Referendums: Presbyterian Church disappointed at ‘ambiguity’ in wording of proposed amendments

Amendment proposing removal of link between marriage and family an ‘indication of Ireland’s changing culture’

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has expressed disappointment at the wording for the proposed constitutional amendments on care and family due to be voted on in referendums on Friday.

In a statement, the church’s council for public affairs said: “The ambiguity and lack of clarity contained within some of the amendments will mean that it is unlikely to introduce meaningful change, which could have been of benefit to society as a whole.

“The proposed amendment, which seeks to remove the link between marriage and family, is also disappointing, but is an indication of Ireland’s changing culture.”

In the March 8th referendums, the Government proposes expanding the constitutional definition of family to recognise “durable relationships”, such as cohabiting couples and their children, and replace the language around “women in the home” with wording recognising care within families.

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“In looking at what is being proposed, with regards to Article 41.3.1, which states that ‘the family is founded upon the institution of marriage’, we are disappointed that the proposed amendment seeks to remove the link between marriage and family,” the church’s statement said.

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It acknowledged “within society there are a great many other households and families, which are not founded on our view of marriage”, adding that “while we recognise each of these families, we would want to hold to the biblical definition of marriage, as God’s intended design for society”.

On the proposed amendment of Article 41.3.1 “to include the term ‘other durable relationships’,” the church said: “We are not alone in foreseeing major problems that will arise from the lack of clarity surrounding this new definition and interpretation of ‘durable relationships’ in the proposed new text.”

As regards the position of women and mothers in the home, it said that “while, we recognise and affirm the pivotal role that mothers have in nurturing and bringing up children, we are, however, concerned that the deletion of this Article may unintentionally devalue their pivotal role to the determent of society”.

The church was “also concerned that the rewording of the second part of the Article 41.2.2, with the removal of the words ‘economic’ and ‘labour’ and their replacement with the general concept of ‘support’, moves us in a direction that fails to recognise the huge economic, as well as the social value of parents (mothers and fathers), who have the ability to stay at home with their children during their formative years.”

On the proposed amendment for 41.2.2, it was “concerned that the lack of inclusion of any reference to parents undermines the significant role that they have in a child’s life, as we would like to see the relationship between a child and their parent/s affirmed”.

The statement concluded that “as a Church that embraces democracy as part of its Presbyterian ethos, these are matters for the people to decide. We therefore encourage Church members to vote and consider these matters prayerfully and with great care.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times