Catholic priest advises Protestant guidance on referendum
Priest ‘unconvinced by many of arguments offered by both sides’
Fr Brendan Hoban, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, said that “come Friday, there’s no middle ground between Yes and No. ‘Maybe’ isn’t on the ballot paper.” Photograph: Alan Betson
A prominent Catholic priest has called on people to take Church of Ireland advice when it comes to voting in the same sex referendum.
Fr Brendan Hoban, co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said that “come Friday, there’s no middle ground between Yes and No. ‘Maybe’ isn’t on the ballot paper. Perhaps the best guide is the advice given by the Church of Ireland to its members – vote, using your conscience.”
Speaking to The Irish Times, Fr Hoban, parish priest at Moygownagh in Co Mayo, also confirmed that the ACP had advised members “not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No” in the referendum.
The ACP itself has not taken a position on the revferendum. In a statement on March 23rd it said that “after a consultation with our members, the results of which indicated clearly a wide range of views, the Association of Catholic Priests has decided not to adopt a position in favour or against the marriage equality referendum”.
In his Western People column this week, Fr Hoban described himself as “unconvinced by many of the arguments offered by both the Yes and No sides”.
His own “understanding of the complexity of gender issues and the hidden Gethsemane of so many gay people” was heightened through two incidents.
One occurred during a radio interview on suicide involving a university student who had attempted suicide three times. Asked why the young man responded, “ . . . the attitude of the Catholic Church, because I’m gay”.
The Church’s description of gay people as “intrinsically disordered”. ..“felt particularly by gay sons and daughters in strong faith-families, had terrible and sometimes fatal consequences,” Fr Hoban said.
The second instance involved “a letter from a gay young man whom I know. He wrote that although he was a practising Catholic all his life, had a deep faith and didn’t want to compromise that faith, he felt that for his own mental well-being he was contemplating cutting off all contact with his Church.”
Fr Hoban felt that in both cases “there was no doubting the pain involved from the sense of rejection they experienced in their Church”.
Meanwhile, the Yes Equality campaign has issued a statement following Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin’s comments on Wednesday’s RTÉ’s Six One News.
Spokeswoman Gráinne Healy said a Yes vote would have “no bearing on the Catholic sacrament of marriage, that is marriages conducted in a Catholic church”.
She quoted the Referendum Commission chair Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who said “the function that a priest or minister or civil registrar performs, in relation to a civil side of marriage, is simply to register it, to perform the civil requirements that are necessary to effect a marriage.”
She concluded: “In the interest of clarity we would like to reiterate that the choice before the Irish people this Friday is to allow lesbian and gay people to get married in secular civil marriages, that is marriages that take place in registry offices. A Yes vote will not in any way affect a religious marriage.”