By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 April, 2015
A spokesman for the bishops this week warned that in the event of marriage being redefined as a consequence of a Yes vote, the bishops may instruct priests not to act as civil registrars for marriages.
According to Martin Long, the bishops signalled this possibility in their submission on marriage to the Constitutional Convention as far back as April 2013.
In that submission, the Bishops Conference stated that “in Ireland the Church and State co-operate closely in the solemnisation of marriages and that in excess of 70% of marriages in the Republic of Ireland are celebrated by couples choosing the Christian celebration of marriage with both elements taking place within the same ceremony”.
It continued, “Any change to the definition of marriage would create great difficulties” and that “if there were two totally different definitions of marriage the Church could no longer carry out the civil element”.
Currently over 4,000 priests are listed on the State’s Register of Solemnisers. This enables couples who chose to marry in church, some 13,000 of the 22,000 marriages that take place annually, to sign the State register at the end of the religious ceremony.
The priest as a recognised solemniser enables the couple to civilly register and a civil marriage certificate is issued to them by the State.
If the bishops instruct priests to withdraw from this role, it will mean that those who marry in church will have to make separate arrangements for a civil marriage in the presence of a State recognised solemniser.
Currently there are just 107 such non clerical solemnisers in the Republic.
The bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family is expected to discuss the issue at a meeting this week, though the IBC will not discuss it until June.