In May 22, the people of Ireland are being asked to vote in a Referendum to change the definition of Marriage in our Constitution. The change that is proposed will mean that the Irish State and all its laws will not anymore recognise that the union in marriage of a man and a woman is a unique and irreplaceable good for this society, and worthy of recognition and protection as such by the Irish people.
The marriage of a man and woman is a union that supports the mutual love of husband and wife, and offers them security for life. It also provides the natural, irreplaceable and best environment within which children can be born and brought up. This is why marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, is important, and why such marriage deserves the recognition, support and protection of laws made by the State on behalf of our people. This is not to deny that parents and children often do not find themselves in the ideal marital situation. These parents and children equally deserve the support and protection of the state.
For people of Christian faith, the union of man and woman in marriage is part of God’s creative and loving plan for the world and humankind. From the beginning, God created us ‘male and female’. Gender difference is fundamental to who we are. It is a cause for deep joy.
The loving commitment of man and woman for life, publicly proclaimed and recognised in marriage, is a sacrament that makes the self-giving, creative love of God, as exemplified in Jesus’ life and death, alive in the world now. The gender difference, enabling complementarity and creativity, is at the heart of marriage, fundamental for the welfare of children, and critical to the survival of the human race.
People in Ireland have undoubtedly suffered unjust discrimination because of their sexual orientation. They have felt excluded, marginalised and silenced. Thankfully this situation has been changing for the better in recent decades. As a society we must work always to eliminate unjust discrimination and to include all people. As Christians we are obliged to love all people without exception, as Christ loved us even unto death.
All of this is never easy or simple. Much work has been done and progress made, legally and otherwise to ensure appropriate rights and equality for all. But surely there is a way of continuing on this journey that does not need to remove the recognition we give in our Constitution and laws to the uniqueness and value of the union of male and female that is marriage – a reality fundamental to who we are and to the future of our race.
The issues at stake in the Referendum to change the definition and meaning of marriage in Bunreacht na hÉireann on May 22 are major. It is vital that we pray and reflect deeply in preparation and that on the day we each go out and conscientiously cast our vote.
In this Month of Mary, the Mother of God, we ask her to pray with us and guide us in this crucial moment for marriage and family in our country.
+ Brendan Kelly
Bishop of Achonry