The Archbishop of Dublin set out his vision for an “ethic of equality” in which gay people and their relationships are recognised and cherished while marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples only.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was speaking to diocesan communications officers at All Hallows’, Dublin, on Wednesday, ahead of the referendum on whether the constitution should be changed to allow for gay marriage to be legalised.
He acknowledged that the Church had given “harsh” treatment to gays and lesbians in the past – “and in some cases still today”.
But he said: “A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.”
The archbishop said the Church had at times used “harsh”, “insensitive and overly judgemental” language to present a message of love, and had presented rational argument as a dogma everyone must accept. But this was no justification for people today to replace dogmatism with “sound-bite-ism” as a way of avoiding rational debate, he said.
The Church still needed to learn to voice its criticism “clearly and without fear”, but in language that “which respects her Master”.
The archbishop highlighted Pope Francis’ recent comments about the complementarity of a heterosexual couple, which Martin said were the “fundamental” question in the issue of whether marriage should be extended to gay couples.
He chided people who say the debate is not a religious one, yet selectively quote the Pope at will. “I find it interesting that many of those supporting the yes campaign object to the use of religious language, but they are not shy in quoting Pope Francis in support of their arguments, although I feel that their knowledge of Pope Francis’ repertoire is somewhat restricted,” he said.
Read the archbishop’s address here.