13 May 2015

Marriage Referendum in Republic of Ireland; pre-referendum novena

Peasant Wedding, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c.1567
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna [Web Gallery of Art]

On Friday 22 May voters in the Republic of Ireland will go to polling stations to decided whether or not to amend the Constitution by re-defining marriage: Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

This is a consequence of the passing of The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015.

Anyone in the Republic of Ireland is free to marry in accordance with law - anyone. Some choose not to marry, for different reasons. Some who would like to marry don't because perhaps no one has asked them to be a partner in life until death do us part.

This referendum is allegedly about 'equality' but is in reality an attempt to re-define marriage to make it something that has never existed in any society from the beginning of time.

Though I will be in Ireland on 22 May having arrived there the day before, carrying my Irish passport, the only one I have, I will not be eligible to vote on this attempt to radically change society in my country, despite being a natural-born citizen. Because I live outside Ireland I am not considered equal to citizens who live there. This is not an election for a new parliament. I can understand why I cannot vote in that. This is an attempt to re-define the society to which I belong, to change the Constitution of my country.

So much for 'equality'.

In today's Irish Independent Ger Brennan, who plays for the Dublin Gaelic Football team, explains Why I'm voting No. Some of his points:

  • For a start, this isn't a referendum on whether we like gay people or whether they should be equal citizens according to the Constitution. They already are equal citizens. Article 40.1, which deals with equality, declares that all citizens shall be held equal before the law. We are not being asked to amend Article 40. We are instead being asked to amend Article 41, which deals with the family and with marriage.
  • All legislation is derived from the Constitution and its principles. So it seems pretty clear that if we redefine marriage and the family by making marriage genderless we will be denying that there is any special value in a child having both a mother and a father. We will be denying that children have any kind of a legal right to a mother and father where possible, like when it comes to laws relating to adoption and surrogacy.
  • I very nearly decided not to write this piece. I know I'll be targeted for it and labeled for it. It would have been easier to keep my mouth shut and not rock the boat. But I'm sick of the accusations being flung around that if you vote 'No' you are homophobic. I know I'm not homophobic; my gay friends and family can attest to that. I am voting 'No' because I don't want our Constitution to deny that it is a good thing for a child to have a mother and a father.
  • The Universal Declaration on Human Rights proclaims that everybody is equal in dignity and it holds that marriage is a male-female union. I don't think the Declaration of Human Rights is homophobic. I'm voting 'No'.
Many of those who are pushing for 'Yes', ie for change, try to make this a 'Catholic' issue in the sense that they make out the old-fashioned, 'conservative' Catholic Church to be holding back progress. Nowhere in his article does Ger Brennan indicate his faith or religion, if any. Nowhere does he refer to the Catholic Church. No society in history has ever seen marriage as other than a union between man and woman, in some societies with polygamous or polyandrous variations on this but always male and female, with the probability of their producing children. The wider society has always been seen as having some responsibility in enabling parents to raise their children, have them educated and so on. That is the only reason the State should have any interest in the union of husband and wife and their children, the family.

Bruce Arnold is an English journalist who has lived and worked in Ireland since 1957. He has argued strongly on his blog against the proposed change. In anything I have read there I don't find any reference to faith or religion or to the sacrament of marriage. Catholics give a special meaning to the sacrament but what we believe is in full harmony with what every society in history until now has believed: that marriage involves man and woman and, as nature teaches us, it is only a man and a woman together who can bring another human being into existence.. And any of the artificial/unnatural means used today to produce a child still need a man and a woman. 

The Holy Family, Sisto Badalocchio, c.1610
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, USA [Web Gallery of Art]

Today, Wednesday 13 May, a novena has begun for the people of the Republic of Ireland as they prepare for this important vote. One does not need to be a Christian to understand that family has always meant husband and wife and, in most cases, children. But Christians have a great responsibility to work for justice. Justice includes working to ensure that children should never be commodities, as so many are in today's world.

Novena Prayer
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Holy Family of Nazareth,
we bless and venerate you.
We commend to your care and protection
the cause of marriage and family life.
May the peace which reigned in your home
take possession of all hearts and abide in all families.
Confirm all men and women in the truth
so we may recognise what is good and right
and reject all that hinders life
and the true flourishing of humanity.
Guide the hearts of all citizens
that we may witness to the truth
in forming the laws governing our society.
Bless those who work for the protection
of marriage, family and life.
O Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Holy Family of Nazareth,
We entrust our hearts and our lives to you.

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