Marriage and Family are the basis of the Common Good – Catholic Bishops

03 May 2004


3 MAY 2004



The Most Reverend Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
today addressed, as keynote speaker, a seminar entitled ‘Supporting Marriage &
Family Life’ in Buswells Hotel, Dublin. The seminar was hosted by the Irish
Bishops’ Conference.

Archbishop Brady said, “the Catholic Church has both a duty and a right to teach
and act in defence of the primacy of the natural institutions of marriage and the
family. It is also for this reason that it cannot and should not apologise for
insisting that other forms of relationship are not of the same nature and status
as that of marriage and the family. The looming debate about the level of
recognition that is appropriate for same-sex couples make this an important and
an imminent issue.

“Now more than ever the Church’s pastoral and practical resources are being
channelled to protect families against the pressures which they now face in
Irish life. The rapid pace of social change; the revolution of values within
our culture; the intrusion of the mass media into our homes; the impact of
changing political and economic conditions, most notably the lack of affordable
housing, the growing disillusionment with rampant consumerism and the increasing
gap between the haves and the have nots: all of these have placed the Irish family
under unprecedented stress in recent years,” he said.

Ms Breda O’Brien addressed the seminar on the issue of ‘Children and the Family’.
Ms O’Brien said, “Marketing, at least some of the time, aims to isolate young people
in a homogenous group and attempts to shape their tastes so as to provide maximum
access to their disposable income. It is necessary to keep them dissatisfied with
their bodies, possessions and lives so that they will keep on buying products to
fill the void. This is a profound challenge to families, and yet is much more
invisible than problems with, for example, consumption of alcohol among young

Mr Stephen Cummins, Director of Education for ACCORD – the bishops’ agency
providing care and support for marriage – addressed the seminar on the theme
‘ACCORD – life long support for marriage.’ Mr Cummins said, “The work of ACCORD
is divided mainly between counselling on the one hand and education on the other.
We have 57 centres throughout the island of Ireland divided into six regions.
There are 300 counsellors and 330 facilitators working within the organisation.
In 2003, ACCORD provided 28,261 hours of counselling dealing with 5,332 cases.
This shows an increase of just over 9% compared to 2002. In 2003 our facilitators
provided 17,238 hours of marriage preparation. This again is an increase of just
over 11% on 2002. In 2003 a total of 6,200 couples attended ACCORD marriage
preparation courses.”

Mr Colm Rapple discussed the issue of ‘Government policy – a help or a hindrance
to family life’. Mr Rapple said, “One of the recommendations of the Commission
on the Family, which issued its final report six years ago, was that the potential
impact of Government measures on families should be explored in Family Impact
Statements. Such statements would set out clearly the consequences for families
of both central and local government policies, programmes and services. That
recommendation, like so many of the Commission’s recommendations was never
acted upon.”

Mr Rapple continued, “What’s needed in so many areas is not more consultation,
more discussion or more reports but some action.”

Ms Arlene Diaz spoke on the topic of ‘The experience of Ireland as a host country
for Families’. Ms Diaz said, “Irish people are generally hospitable. For strangers
like us, to be given such attention, is something that would not only make you feel
welcome, it’s also be very uplifting that our existence is being recognized.

Ms Daiz continued, “Difficulties experienced by overseas/migrant families include:
* search for accommodation;
* unfamiliarity with the area which leads to difficulties co-ordinating workplaces,
schools and other establishments of importance to our family;
* the cost of rent in relation to size, facilities included, the required advance
* some landlords do not want to take children and pregnant women and the rental
contract is usually for a minimum of 12 months.”

The Most Reverend Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin and Chairman of the Bishops’
Committee for the Family and Children concluded the seminar saying, “Today’s
presentations clearly demonstrate the challenges facing family life today in
Ireland. The Church believes passionately in marriage as the source and strength
of family life, and indeed of the life of society. Unlike any other relationship,
marriage makes a unique contribution to the common good of society, especially
through the procreation and education of children for life. The Church is not,
and can never be, found wanting in its support for marriage and family life.”


Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

Notes for Editors

* The Irish Bishops’ Conference (IBC) is the collective term used to describe the
formal meetings held between all 35 Catholic bishops. The bishops meet at least
on a quarterly basis. Bishops are represented on the IBC from all the 26 dioceses
in Ireland (32 counties).

* 2004 is the 10th Anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family.

* The text of Archbishop Brady’s address and those of the other speakers
are available on the website of the Catholic Communications Office –