The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin has warned that a vote in favour of legalising gay marriage in Ireland risks the understanding of the family and the stability of society.
By Saturday evening, figures suggested that a majority of voters backed the change.
A “yes” vote in the referendum, held on Friday, would make Ireland the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage by popular ballot.
Archbishop Martin said he intended to vote “no” in the referendum though he declined to tell people how to vote and makes a case for “reasoned argument” on the question.
In an article in The Irish Times on Tuesday, the archbishop stressed that a reasoned “no” vote was not homophobic and did not deny that gay and lesbian people can be good parents. But he argued that “marriage, family, children and society fundamentally form one reality and cannot be torn apart”.
“In a society where individual personal fulfilment can become so dominant, every other argument can be laid to the side and we can come to the conclusion that there are so many concrete manifestations of family that it is no longer even possible to speak of family,” wrote the archbishop.
He predicted that the courts would be left to interpret the constitution with test cases possibly producing unexpected results.
A majority voting “yes” in the referendum would ratify the Marriage Equality Bill 2015 passed by the Dáil, the Irish Parliament, in March.
Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway in his pastoral statement read out at Masses last Sunday warned of “serious implications” of a “yes” vote, saying: “It will become increasingly difficult to speak or teach in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman. There could be lawsuits against individuals and groups who do not share this vision.”
His concern was echoed by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin who said he was worried about what teachers “might be expected to teach our children”.
Bishop Doran also suggested that people would be suspicious of the timing of the state’s funding cuts for marriage preparation courses run by the Catholic agency Accord. He recalled that Minister James Reilly, whose department is responsible for the decision to impose the cuts, had as Minister for Health two years ago threatened to remove funding from Catholic hospitals if they did not conform to the law on abortion.
Meanwhile the anti-gay marriage campaign group, Mothers and Fathers Matter, has raised concerns over the legislation’s impact on children if surrogacy is ever legislated for in Ireland.
The chairman of the Referendum Commission, Mr Justice Kevin Cross, told RTE this week that the referendum was about who may or may not marry, “not, in our view, about adoption. It is not, in our view, about surrogacy”.
But a spokesman for Mothers and Fathers Matter said this remark contradicted his previous comments on surrogacy in which he said if the referendum passes it would be “difficult to image” a stated preference in law for a child to have a mother and a father.
Above: Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin arrives for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican 8 October. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring