Reflection on the marriage referendum: ‘Marriage Matters’ by Bishop Denis Nulty

03 May 2015

Reflection on the Referendum

As I make my Confirmation visits these days, many priests and people ask for some guidance or direction in relation to the upcoming referendum. I know this referendum on marriage is a complex and sensitive topic. Therefore I feel that, as your bishop, I cannot in good conscience neglect to address this issue; I pray my words will in no way offend or hurt anyone. That is certainly not my intention.

In my own reading and reflection on this issue, I came across the text of the following letter, written by Pope Francis in the days when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Argentina then was faced with the same debate with which we in Ireland are currently engaged. I believe the following text encapsulates the situation very clearly. I quote:

“A marriage (made up of man and woman) is not the same as the union of two people of the same sex. To distinguish is not to discriminate but to respect differences; to differentiate in order to discern is to value appropriately, not to discriminate. At a time when we place emphasis on the richness of pluralism and social and cultural diversity, it is a contradiction to minimize human differences. A father is not the same as a mother.

We cannot teach future generations that preparing yourself for planning a family based on the stable relationship between a man and a woman is the same as living with a person of the same sex. Let us also be aware that, in seeking to advance a supposed claim on behalf of the rights of adults, we may be setting aside the far greater right of children (who are the only ones who should be privileged in this situation) to rely on models of father and mother, mum and dad.”

This is not a single-issue referendum but is very complex and demands careful reflection. The result will have many serious implications for our society. The Bishops collectively issued a statement after our March Meeting: ‘Marriage is important – reflect before you change it’. That is exactly what I have been doing as your Bishop, and I invite all of you to reflect deeply on this issue over the coming weeks. In making your referendum decision, I encourage you to value the model of Christian marriage which is the fundamental building block of our society. Your opinion matters, so make sure your voice is heard, and vote on May 22nd. Only by voting, can you ensure your voice speaks in the referendum result.

I thank you for listening to this message. I wish you and your families every blessing and grace you need at this time.

+Denis Nulty
Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin

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