Pastoral message by Bishop Phonsie Cullinan Marriage is Important – please think before you change it

10 May 2015

Dear Friend,

Thank you for the really kind and affectionate welcome you have given me since I arrived in the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore just a few weeks ago. Everyone has been so friendly that I feel very much at home.

That word ‘home’ is a good way of beginning what I want to say about the up-coming referendum. What will ‘home’ be like in twenty years? I had not intended writing a letter to you so soon but this matter is so vital that I felt I needed to speak up.

The message we are bombarded with is that we are all equal. This is true – we are all equal in dignity but we are not all the same. Men and women are different. Children are different to adults. The union of a man and a woman is different to any kind of relationship between two men or two women. A man and a woman join in bringing new life into the world and every child has a right to a father and a mother (be they natural or adoptive).

Common sense alone tells us that every child should have its ‘mammy and daddy’. This has been the way since the dawn of civilization in every culture and on every continent. Neither the Church nor the State invented marriage and neither can change its nature. The referendum on 22 May is seeking to change the very meaning of marriage. It is like removing concrete foundations under a house and saying that any material will do. If passed it will mean that according to the highest law of the land a ‘marriage’ between two men or two women will be equal in all respects to a marriage between a man and a woman. The amendment will give constitutional approval to the recent Children and Family Relationships Act which proposes to remove all mention of terms like ‘father’ and ‘mother’ and make all ‘family’ types the same. This goes against nature itself and against God’s plan for humanity who “made them male and female”, and Jesus adds: “this is why a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two shall become one body”.

Family life in Ireland is already under pressure. I salute all lone parents who, often heroically, bring up their children is tough circumstances. Will this amendment make family life better or worse?

Of the 193 countries in the United Nations only 17 permit same-sex marriage – that’s fewer than 9%. The international majority is not in favour of it!

Please do not think I am in any way critical of homosexual people whom I care for as I do everyone. Christ calls us to love everyone and treat all with equal compassion and respect. There are many homosexual people who do not agree at all with this amendment.

So what is put before us in this referendum has huge implications. Please exercise your vote. You will be on your own in the polling station booth and your decision will have real consequences for the future of this society and the natural loving care of its children. In what has turned out to be a desperately one-sided public debate I hope you will think long and hard about your decision.

I finish with a few questions which I respectfully put before you. If this referendum is passed:

– Are we pandering to the desires of adults over the rights of children?

– Will parents who hold that marriage is only between and man and woman be free to teach this to their children?

– Will every school, Catholic, Protestant or Muslim, etc., be free to teach according to its ethos?

– Will people who work in adoption agencies and other jobs dealing with the public be free to act according to their conscience?

– Will the terms ‘father’ and ‘mother’ have any real meaning in the future?

We all want what is best for society and for our children. But let us consider very carefully what exactly is best. We are all equal but we are not all the same.

I sincerely wish God’s blessing on you and your family.

+ Phonsie Cullinan
Bishop of Waterford & Lismore


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