By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 November, 2014
Extending civil marriage to include a relationship between people of the same sex will change the meaning of marriage.
The Catholic Church’s opposition to the re-definition of marriage is not about homosexuality or the gay life-style, it is about the meaning of marriage Bishop Kevin Doran has stated.
In an address on Thursday evening in Roscommon on ‘Marriage and the Common Good’, the Bishop of Elphin spoke about the proposal to re-define marriage so that it would no longer be a life-long commitment between one man and one woman which is open to the gift of life.
In a culture of “live and let live”, there might be a tendency to say, sure what harm will it do if the two men or the two women love one another, he said.
But he warned that to extend civil marriage to include a relationship between people of the same sex would change the meaning of marriage.
It is not just be a case of adding “another kind of marriage” alongside what we already have.
“Not only would marriage no longer, of necessity, be between a man and a woman, but the unique relationship between marriage and procreation would disappear completely from the definition of marriage.”
Elsewhere in his address, which was given in partnership with the Iona Institute, the pro marriage and pro faith think tank, Bishop Doran noted that while there is a tendency to associate marriage with religious belief, the reality is that the committed union of man and woman, oriented towards procreation, predates all the mainstream religions and the great world cultures.
“Marriage is not a Christian construct or even an invention of religious people,” he stated.
Discussing what marriage is, the trends affecting it, how the institution of marriage contributes to the common good and the welfare of children, Bishop Doran outlined his reasons for believing it would be a mistake to redefine marriage.
In Christian marriage, a man and woman commit to one another that they will be faithful all the days of their life and that they will accept from God the children he may give them and bring them up in accordance with the law of God and of the Church.
Sacrament means a “visible sign”, he explained
“Through their commitment to life-long fidelity, together with the openness to new life and the responsibility of care, the husband and wife become a visible and effective sign of the love of God who is always faithful, who gives life and who cares for the life that he gives.”
He acknowledged that there are other kinds of loving relationships which reflect the love of God, but he added, “Marriage is unique”.
The Bishop of Elphin said he was very conscious of the fact that, alongside the current debate, same-sex couples who have lived together in a committed relationship for many years have serious concerns about what happens when one of them becomes seriously ill or dies.
There are very real issues about visiting rights and consultation in hospitals and of course about inheritance. These concerns are shared by other people who are not married but who live in long-term committed relationships.
“By all means, let the state provide for these rights, but let’s be clear, people have those rights because they are people, and not particularly because of their sexual orientation,” he said.
Elsewhere, he underlined that the Church clearly teaches that people who are homosexual must always be treated with respect and condemns without reservation words or actions which are intended to injure, ridicule or undermine homosexual people.
On the issue of gay adoption, Dr Doran said that it is suggested that people of the same sex could care for children and provide them with love and security.
“That is undoubtedly true, but it is only part of what we mean by parenthood,” he said and quoted from Pope Francis who said “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s growth and emotional development”.
Even where adoption is concerned, in order to replicate as closely as possible the relationship of the natural family, the Catholic Church along with many others, would argue that the adoptive parents should always be one man and one woman in a stable committed relationship, the leader of the Church in Elphin said.
“Marriage is not the only relationship in which people consent to live together, promise to be faithful to one another and to care for one another. What makes marriage unique is the orientation of this committed relationship to the procreation and care of children” he told the conference in Roscommon.
He warned that the future of society depends on procreation.
“The growing separation of sexual activity from procreation is not just a ‘Catholic issue’; it has serious implications for the common good.”