Statement on the Marriage Referendum by the Order of the Knights of St. Columbanus

On May 22nd the people of Ireland are called to participate in a momentous vote on marriage. In our view the effect of the referendum proposal will not be to equalise marriage. Rather, the result of approving the amendment will be to negate the true meaning of marriage and enshrine an entirely novel definition in the Constitution.

Right reason confirms that homosexual unions – definitively closed to the gift of human life – are not marital and therefore cannot be assimilated to the conjugal love of husband and wife without utterly transforming the essence of marriage in law. To consolidate these very different realities under the term ‘marriage’ would be to deprive marriage of one of its core components – the openness to the transmission of new life which is only made possible by the complementarity of male and female. Radically altering the Constitution as proposed will relegate the marital state to a primarily adult-centred relationship with no intrinsic link to the capacity for procreation.

Affirming the male-female quality of marriage is not to act unfairly since treating objectively different situations in a distinct manner is entirely reasonable. Redefining marriage is not an expression of tolerance – it is a profound act of injustice. Moreover, vindicating the legitimate fundamental rights of the person does not necessitate the undermining of the institution of marriage.

Marriage is not a mere label to be modified and applied to different relationships at will. It has inalienable characteristics which reflect the nature of the human person, grounded in the moral law. Article 41 of the Constitution recognises marriage as the bedrock of the family and describes the latter as a moral institution with rights antecedent and superior to all positive law. Marriage features in Article 41 of the Constitution under the heading ‘The Family’. Hence, it follows that revising the legal effects of marriage will have repercussions for the way in which Irish society understands and defines the family in the Constitution.

Approving the proposed amendment will end the Constitution’s long-standing special care for the family founded on the marriage of one man and one woman and instead introduce a regime that consciously refuses to promote and protect the inherent dignity and worth of that institution. We believe it will also entrench neutrality on the part of the State as to whether children should preferably be raised by a mother and a father.

Faced with this most pivotal referendum we urge fellow Catholics to serenely uphold the truth about marriage and family life as revealed by the Creator. We recall the words of Pope Francis in the Philippines when he observed that the “…family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,…” On that visit the Holy Father also encouraged a courageous witness to what is good and beneficial for society when he said:

“Proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family…, these realities are increasingly under attack…which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best…”

To all people of good will, irrespective of creed, we likewise direct a sincere appeal to recognise and safeguard the natural bonds of motherhood and fatherhood in marriage and the unique contribution that the marital union of male and female can make to the well-being of children and the common good of society. This is a truth written on the heart of every person and we believe that the Constitution of Ireland must continue to acknowledge and honour that reality.