Bishops may use 'nuclear option' if same-sex vote is passed
The fact that the Church has raised the prospect of priests refusing to carry out the civil registration of marriages if next month's referendum is passed is a sign of how fundamental the hierarchy think such a redefinition would be. It's also a high-risk strategy that could dramatically affect the decisions couples make about their weddings.
Of the roughly 22,000 marriages in Ireland last year, about 60pc (13,072) took place in the Catholic Church. In these circumstances, the priest who presided at the ceremony, as well as fulfilling the religious function, acted as the solemniser on behalf of the State. In other words, he witnessed the solemn contract which gives the relationship legal status.
This has never presented a problem in the past, since the Church and State more or less had a common agreed understanding of marriage as an exclusive relationship between a man and woman. But all of that changes if the traditional understanding is no longer shared.