By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 May, 2015
"What will happen will be determined exclusively by the courts and we know from past experience that test cases can produce unexpected results” - Archbishop Martin.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has warned that no one can predict today how a changed Constitution would be interpreted by the courts if the marriage referendum passes.
Writing in Tuesday’s Irish Times, the Archbishop said legal opinion can reflect on what may or may not be subject to interpretation and that this is fair comment as long as the “may” and “might” and “could” remain.
However, he warned that some politicians have been moving from that careful and subtle legal speculation into “direct fortune-telling” about interpretation and then promising what legislation will be introduced after the referendum.
“Promises may be fulfilled or not fulfilled. What will happen, however, will be determined exclusively by the courts and we know from past experience that test cases can produce unexpected results,” he stated.
Elsewhere in his article for the Irish Times, the Primate of Ireland said the proposed text of the amendment on marriage “purports to provide a gender-neutral definition of marriage”.
He highlighted that this text would, if accepted, stand alongside references in the Constitution which “attribute special relevance to mothers and women”.
“These references would remain with constitutional authority, leaving a Constitution which would be speaking out of two different sides of its mouth. That would hardly be marriage equality,” he criticised.
He said his position on the referendum was that of Pope Francis, who, in the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, made it very clear that he was against legalising same-sex marriage, yet he was consistent in telling people not to make judgments on any individual.
“Reasoned argument may not always appeal in a cultural climate where the quick answer is the one which can easily win the day. But reasoned argument is vital in society. Reasoned argument requires that both sides are heard for what they are really saying,” he said and added, “A reasoned No vote is not homophobic.”
He continued, “A reasoned No vote does not deny that gay and lesbian people can be good parents, just as heterosexual people can be bad parents.”
He said single parents deserve recognition and support as they are in fact among the most neglected and isolated men and women in our society.
“They have often been left to struggle on their own by successive governments – and by the Church – which failed to recognise the contribution that they bring to society,” he chided.
Acknowledging that there are many types of family in our society: “some good, some worrying”, he said all of this does not mean that we cannot and should not rationally discuss fundamental arguments on the nature of marriage and the family.
Discussing marriage he said it is about love, commitment and family.
“You cannot talk of family without talking about children,” he stated and added that marriage cannot be detached from the family and the family is much broader than just what people would like their marriage relationship to be.
Though this does not mean that childless marriages are not marriages.
“Marriage, family, children and society fundamentally form one reality and cannot be torn apart. There are few places where this reality is as self-evident as in Article 41 of our Constitution on ‘The Family’.” He urged people to take time to read it in its entirety.
In a society where individual personal fulfilment can become so dominant, every other argument can be laid to the side and we can come to the conclusion that there are so many concrete manifestations of family that it is no longer even possible to speak of family he warned.
Elsewhere in his article for the Irish Times, Archbishop Martin underlined that marriage is not simply about a wedding ceremony or about two people being in love with each other.
“For me the fundamental question in the debate on the marriage referendum is: why do humans exist as male and female? It is not an accident or a social construct. There is a unique complementarity between men and women, male and female, rooted in the very nature of our humanity.”
“I believe that this complementarity belongs to the fundamental definition of marriage. The vast majority of states in Europe and worldwide interpret marriage in that sense.”