Archbishop defends vote against same-sex marriage in Ireland

In a Tuesday opinion piece for The Irish Times, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin encouraged careful reflection before voting on Ireland's marriage referendum Friday.

He wrote that he doesn't tell anyone how to vote, but he defends his vote against same-sex marriage. He added that he does "not expect to be listened to on the basis of dogmatic utterance, but on the reasonableness of my argument."

"Reasoned argument is vital in society. ... Reasoned argument requires that both sides are heard for what they are really saying," he wrote

Martin wrote that he positions himself with Pope Francis, who opposes legalizing same-sex marriage but is consistent in telling people not to judge individuals. Voting against the amendment is not homophobic, he wrote, nor does it deny that gay parents can be good parents, adding that single parents deserve more recognition and support from society and the church, as well.

"Marriage is about love, marriage is about commitment and marriage is about family," he wrote. "You cannot talk of family without talking about children. This does not mean that childless marriages are not marriages. Marriage cannot, however, be detached from the family. The family is much broader than just what I would like my marriage relationship to be."

He added that the "ongoing stability of society is linked with our intergenerational genetic makeup. Knowing our genetic make-up is important."

Asking why humans exist as male and female, adding that this is no accident or social construct, Martin said there is a "unique complementarity between men and women, male and female, rooted in the very nature of our humanity." He wrote that it is fundamental to the definition of marriage.

When considering the legal repercussions of the proposed amendment, Martin highlights the contradictions that a gender-neutral definition of marriage would bring to the Constitution: "That text ... would in fact, 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."

Reflection as to how this added text would affect the Constitution, he said, has evolved from careful speculation to politicians promising what legislation will be introduced following the referendum. "Promises may be fulfilled or not fulfilled," he wrote. "What will happen, however, will be determined exclusively by the courts and we know from past experience that test cases can produce unexpected results.

"I have never told people how to vote. I encourage everyone to vote and to reflect carefully. Reasoned argument on marriage and the family is vital for our society."

If the amendment passes in this predominantly Catholic country, Ireland will be the first country to sanction same-sex civil marriage by popular vote.

[Soli Salgado is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is]

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