A number of senior members of the Irish clergy called for a No vote in the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum during masses held at the weekend.
Speaking at masses held in the Archdiocese of Tuam Archbishop Michael Neary said the is "not about same-sex relationships or equality, but about the family".
He described marriage as a “union of a man and a woman, based on the complementarity of male and female . . . who have the potential for creating new life”.
He said the referendum is asking people to not only redefine marriage, but to redefine the family and through doing so depriving children of the right to grow up in a family with a mother and father.
The referendum, which will be held on May 22nd, is asking people to vote on whether to allow two people to marry each other, regardless of their sex.
Claiming the Church was not being disrespectful to same-sex relationships, Archbishop Neary said “civil partnerships have already been introduced which give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples . . . so why the need to redefine marriage?”
He said same-sex marriage was not a human right and that the same proposal had been defeated in other countries: “only one quarter of European countries have (introduced same-sex marriage) and none by a popular vote”.
“Our view of Christian marriage, properly explained and understood, is not in any way disrespectful of people who experience same-sex attraction. As a Church we believe every person is equal in the sight of God and should always be treated with love, dignity and respect.”
The Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said the proposed redefinition of marriage in the forthcoming referendum will have a profound impact on the public life and the personal lives of the citizens of our country.
In a letter distributed at Churches across the Diocese of Limerick he said the proposed “major shift” in the Constitution will have implications for the role of marriage and family.
Outlining why he cannot support the proposed amendment, Bishop Leahy said his and others’ concern on the No side had to do with how the proposed redefinition of marriage will impact on society as a whole, on family life that is already challenged, and in particular on children who have a right, except when this is not possible, to be raised by a mother and father.
The Bishop of Kerry, Ray Browne said same sex unions were "fundamentally different" from marriage and should develop independently under a different name.
“Here, as in many other western countries, marriage is under great pressure from so many aspects of modern life. We have a grave responsibility not to adopt policies that could further seriously undermine it,” he said.
Meanwhile the Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O’Reilly expressd “serious concerns” around freedom of religion in relation to the referendum:
“Will teachers be obliged, against their conscience, to teach the new understanding of marriage in schools? Will marriage counsellors and others who offer couples Catholic marriage care be required to provide services to those who are manifestly at variance with our ethos?
“Will priests, who are now generally registered as official solemnisers of marriage on behalf of the State, be obliged to marry same-sex couples who request it? If a baker can be brought before the courts in Northern Ireland on such a trivial matter as refusing a request from a same-sex couple to supply a cake with a gay slogan, we can be sure that a priest will soon find himself in the same position here,” he added.
In his pastoral message Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore said "common sense alone tells us that every child should have its 'mammy and daddy'".
“This has been the way since the dawn of civilization in every culture and on every continent...The referendum on 22 May is seeking to change the very meaning of marriage. It is like removing concrete foundations under a house and saying that any material will do,” he said.
“In what has turned out to be a desperately one-sided public debate I hope you will think long and hard about your decision”.
Bishop John Kirby of the Diocese of Clonfert said " to redefine marriage is to undermine it as a fundamental building block of society".
“Marriage should be reserved for the unique and complementary relationship between a man and a woman from which the generation and upbringing of children is uniquely possible,” he said.