Bishops step up opposition to gay marriage
The Catholic Church has ramped up its official opposition to the marriage referendum with no less than six of the country's bishops making public statements arguing against any change to the Constitution.
The most prominent was Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, the most senior prelate in the west of Ireland. But mass-goers in the dioceses of Limerick, Kerry, Waterford and Lismore, Kilmore and Clonfert also heard yesterday from their bishops, who outlined their reasons for saying No to the referendum proposal.
Appealing to people not to support the referendum proposal, Archbishop Neary said the bishops were "not disparaging anyone" or being "disrespectful to same-sex relationships".
In a statement read out to congregations of the archdiocese of Tuam yesterday, Dr Neary said that despite what people were being led to believe, the referendum was not about same-sex relationships or about equality, but about the family.
"We are not taking a conservative viewpoint or wilfully inhibiting genuine progress. We are not being mean-spirited towards those who have same-sex attractions," he stated.
Referring to the introduction of civil partnerships, Dr Neary said this gave same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in terms of inheritance rights, next-of-kin status, employment, and tax-related benefits.
"Such relationships ought not, however, be classified as marriage," he stated.
"Are we going to be the first generation in human history to say that mothers and fathers don't matter anymore in the upbringing of children?" he asked.
His views were echoed by Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick, Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert, Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry, Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore, and Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore who also issued statements on the referendum.
In his message, Bishop Leo O'Reilly asked if teachers and marriage counsellors would be obliged, against their conscience, to teach or provide services "manifestly at variance" with their ethos.
Asking if priests would be obliged to marry same-sex couples who request it, Bishop O'Reilly commented: "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."