CARDINAL Sean Brady has warned legislators that they are directly challenging the constitutional protection for the family and leaving registrars of marriage open to prosecution by planning to introduce civil partnership for gay and lesbian couples.
He said the people of Ireland would soon have to choose to "stand clearly on the side of Christ or depart from him".
The cardinal claimed that "what the Government is planning will hugely change people's concept of the family. Nevertheless, marriage between a man and a woman will always remain the ideal environment in which to raise children.
"Any government that undermines such an environment could hardly be said to be promoting the common good".
He said that during the next Dail term politicians and citizens will be asked to make a fundamental choice about the future of marriage and the family in Ireland.
"They will be asked to approve legislation and policy which, among other things, will make same-sex partnerships equal in status to marriage, with the same benefits in tax and welfare as married couples -- the only difference being the right to adopt-- will give cohabiting same-sex, or opposite-sex, partners the same status as marriage, after they have lived together for a short period, will remove 'marital status' from key legislation and public documentation and replace it with 'civil status', thus directly challenging the constitutional recognition that marriage is 'a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law'."
Cardinal Brady claimed that any Registrar of Marriage who, in conscience, declines to officiate at same-sex 'weddings', will be guilty of an offence.