‘Why Marriage Matters’ is a statement in support of marriage and family life from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, concerning the Civil Partnership Bill currently before the Oireachtas.

Civil Partnership Bill

Click on link to download – Why Marriage Matters

At a press conference on the last day of the spring general meeting of the Irish Bishops Conference on 10 March 2010, bishops published a leaflet Why Marriage Matters in support of marriage and family life. This leaflet calls for the protection of marriage and expresses concern about aspects of the Civil Partnership Bill, currently before the Oireachtas.

The leaflet summarises key elements of Catholic teaching on marriage between a man and woman. It reiterates the importance of the family as the natural primary and fundamental unit of society and therefore deserving of special protection by the State. It also highlights that other forms of relationships are not of the same nature and status as that of marriage as the basis of the family.


Why is the Church concerned about the Civil Partnership Bill?

Changes in the law can also impact on our attitude to marriage. Today, advocacy for the legal recognition of same-sex relationships presents a new challenge to our understanding of marriage and its unique role in society.

Here in Ireland, Oireachtas ireann is about to pass legislation that seeks to give same sex relationships a standing which will be as similar as possible to marriage. The Civil Partnership Bill will not permit adoption by same-sex couples. In most other respects, including tax and social welfare purposes, same-sex civil partnerships will be regarded as being equal to marriage.

This is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State. Nor does it guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded (Art. 41.3.2O , The Irish Constitution).

The Bill will also mean that the phrase Marital Status will no longer be employed in many legal and official documents. It will be replaced by Civil Status, which will equate marriage with the Status of same-sex partnerships. By making civil partnerships as like marriage as possible, the Bill is preparing a situation where, in the future, calling same sex unions marriage will seem only a small step. Indeed it is likely that, in day to day language and in the media, civil partnerships will be referred to as marriage.

Laws have to be judged not only on what they permit or forbid citizens to do but also, and very importantly, on what they express about the attitude of society. Whatever the intentions of the drafters, this Bill says that there is nothing very special about marriage because same-sex partnerships are virtually equivalent; and that it matters very little to the State whether men and women marry or not.

Same-sex unions, however, are incapable of realising the specific communion of persons that is marriage. Same-sex unions do not reflect the natural complementarity of man and woman through which the generation of new life becomes possible. Such unions are contrary to Gods plan for sexual love which is intended for the relationship between husband and wife in marriage.

The Church upholds the human dignity of homosexual persons and the duty to treat all persons with respect, compassion and sensitivity. All members of the Christian community, including people of homosexual orientation, are called to holiness of life which includes the virtue of chastity. The Church encourages all persons to have chaste friendships. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all.

For everyone in the Christian community, the mercy and love of God in the Sacraments and prayer are constantly available. Even when we fall short of our Christian ideals for sexual love in marriage they help to renew and strengthen us on the path of life and joy to which the Lord invites us in every moment.