Bishop Denis Brennan: Pastoral Letter to the people of the Diocese of Ferns on the marriage referendum

10 May 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers

On 22 May, we the people of Ireland will be asked to vote in a referendum, which if passed, will change the meaning of marriage in the Irish Constitution, and as understood by society for centuries.

If carried, the referendum will redefine our understanding of marriage, from a unique relationship different from all others, to being another adult relationship regardless of gender.

The American Chief Justice John Roberts responding to proponents of same-sex marriage summed it up like this “you’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”

An essential characteristic of marriage is that it is open to the generation of new life and the union of man and woman in marriage is usually blessed with the gift of children.

Children have a natural right to a mother and a father. Sometimes, unfortunately due to circumstances beyond everybody’s control this does not obtain, but this is quite different from legislating to make it impossible for some.

As the Bishops say in ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ – “male – female complementarity is intrinsic to marriage… the true nature of
marriage, lived in openness of life, bears witness to how precious Is the gift of a child and to the unique roles of a mother and father.”

Marriage of course is not merely a private affair. Marriage involves society and indeed in time becomes society. For this reason marriage is given special recognition in our Constitution where it says “the state pledges itself  to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded and to protect it against attack.” (Art.41.3.1)

On 22 May the people will be asked to decide the matter.

In the meantime I ask everyone to ponder the issues involved and I say to all voters:

Marriage is important – it has served us well – Reflect before you change.

+ Denis Brennan 
Bishop of Ferns