Responses to Ireland’s Vote

By John Martin in London

An overwhelming vote for same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland has drawn a careful response from Church of Ireland bishops. The vote announced at Dublin Castle found 1,201,607 with 734,300 against. Voter turnout in the majority-Catholic nation was 61 percent.

The people of the republic “have of course acted fully within their rights,” said a statement from the Church of Ireland’s archbishops and bishops. “The Church of Ireland, however, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter this.”

The bishops added: “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. 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.”

The vote prompted Diarmuid Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, to say the church needed a “reality check” on whether it has drifted away from young people.

He told Irish Television News: “I think, really, that the church needs to do a reality check, a reality check right across the board, to look at the things it’s doing well, to look at the areas where we really have to start and say, ‘Look, have we drifted away completely from young people?’”

He said he could appreciate how gay men and lesbian women believe “this is something which is enriching the way they live.” It was, he said, “very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people, then the church has a huge task in front of it to find the language to be able to talk to and to get its message across to young people, not just on this issue, but in general. We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal by simply denying.”

Martin added: “We tend to think in black and white but most of us live in the area of grey, and if the church has a harsh teaching, it seems to be condemning those who are not in line with it. The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love — then it’s got it wrong.”

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