Catholic priests’ group won’t take stance on referendum

Association of Catholic Priests urges clergy to avoid directing same-sex marriage vote

The Association of Catholic Priests has decided not to take a position on the same-sex marriage referendum on May 22nd, and has urged priests not to direct parishioners to vote either Yes or No.

In a statement the group, which has a membership of more than 1,000 priests in Ireland, said: "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."

The association appealed for “a respectful and civilised debate in which the issues involved can be discussed in a calm and reasonable manner”.

“Sexual orientation does not debar anyone from God’s love. If as priests we are speaking on this matter, we need to remember that the use of intemperate language can cause deep hurt among gay people and their families, as well as doing further damage to an already ailing church.”

The association said priests had a “particular responsibility” to measure their words carefully, and “not to direct their parishioners to vote Yes or No”.

“We look forward to a debate that will be characterised by freedom of speech and respectful listening so that the best result for the Irish people might be reached.”

Position of Christians

Meanwhile, the archdiocese of Dublin has issued a transcript of what Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in response to a question on the position of Christians who did not agree with same-sex marriage, should the referendum be passed.

Archbishop Martin was speaking following a talk he delivered on "The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today" at an Iona Institute gathering on Thursday night.

The transcript was issued by the archdiocese in response to what it described as “commentary, some inaccurate, in mainstream and social media in recent days concerning responses given by Archbishop Martin to a question at a public meeting which he addressed in Dublin last week, in particular in relation to freedom of conscience”.

The archdiocese said that at the event “the archbishop limited his comments to the broad issue of freedom of conscience, without making any specific proposals in the context of the upcoming referendum”.

It had been reported that Archbishop Martin had called on the Government to insert a “conscience clause” in the legislation to accommodate troubled Christians should the referendum be passed.

‘Brutal persecution’

On a more global scale, the Irish Catholic Bishops have joined with Pope Francis in calling for an end to the "brutal persecution" of minorities in the name of religion. They prayed for "a renewed global commitment to respect freedom of conscience and religion".

The bishops said that “across the world the denial of the freedom of conscience and religion is closely connected to other human rights abuses”.

“The consequences include violent conflict, loss of life, forced displacement of populations, and the abduction and exploitation of women and children. This is a truly global crisis, but it is the poorest communities that remain most at risk.”