Statement of the Irish Episcopal Conference
22 JUNE 1993
1993: LAW ON HOMOSEXUALITY
On 15 June 1993 the Minister for Justice, Mrs. Maire Geoghegan-Quinn published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 1993. In the main part of this bill the Government proposed to repeal the law prohibiting homosexual acts among consenting adult men, fixing the age of consent at 17. The Bishops’ Conference issued the following statement on June 22. The bill was approved by the Dail without a vote on June 23. An Opposition (Fine Gael) amendment to increase the age of consent for homosexual acts from 17 to 18 was defeated in the Seanad on June 29 by 33 votes to 9:
1. A homosexual orientation is not of itself sinful. It is not morally wrong to find oneself sexually attracted to a person of the same sex. People should not look down on or victimise those who are homosexual. They should be aware of the severe emotional pain which many of them and their families experience. Our faith teaches that all of us in our humanity are equal in the sight of God. We are all His sons and daughters. To despise or to marginalise any section of humanity is a violation of the basic principles of justice and a rejection of Christ’s call to treat every person as his brother or sister.
2. Persons with homosexual tendencies are called, as we all are, to fullness of Christian life, and therefore to holiness. Many of them are heroically faithful to the virtue of chastity, which is part of that Christian calling.
3. The question of right and wrong arises when a person makes a free choice. Sexual acts, freely chosen, with a person of the same sex are morally wrong. They contradict the true meaning of human sexuality. “Male and female He created them”. (Genesis 1:27).
4. This teaching of the Church is independent of State law. No change in State law can change the moral law. New civil laws cannot make what is wrong right. Laws relating to homosexuality, like other laws which bear on moral issues, should not be seen in terms of the State’s upholding or not upholding Church teaching. The Church does not expect that acts which are sinful should, by that very fact, be made criminal offences. All such laws bearing on moral issues must be assessed in the light of the way in which they contribute or fail to contribute to the common good of society.
5. It is now proposed to change the law on homosexuality in theRepublicofIrelandin the context of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights. This proposal, if it becomes law, will not in any way alter the moral law that homosexual activity is wrong. Our main concern is that there should be no room for misunderstanding here. Whatever the civil law may be, the law of God remains unchanged.
6. Concerning the public and social dimension of the Government’s proposal, we wish to draw attention to at least three important implications:
(a) The first is the impact on general moral attitudes. It is a matter of experience that legislative change is never neutral in its effects on society. In this case, the repeal of the law can be seen as giving a signal that homosexual behaviour is no longer regarded as morally unacceptable.
(b) The second concerns young people, at an age when their sexual development is not yet complete. We are concerned that they should not be subjected at a early age, indeed at an age when many are still at school, to influences which would suggest to them that a homosexual relationship would be morally acceptable.
(c) The proposed change will in the longer term have an adverse effect on the role of the family as the basic and indispensable unit of society.
7. We are conscious that our people are facing a world and a society in which many of the supports to their faith and moral values are being removed. The challenge for each of us is still, as it has always been, to follow Jesus Christ by way of personal conviction and choice, commitment and daily conversion. This challenge we can meet with the help of his grace which we are sure to receive when we turn to him in prayer and the celebration of the sacraments.
22 June 1993
Document: Bishops’ Conference Statement on Homosexuality 22 June 1993