Irish Bishops Threaten Action if Marriage Equality is Passed

shamrock rainbowAs Ireland begins to contemplate marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples, the Catholic bishops there have warned the government that if such a law were passed, then Catholic priests would no longer perform the civil aspects of marriage, in effect, no longer acting as agents of the state for marriage.

The Independent reports that if that happens, it could greatly affect the marriage landscape in Ireland:

“The bishops’ stance would affect the thousands of weddings that take place in the church every year if a referendum to extend marriage was passed.

“For a wedding to be legally recognised in Ireland, it must be solemnised by one of the 5,600 people who are on the Register of Solemnisers.

“Around 4,300 of these are Catholic priests.” points out that not only may the bishops’ proposed action backfire, but that their influence in Irish politics is waning:

“But in a reaction the bishops might not have anticipated, many observers say that bishops unprecedented threat has the potential to backfire spectacularly, however. After decades of sexual abuse claims being ignored, or hidden, or denied and then reluctantly acknowledged, the bishops’ threat may not have the moral authority they imagine, critics contend.

“In fact, some observers see it as an opportunity to price the church’s hands from what is otherwise a civil arrangements.

” ‘With the removal of one of the main reasons that non-church goers still attend church at all, the bishops could be assembling a circular firing squad,’ one observer told the press. ‘This threat could actually do what many actually want it to – make marriage a civil contract with no religious associations at all, if the couple so desire. To some this is the equivalent of losing a five pound note and finding fifty.’ “

Groups supporting marriage equality seem unperturbed by the bishops threat.  According to

“The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) said they respected the freedom to practice religion and were not seeking to force religious solemnizers to carry out same-sex marriages, if they do not wish to do so. “

The push for marriage equality in Ireland is supported by Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Equality Authority and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and six other key national groups, according to The Independent.

The bishops’ proposal is a reversal of a common strategy used here in the United States by some Christian churches who support marriage equality.  Many pastors in these  pro-LGBT congregations and denominations have signed pledges not to perform the civil aspects of marriage ceremonies until marriage equality is extended to lesbian and gay couples.  They refuse to act as agents of the state while inequality exists.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



12 replies
  1. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    The Catholic church needs to understand that when they insist that discrimination is part of their “religion,” that good people will reject them. Discrimination is not ok.

  2. oarubio
    oarubio says:

    We have mistakenly come to believe that defending Natural Law is discriminatory. Unless we remove moral relativism from a position of prominence, we will be doomed to reinvent the wheel of previously fallen societies.

    • Annette Magjuka
      Annette Magjuka says:

      I am not “mistaken” to believe that gay people are human beings deserving of all dignity, respect, and the sacraments that the rest of the faithful enjoy. The Holy Spirit has worked in the world so that now the majority of Catholics know that discrimination of gay people is a grave sin, and must be stopped.

  3. Will
    Will says:

    These bishops would appear to be inviting the Irish State to remove civil marriage from any connection with the catholic church altogether. An arrangement that is beginning to look very attractive. It will be hard work initially but the result will be another great loss for the Church and probably make no difference for all those who have already distanced themselves from the Church.

    An unbelievably petulant and short-sighted move – ‘cutting off their nose to spite their face.’

  4. Ryan Sattler
    Ryan Sattler says:

    It is hard to imagine, the Irish bishops coming together, to strategize what would be an effective response against marriage equality.
    And they choose not to an agent for any marriage ceremonies in Ireland. What a devastating message to the Catholic faithful.
    Just another futile attempt in exercising their leadership muscle that they no longer have.

  5. Diane Krantz
    Diane Krantz says:

    What a sad testimony to how out of touch with the people in the pews these hierarchs are. I walked the Ring of Kerry about eight years ago, and the loss of faith in the Catholic Church was already very evident.


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