Monday, May 4, 2015

A Reader Writes: Chris Morley on Forthcoming Marriage Referendum in Ireland and Response of Catholic Hierarchy

In a comment here this weekend, Chris Morley has kindly posted a report about the forthcoming referendum on marriage equality in Ireland. So that as many readers as possible may take advantage of Chris's report, I'm going to post it as a freestanding posting: Chris writes,

The Irish constitutional referendum to allow marriage equality is in under three weeks time and the Catholic Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, has now issued a statement Care for the Covenant of Marriage, and "he encourages everyone of voting age to read his Message carefully." He says this statement is his response to lots of Catholics asking him to "explain clearly the Church's teaching on marriage in the context of the forthcoming referendum." 

Does his statement throw any useful fresh light on the issues, or does he unhelpfully 'throw shade', by denouncing or disrespecting LGBT marriage equality?

Yes Equality are unimpressed and call on the Archbishop to take part in a public debate about his concerns with them: Grainne Healy, their spokesperson, said,

We have always respected the right of the Catholic Church Hierarchy to express its views. We note the lengthy statement issued by Archbishop Eamon Martin ... . We disagree with much of its content and are disappointed with its tone. While it is directed at church goers, it raises many questions for those of us actively engaged in issues surrounding equality. We invite Archbishop Eamon Martin to discuss with us the issues he raises surrounding the Marriage Equality Referendum in any public or media forum. A core element of Yes Equality has been having conversations with people all across Ireland; people of all ages and of all beliefs and none. We will continue these conversations, to listen to and talk with people up to Polling day.

If we examine Archbishop Eamon Martin's statement, he doesn't offer us much fresh light and instead distracts by throwing quite a lot of dissing shade about.

He's bothered about allowing civil marriage equality, but ignores the facts that there are already civil marriage and divorce in Ireland and Catholics are not forced into either. Same old insistence on having a Catholic-controlling monopoly over everyone's marriages . . . .

Apparently members of the Catholic church are a "people of reason" but it seems this "reason" means unscientific irrational "natural law" about sexuality.

He's puzzled about why people who stand up for the Catholic teaching on traditional marriage "are often portrayed as against freedom, or against equality?" 

Maybe that's because the Church is standing solidly against the Irish state's right to allow LGBT people the freedom to have a civil marriage and the Church is implacably against equal treatment in civil marriage. He has noticed that the constitutional amendment would remove the "unique and privileged status in society for the marriage between a man and a woman".

Somehow he thinks the "gift of life" can only be achieved through man-woman marriage, when Ireland has an ancient tradition of many children being born outside marriage.

He plunges into the muddy waters of marriage being intended for procreation but ignores the church's habit of marrying the many couples who can't possibly procreate and others who won't by choice.

He informs us that 

many of the arguments being made for the proposed amendment appear to be based on a misunderstanding of "equality". It is a fact of nature that same-sex unions are fundamentally and objectively different from the complementary sexual union of a woman and a man which is, of itself, naturally open to life.

But he seems ignorant of the basic principle of "equality" that requires us to offer different options to meet different people's individual needs: equality does NOT mean treating everyone exactly the same.

We can be thankful for one thing. He acknowledges that "during the current debate we are conscious of same-sex partners who love each other and wish to share their life together,"  but then he throws shade on us and our relationships because he insists,

"Marriage" is about much more than a loving relationship between consenting adults. Marriage has another essential element - the openness to children who are born of the love and sexual relationship of their mother and father.

So valid catholic marriages which are inevitably childless because they are between older people, he informs us lack an "essential element." He ignores the compelling logic that LGBT couples should be able to marry in similar situations.

He acknowledges "that many parents are generously and successfully raising children on their own, and many others are giving great love and joy to children through adoption and fostering," but choses to ignore the many LGBT couples who are raising children just like this.

He then ends with some good old-fashioned shroud-waving to scare people and suggests that Catholics won't be able to say what they think about Catholic marriage and will face persecution. He says,

If society adopts and imposes a "new orthodoxy" of "gender-neutral" marriage, being defined simply as a union between any two persons - including a man and a man, or a woman and woman - then it will become increasingly difficult to speak or teach in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman. Will there be lawsuits against individuals and groups who do not share this vision? What will we be expected to teach children in school about marriage or about homosexual acts? Will those who continue to sincerely believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their faith and conscience?

Yet only last week Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister), Enda Kenny, insisted that the right of churches not to marry gay couples would be upheld. The Taoiseach also said that heterosexual marriage would not be diminished by same-sex marriage and that the institution of marriage would be enriched by it.

The Children and Family Relationships Act, which for the first time allows same-sex couples to adopt children together, became Irish law last month – and that legislation will remain in place, regardless of the result of the marriage vote.

The Archbishop's statement is also rather odd for other reasons. It's illustrated, but not in an obviously Catholic (inclusive) way. It has a photograph of a man and woman couple with two children. Neither adult seems to sport any wedding or engagement rings. Maybe they aren't Catholic married? There are only two children so they seem to be using artificial contraception which isn't orthodox Catholicism.They are all very white. However Irish census statistics from 2011 tell a different story, of considerable contemporary ethnic diversity among Irish Catholics: 

Roman Catholics of both sexes:

Black or Black Irish - African 17,295
Black or Black Irish - any other Black background 2,804
Asian or Asian Irish - Chinese 1,798
Asian or Asian Irish - any other Asian background 24,250

Other including mixed background 18,627

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