Friday 21 October 2016

Rejecting gay marriage won't damage our global reputation

Published 09/04/2015 | 02:30

Same-sex marriage poll
Same-sex marriage poll

In the forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, it's worth making the point that we don't owe our existence as a species to ideologically defined 'equality' but to sexual complementarity - which has been has been the basic defining characteristic of marriage in all major societies throughout history until the present and which, by definition, exists only between men and women and is not the same as sexual orientation/attraction.

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While the proposed Constitutional amendment is promoted as being about 'equality,' there's another question of fundamental importance to be decided on May 22.

Should we, as a society, retain a special social institution, i.e. marriage as it has been understood until now, that specifically recognises the unique significance of sexual complementarity, without which society wouldn't exist because we ourselves wouldn't exist, whatever our sexual orientation?

Or should we, in effect, replace it with what amounts to a new institution, also called 'marriage' but inherently different in its nature from the present institution?

If 'marriage equality' is approved on May 22, what will then be called 'marriage' will have no clear basic defining characteristic that will make it uniquely significant among social institutions.

Simply retaining the outward form of the institution as it is at present will do nothing more than disguise this loss of uniqueness, which will be the inevitable price to pay for 'equality.' It has been claimed that same-sex marriage is an evolutionary step, but this is not the case. While it's true there have been changes to the institution over time, what has remained constant until now is that marriage is synonymous with sexual complementarity. Therefore, abandoning this most fundamental characteristic of the institution is not evolutionary but amounts to a revolution of the most radical possible kind.

It has also been claimed that rejection of same-sex marriage would damage our international reputation. The truth is that adopting it would leave us out of step with 90pc of the countries of the world, including two of our major EU partners, Germany and Italy. Given that same-sex marriage is a specifically Western concept (and not entirely accepted even in the West itself) its status worldwide is unlikely to change significantly any time soon, if ever.

For the above reasons, among others, this writer intends to vote 'No' on May 22.

Hugh Gibney

Athboy, Co Meath

Catholic Church is not monolithic

The 'Catholic Church' is often portrayed and perceived as opposing progressive human rights issues such as in the continuing debate on marriage equality.

However, this view that the Catholic Church can be viewed as an organisation which speaks with 'una voce' does not reflect the contemporary Catholic Church.

While this portrayal of the Catholic Church as a monolithic, autocratic structure appeals to the diminishing conservative wing of our church it does not reflect the views of increasingly more progressive believers who believe that the Church is a movement led by the Spirit of God to recognise the basic equality of all persons, irrespective of sexual orientation. In this contemporary Catholic Church, all of us share a basic unity in essential teachings but we have the God-given freedom to differ in non-essentials.

On this basis, very many Catholics including priests - maybe even a Bishop - will vote positively to welcome our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to enjoy the same status regarding civil marriage as their other brothers and sisters.

Brendan Butler

Malahide , Co Dublin

Religious monopoly on schools

There is a country where religious institutions have a near total monopoly on primary school patronage, a country where parents - irrespective of their religious beliefs - face little choice but to have their children admitted to a certain religion just so that they may access a local school, a country where teachers are compelled to profess certain beliefs if they want to teach children.

Believe it or not, this country is a 'republic'. It is not the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is not a country in the Middle East. This is a country in the European Union. This country is the Republic of Ireland.

In 2015, over 90pc of primary schools are still under the management of religious institutions.

The number of Irish people with no religion - atheists and agnostics - increased by 400pc in Ireland between 1991 and 2011 to a total of 277,237. Almost a third of weddings last year were non-religious. Is it right that these people should have to have their sons and daughters baptised - irrespective of their beliefs - just so that they may avail of their right to an education?

Despite the recommendations of the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, and despite the results of the 2012 Department of Education surveys showing parental demand for change of patron in 28 of the 43 areas surveyed, apart from the two Catholic schools which merged in Dublin 8 to create a vacant building for Educate Together, to date just one school - a Church of Ireland primary school in Co Mayo - has been transferred to another patron.

Indoctrination is not education. It does not encourage independent and critical thinking.

Religions are mutually exclusive claims as to revealed truth. By definition, they cannot all be true, as they espouse contradictory beliefs. Why should one religion be licenced by the State to dominate the management of primary education?

It is high time to end the State-sponsored system of religious discrimination in our primary schools.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Surely, it's the taxpayer who funds state schools. Ergo, these taxpayers should automatically have access for their children to the state school in their catchment area.

Where does religion or anything else enter the equation?

Clare Neville

Sandycove, Co Dublin

Oddities of local government

The Irish Independent and Paul Melia are to be congratulated on the continued and informed focus on Local Government as evidenced by the article on council-owned property (Irish Independent, April 8).

However, it should be noted that, in one of the huge number of oddities in Irish local government, the power to purchase land is exclusively an Executive function, while the power to sell land is reserved to councillors.

However, the notion that the Department of the Environment that continues to impose our dysfunctional system of local government is examining the situation simply fills me with despair - not hope.

Councillor Dermot Lacey (Labour)

Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Irish Independent

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