The debate at the heart of the referendum announced today by the Government is not about equality or about the false separation of a religious view of marriage from the civil view of marriage. It is about the very nature of marriage itself and the importance society places on the role of mothers and fathers in bringing up children. With others, the Catholic Church will continue to hold that the differences between a man and woman are not accidental to marriage but fundamental to it and that children have a natural right to a mother and a father and that this is the best environment for them where possible.
Married love is a unique form of love between a man and woman which has a special benefit for the whole of society. With others of no particular religious view, the Church regards the family based on marriage between a woman and a man as the single most important institution in any society. To change the nature of marriage would be to undermine it as the fundamental building block of our society. The Church will therefore participate fully in the democratic debate leading up to the referendum and will seek with others to reaffirm the rational basis for holding that marriage should be reserved for the unique and complementary relationship between a woman and a man from which the generation and upbringing of children is uniquely possible.
As Christians our primary commandment is to love. Love always demands that we respect the dignity of every human person. That is why the Catholic Church clearly teaches that people who are homosexual must always be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect. It is not lacking in sensitivity or respect for people who are homosexual however to point out that same-sex relationships are fundamentally different from opposite sex relationships and that society values the complementary roles of mothers and fathers in the generation and up-bringing of children.
· Bishop Denis Nulty is Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin and a member of the national executive of Accord, Catholic Marriage Care Service
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444