Attempts to equate same-sex unions with marriage will always fail, says bishop

‘Essential’ sufficient time is given to evaluate any change to existing constitutional definition of marriage

Bishop Christopher Jones. Photograph: Alan Betson

The chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, Bishop Christopher Jones, has said he would welcome the opportunity to make an oral submission on same-sex marriage to the Convention on the Constitution.

“Given the fundamental nature of the issues involved and the relatively short time between the public request for submissions and the submission date, the Council would welcome the opportunity to make an oral submission to the convention in due course,” he said.

He has also requested that “sufficient time be given for a society-wide discussion of the fundamental importance of the family based on marriage ‘as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State’ (Article 41.1.2), before any action is taken by the convention or by Government that would alter the existing constitutional understanding of marriage and the protection of it.”

He said Article "specifically requires the State to guard the institution of marriage with 'special care' and 'protect it against attack'."

'Ethical probity'
It was therefore "essential that sufficient time is given to evaluate not only the ethical and legal probity of any change to the existing constitutional definition of marriage but also the potential impact it will have on the relationship between the family and the State, notably in relation to the rights of children".


In his written submission to the Convention, dated March 13th last, Bishop Jones said, “attempts to equate same-sex unions with marriage will always ultimately fail because it is objectively impossible for homosexual couples to achieve the same natural end toward which the sexual complementarity of male and female is ordered.”

He continued: “Therefore, were society to treat same-sex relationships and marriage as the same and therefore ‘equal’ would be to suggest that same-sex unions can be something that they are not.”

He noted how in Ireland, church and State co-operated closely in the solemnisation of marriages.

“Any change to the definition of marriage would create great difficulties,” he said, “and in the light of this if there were two totally different definitions of marriage the church could no longer carry out the civil element.”

Meanwhile, the Church of Ireland Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) group has strongly supported the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples, in its submission to the Convention.

It viewed “the existing inequalities between civil partnership and civil marriage as having a real-world detrimental impact on the lives of same-sex couples, and even more on children being raised by them”.

'Opt in'
It called "for churches and other faith groups to be allowed 'opt in' to registering same-sex marriages, while protecting them from any attempt at compulsion, as this is the best way to respect the religious freedoms of both those who support and those who oppose same-sex marriage".

This was “particularly important in the Irish context, where there is a history of civil marriage law being used to discriminate against religious minorities,” it said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times