The Archbishop of Dublin has hit out at those in the 'No' camp in the upcoming marriage referendum who resort to "obnoxious" language towards gays and lesbians.
In an address on 'The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today' last night, Dr Diarmuid Martin revealed he had received correspondence from people who supported a 'No' vote, whose language was "not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting and unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people".
He admonished his correspondents, warning them that if they used such language to support a position they felt was Christian "then all I can say is that they have forgotten something essential about the Christian message".
But the Archbishop also said much of the discussions on marriage and the family in Ireland today were polemical.
In an address hosted by the Iona Institute, the pro-marriage think tank, the Archbishop said that an ethics of equality did not require uniformity.
"There can be an ethic of equality, which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference," he said.
Dr Martin suggested that a pluralist society could be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation had their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference.
"I'm not saying that gay and lesbian people are unloving or that their love is somehow deficient compared to others, I am talking about a uniqueness in the male-female relationship," he said.
The Archbishop of Dublin also challenged the Children and Family Relationships Bill, underlining that no person existed who was not the issue of a male and a female.
"Even if it were possible to clone a child, that child would still bear the genetic imprint of a male and a female. Genetic parentage is not irrelevant," he said. Dr Martin warned that discussion on the definitions of marriage required time and frank and balanced discussion, as he also warned that the normal parliamentary procedures in this debate seemed rushed.
Acknowledging that some people will question his right to pontificate on a theme about which "I have no experience and understanding", he recalled former president Mary McAleese "rightly" challenging bishops about their lack of experience in changing nappies.
"I must be honest and say that I am also lacking in knowledge of more fundamental day-to-day realities of the sexual, marital or parental experiences in a family," he said.