The Catholic Church stepped up its campaign for a ‘No’ vote in the marriage equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland with its leading bishops issuing pastoral letters to their dioceses amid claims ‘No’ campaigners were being branded homophobic.
The leader of Ireland’s four million Catholics, Archbishop Eamon Martin, kicked off a series of statements opposing a ‘Yes’ vote and was followed yesterday by senior bishops around the country.
“We have got ourselves into the situation that many people won’t even raise these issues in their families and workplaces for fear of being ridiculed or condemned as homophobic,” said Archbishop Martin.
He said it is a “fact of nature” that same-sex unions are “fundamentally and objectively different” from the sexual union of a woman and a man, which is “naturally open to life”.
He said the Church “cannot support an amendment to the constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife”.
Pastoral letters from eight senior bishops were also read out by priests at parish Masses around the Republic yesterday.
Bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce insisted: “Equality and human rights should be afforded to everyone, but it should be done without sacrificing the institution of marriage and the family.”
Reflecting the view of his fellow bishops, Dr Boyce said the Church accepts people “with homosexual tendencies” with respect and compassion but their legal rights were already protected in civil partnerships.
He said a ‘Yes’ vote on May 22 would have “serious implications” for children.
“Every child, no matter what sexual orientation he or she may have, has the human right to a father and a mother,” said Dr Boyce.
The Faith in Marriage Equality group urged the church to “respect the freedom of conscience” of those Catholics voting ‘Yes’.