The Archbishop of Armagh has expressed concern about the future of the Church’s marriage counselling service in Ireland and whether Catholic schools could continue to uphold church teaching if voters back same-sex marriage in a referendum later this month.
Archbishop Eamon Martin was one of a number of Irish bishops who issued statements last weekend urging people to vote “no” to the proposal to give gay couples the right to marry.
In his message titled “Care for the Covenant of Marriage”, the Primate of All Ireland questioned if Catholic schools would be allowed to uphold the Church’s teaching on marriage if it is redefined. In an interview with RTE Radio, he asked whether state funding would be withdrawn from the Church’s counselling service, Accord.
Archbishop Martin referred to how the Church had been forced to withdraw from adoption services in the United Kingdom because it was not prepared to place children with same-sex couples.
In the first debate on national television this week, a member of the “yes” campaign appeared to support withdrawing funding from Accord as its services cater only for male-female couples.
In his statement last Saturday, Archbishop Martin highlighted how many people will not even raise these issues within their families and workplaces for fear of being ridiculed or condemned as homophobic.
Separately, Bishop Michael Smith of Meath said that “homosexual people living in Ireland have undoubtedly suffered discrimination over the years”. However he argued that the same-sex marriage proposal is about introducing a profound change in people’s understanding of marriage, family life and parenthood.
The bishops of Ireland have already raised the possibility of the Church withdrawing from the civil aspect of weddings if the 22 May referendum proposal wins support and moving to a model where couples are married in civil and religious ceremonies.