Churches say marriage still between ‘one man and one woman’

Official tally Rhonda Donaghy and James McGrath wait for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage
Official tally Rhonda Donaghy and James McGrath wait for counting of votes in the referendums on same-sex marriage

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland have told of their ‘disappointment’ following the country’s overwhelming vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

The Very Rev. Dr. Norman Hamilton, Convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Council for Church in Society said: “We are deeply disappointed and saddened that the Constitution will no longer reflect the historic – and Christian - view of marriage that it is exclusively between one man and one woman; the position the Presbyterian Church in Ireland upholds and maintains.

“The issue before voters was an intensely emotive one and to express the historic view of marriage during the referendum campaign often brought hostility and rejection. We hope that those who continue to uphold this view will not be marginalised or demeaned. We would also encourage all Christians to love their neighbours – as the Bible calls us to do – particularly those with whom we might disagree and if demeaned, to turn the other cheek, for Jesus’ sake.”

Dr Hamilton said that while “the result is a significant change for Irish Society, as a Church we will continue to reach out to all people, whatever their situation, as all are equally welcome”.

He added: “Whilst reaffirming our understanding of marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman, we pray for wisdom for the Government and urge it to consult faith groups over the coming months as it formulates the necessary subsequent legislation.”

In a statement the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland said that while the people of the Republic of Ireland, in deciding by referendum to alter the State’s legal definition of marriage, have acted fully within their rights, they define “marriage as between a man and a woman and the result of this referendum does not alter this”.

“The church has often existed, in history, with different views from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and communities in which it is set,” said the statement.

“Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church, or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may – in compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law – continue to celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman.

“We would now sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from those for whom it signifies disaster.”

Meanwhile, one of Ireland’s most senior Catholic clerics has called for the church to take a reality check after the gay marriage vote.

Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, declared the groundswell of support for same-sex couples was a social revolution that did not happen in the last day.

“It’s a social revolution that’s been going on - perhaps in the Church people have not been as clear in understanding what that involved,” he said.

“It’s clear that if the referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people the Church has a huge task in front of it.”

In the weeks running up the polling day a series of Catholic bishops issued open letters to congregations outlining their concerns about gay marriage and why the Church would not support the reform.

The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, said the hierarchy may even reconsider its position on whether priests would continue to solemnise the civil aspect of a marriage if the vote was passed.

But Archbishop Diarmuid Martin called on church leaders to take a look at itself and how it interacts with young people and their views.

“I think really the Church needs to do a reality check,” he told RTE.

“I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the Church needs to look at all areas it is involved in, from the things it is doing well in to areas where it has drifted away from young people.

The senior cleric said that there have discussions at the highest level in the church on where the contact was between the Church in Ireland and young people.

“We have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities. We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal with a sense of denial,” he said.

“I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church.”