Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On my appointment as Bishop of Ossory in December 2007, I chose the words Libertas in Veritate, The truth will make you free (John 8: 32),from scripture to guide me in my ministry. Now, over seven years later, these words resonate with me more strongly than ever as we prepare to vote on the changes proposed by the Marriage Referendum on 22nd May 2015.
Marriage is of fundamental importance for children, mothers, fathers, and society. I ask the faithful in our diocese to consider very carefully the profound implications which this constitutional amendment would have on the family environment and on our understanding of parenthood. Marriage is important – Reflect before you change it.
We come to this debate believing that the union of a man and a woman in marriage, open to the procreation of children, is a gift from God who created us “male and female”. Reason also points to the truth about human sexuality that makes the relationship between a man and a woman unique. Mothers and fathers bring different, yet complementary gifts and strengths into a child’s life.
There can be no doubt that those seeking a yes vote are motivated by love and care for their homosexual brothers and sisters and this is entirely good and Christian. All of us must value each other and be caring and respectful. We must honour the views of people who think differently to us, trusting that our own sincerely held views, grounded in faith, will also be heard and respected.
Our desire to protect marriage and the family as it is currently understood in the Constitution is not intended to block or deny equality for others. In fact, although it is presented as such, this Referendum is not about equality. After all true equality recognises difference.
In his recent teachings, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, stressed the importance of this when he speaks of the ‘the dignity of difference’. He refers to the difference between men and women and the beautiful, God given plan of how their complementarity leads to the new life of children. It is not a judgment on same-sex unions to say that there are intrinsically different to a union between a man and a woman. Being different does not make us any lesser or unequal.
In fact, a real search for equality requires us to be truthful about differences so as to then ensure that we are just and compassionate in how we respond to these differences. To vote No in this Referendum is not, therefore, contrary to the value of equality. It is to be truthful about the genuine difference between a union of a man and a woman and a union between two people of the same sex. To vote No is simply to remain true to the understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman.
This understanding of marriage occupies a unique place of esteem in the Irish Constitution: it is provided there with the strongest possible legal support and protection. Despite what many think, the reason for this is not the esteem in which married love is held but rather, it is because the Constitution designates marriage as the institution upon which the family is founded (Article 41.3.1).
We are now being asked to recognise same-sex unions as marriage. If we think of marriage merely in terms of the public expression of adult love, this might make sense. This is not however how the Constitution understands marriage and, as the Referendum Commission has told us, the constitutional status of marriage, by which has to be meant its status as the foundation of the family, is not being altered. Where the Constitution is concerned, marriage is, and will remain, inextricably linked with having children.
The Marriage Referendum proposal is that we are being asked to vote Yes in order to recognise all loving adult relationships equally, whether homosexual or heterosexual, conferring exactly the same rights on both when it comes to procreation.
On May 22nd we are not voting on inequality and we are not voting simply on the real love of two adult people. In truth, our vote will have real implications for the family, for children and for our future as a nation. It is important that we cast our vote on the 22nd May 2015. I ask the faithful in our diocese to read the pastoral statement published by the Irish Bishops at our Spring General Meeting, “Marriage is Important – Reflect before you change it.”This Statement was distributed in parishes over several week-ends and is also available on our websitewww.ossory.ie
With every blessing of the Lord to all the faithful in our diocese, the Diocese of Ossory.
Yours faithfully in Christ,