Bishops urge their congregations to vote in referendums

‘Marriage as understood by the great religious traditions ... is that of man and woman’

The opposition of Pope Francis to same-sex marriage in his native Argentina was referred to by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin in a message read in parishes at the weekend.

“In the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, Pope Francis was very clear that he was against same-sex marriage yet he was consistent in telling people not to make judgements on any individual,” Archbishop Martin said.

He said the change proposed in Friday’s referendum “is not simply about extending marriage rights to others; it is not just a debate about religious views; it is a fundamental change in the philosophy which underpins cohesion in society and thus affects and concerns every citizen”.

He added: “Some say that the change will not affect those who do not agree with it and will not affect marriages which take place in Church. No politician can promise that, since it will be exclusively up to the courts to interpret the changed Constitution”.


In his first pastoral letter the new Archbishop of Cashel Kieran O’Reilly said that “to change a fundamental article of our Constitution is a serious and significant event. For that reason we have urged that all people reflect carefully on how they vote.”

Marriage “as understood by the great religious traditions of the world is that of the union between a man and a woman. This is enshrined I believe in the natural order. As Catholics our understanding of marriage is taken from human experience but also from the Word of God as revealed in the Bible and the tradition of the Church,” he said.

There was, he said, “no desire, on my part or that of the bishops, to alienate or denigrate any person or group of persons in our society. We uphold the dignity of each person.”

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said "we need to acknowledge that the issue of same-sex relationship is a reality for many in our society and, among them, families in our own parishes... This is a challenge for the Church, both now and for the years ahead."

He believed however “that society can respond to the human rights of all who live together in committed relationships, without changing the meaning of marriage.” He too encouraged people “to reflect carefully, to pray for wisdom from God’s spirit and then to go out and vote on Friday.”

The Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan described these as "critical times for marriage in our society."

He said: “Neither the Church nor the State invented marriage and neither can change its nature.” Voting no in the referendum “is voting to retain our definition of marriage. It is not a vote against equality,” he said.

Bishop of Killala John Fleming said: "The Church's vision for marriage and the family is based on faith and reason. It is shared by other faith traditions and by people who have no religious belief."

The proposed amendment “not only redefines marriage in the Constitution but it also, as a result, changes the understanding of the family as outlined in the Constitution,” he said.

“Everyone, including gay and lesbian people, together with their parents and family members, must think carefully on all the issues involved and vote accordingly,” he said.

Bishop of Ossory Seamus Freeman called on people “to consider very carefully the profound implications which this constitutional amendment would have on the family environment and on our understanding of parenthood.”

The desire to protect marriage and the family was “not intended to block or deny equality for others. In fact the referendum was not about equality. “It is to be truthful about the genuine difference between a union of a man and a woman and a union between two people of the same-sex. To vote ‘No’ is simply to remain true to the understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman.”

The Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan said the referendum, if passed, "will change the meaning of marriage in the Constitution of Ireland, and as understood by society for centuries."

It would “redefine our understanding of marriage, from a unique relationship different from all others, to being another adult relationship regardless of gender.”

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times