much difference between male-female and same-sex couples in this respect.

  26. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    @ 26: Joe O’Leary:
    “If there was a referendum to abolish civil marriage altogether, I suspect it would garner some support.”
    Why does a State authority want to regulate personal relationships between adult citizens anyway? In the case of the man-woman relationship, the interest of the State may arise historically from the fact that that is the only relationship which can produce new citizens, new economically productive citizens, and healthy new citizens who will be capable of being effective members of the State’s armed forces. In this way, the heterosexual relationship is literally vital to the State: if there were no heterosexual intercourse for 60 years, the State would have no future. In this way it is different from same-sex relationships, where the State has not the same vital interest.
    “The idea that marriage is about procreation has stumbled on the fact of our full recognition of marriages of the elderly and the sterile.”
    It is not that marriage is about procreation. It is that the heterosexual relationship (as for example formalised in marriage) is the only relationship which can bring about procreation without external intervention; not that it will necessarily result in procreation in every case.
    “Now the idea that marriage is about complementarity is being touted.” It is not just “now” that the idea is being “touted”. Does the Book of Genesis “tout” the idea when it says, “it is not good that the human being should be alone”?
    “It is the complementarity between the two as unique individuals that means most to them. There is not much difference between male-female and same-sex couples in this respect.” I wonder is that true. Apart altogether from the genital sexual dimension, it seems to me that there is considerable personal difference between male-female and same-sex relationships. And in the genital-sexual dimension, there are major differences.
    It could be that in forcing the two kinds of relationship under the one name and legal provision of Marriage, it does a dis-service to the distinct same-sex relationship, where it is not an even match in the areas in which they differ. It would be far more sensible and supportive to make constitutional provision to establish recognition of same-sex relationships in their own right.

  27. Catherine Reid says:

    Padraig McCarthy @ 27
    “it is not good that the human being should be alone”
    Well it seems Padraig needs to “tout” the above to the Vatican as they have obviously never heard of it. It has always struck me as being completely against nature that they ruled that ordained priests cannot marry (if they so wish). In doing so they prevent them having the love and companionship that many of them desire.

  28. Cornelius Martin says:

    Those of us who are married know that complementarity is about much more than the physical. Children may not articulate it but are aware of parental complementarity through experience. Complementarity comes into play in various forms of decision making. Complementarity changes male and female understanding of love as love deepens between spouses. Complementarity is a source of personal development based on difference and a t times a source of frustration!

  29. Nessan Vaughan says:

    While I will be voting ‘Yes, in the marriage referendum, I welcome the tone of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s contribution to the debate. It is not strident or insulting, unlike the contributions of several of his episcopal colleagues. I also welcome his admission about past wrongs of the Church and her insensitivity in the treatment of gays.
    That said, I intend, along with Tony Flannery and many of his colleagues in the ACP, voting in favour of the proposition.

  30. In the past thousands of women were abandoned by the fathers of their babies,disowned by their families and disappeared into mother and baby homes run by religious orders . This set in train a lifetime of pain and suffering for the mothers who had no other option available to them in those dark times. Many spent the rest of their lives trying to find their long lost child, even just to know what happened to them and did they have a good life. If the Referendum passes will we have in the future the same scenarios been played over again where we will have children looking for the mothers or fathers they never knew, as human beings we all have a primal need to know who we are and where we came from. Who will they blame . It won’t be the people who voted No.

  31. Mark O'Meara says:

    Four bishops are today (Sunday 17th May) using the pulpits in their dioceses to urge churchgoers to vote ‘No’ in the upcoming referendum.
    I thought the days were long gone, when people were expected to vote as their bishops instructed?
    If the bishops wish to keep an alternative (Church) view of marriage to that of the State, let them do so, and let them argue their case. But not from the pulpit.
    Fortunately, it is likely that this interference will be counter-productive, generating a few more ‘Yes’ votes. The Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways.

  32. Joe O'Leary says:

    “It is not good for the man to be alone” said God — and he at first tried to entertain the protoplast with animals. Eve fit the bill better — but for many an Adam she would not fit the bill at all and a Steve would be required — nor would God grudge to supply such a helpmeet, to judge from how warmly he writes of the love between David and Jonathan.

  33. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Joe O’Leary @ 30: “the love between David and Jonathan.”
    Yes, indeed. At Jonathan’s death, David sang: “Very dear you were to me, your love more wonderful to me than the love of a woman.” (2 Samuel 1:26) No mention of marriage. People speculate, of course. But there are different relationships. We impoverish life if we expect all such relationships to be genital. Marriage adds another dimension with one person. I have some wonderful friends, male and female, for which I thank God.

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