Archbishops and leading theologian call for Yes vote

‘Understanding of marriage in the Church has evolved’

Two retired Church of Ireland archbishops of Dublin and a leading Catholic theologian have called for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum next week.

Archbishop John Neill, the archbishop of Dublin from 2002 to 2011, told The Irish Times he was calling for a Yes vote as "we now recognise that there are many different types of unions and I don't see why they cannot have the protection and status of marriage". He was also "quite happy this [referendum] wouldn't affect the status of children."

He said “the understanding of marriage in the church has evolved, putting partnership first before procreation”, in which context “there is less of a problem about same-sex marriage”. A Yes result would not affect the church’s teaching on marriage and it could continue “to order [its] own affairs,” he said. But he hoped church thinking would evolve “to take account of this distinction.”

Walton Empey, archbishop of Dublin from 1996 to 2002, said: "I certainly have no hesitation in calling for a Yes vote."


No hesitation Speaking to The Irish Times, he said: "I think people are trying to confuse the issue. Quite clearly the S

tate has every right to legislate for its own citizens. I don’t see how it interferes with church teaching or understanding.”

He said he knew “too many really wonderful gay people, many of whom I admire and, forgive the phrase, some of whom are my best friends. I will have absolutely no hesitation in voting Yes.”

Augustinian theologian Fr Gabriel Daly has said he too would be voting Yes and believed Catholics could do so "with good conscience in any referendum on the subject".

Fr Daly, a retired lecturer in theology at the Milltown Institute in Dublin, the Irish School of Ecumenics and Trinity College Dublin, said it was "an issue for the State, not for the church. Marriage as a sacrament is the proper concern of the church. If the Yes vote succeeds in Ireland, it will be for the church to decide whether to co-operate or not."

Writing in the current issue of the Dominicans' Doctrine and Life magazine, he said he was "unimpressed by the claim that allowing gay men and lesbian women to marry members of their own sex necessarily has an effect on the Christian idea of marriage".

He added: “Christians are perfectly free to carry on without any threat to their customary understanding of marriage.”

Fr Daly also said “that questions to do with the adoption of children are distinct from those of gay marriage”.

He said he respected but did not share “the view of those who argue that marriage cannot be adequately discussed without considering the rights of children”.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times