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The marriage referendum: Why I voted yes

I voted yes for three reasons. Firstly, apart from the issue of consent among adults and protection of children, I believe, that any attempt by the state to determine people’s sexual behaviour is guaranteed to evoke a response which is visceral and counter-productive. Secondly, gays are asking for something which is innately good – the legal recognition of faithful loving relationships. Thirdly, the teaching of the church cannot be promoted in this climate of resentful hostility.

In recent years the stigma of criminality and shame of homosexuality has been, to a great extent, removed. And what is the result? Like any newly liberated group they parade in the streets. A culture which had long been confined to the shadows of promiscuity and sleaze, which were never the sole preserve of gays, has started making itself felt publicly and triumphantly. And now? Now they want to live out the universal dream of life long faithful love.

The argument which says that they can do everything except apply the word ‘marriage’ to their relationships cannot but be seen against the background of this emergence from an underworld of shame. It is like holding onto a last thread of an oppressive regime and that is how gays and many other people perceive it. There is something in what they want – and in what the people of Ireland, myself included, have voted for – which speaks in praise of faithful love, of stable relationships and of the universally valued and traditional security of family live.

The paradigm of family is the marriage of a man and woman rearing children who have been conceived and born within their loving relationship. Yet not everyone can live that paradigm. Those who cannot have children will adopt. Marriages fail. Yet people will always build a family with the ingredients at hand. The kernel of married love is not the possibility of reproduction, but the publicly recognised nature of the relationship and the corresponding commitment to fidelity. Marriage is an option which gives rise to legal obligations, not unlike the formation of a company, though with an older and more universal pedigree. Giving gays the right to marry in civil law gives them the right to undertake this adult commitment. A society in which gays can marry is a society which encourages faithful commitment.

So, given the Church’s traditional teaching on the sacrament of marriage which speaks clearly of the union of ‘male and female’, where does this leave us in our newly-constituted legal situation? Pope John Paul II reflected on the saying that a man who looks at a woman lustfully commits adultery ‘in his heart.’  He added that the human heart is ‘above all the object of a call and not of an accusation.’ [The Theology of the Body, General audience of December 3, 1980.] We cannot appeal to the heart while, at the same time, resorting to the sword, the state, or even the wagging finger.

Guest blogger – Edmond Grace SJ


  1. Very angry Catholic

    Father Grace,
    The Irish Catholic church is a disgrace, most of the clergy suffer from the Judas complex and want the church to be accepted into society regardless of the consequences.
    Sodomy is a sin, the self-indulgence that leads to it is spiritual cancer. Given that most of the church’s child-sex abuse victims were of a homosexual nature rather than pedophilia it saddens me that this lesson -as if it needed to be learnt in the first place – has not seeped into the clergy. The fact that heterosexuals sexual morality since the sixties has been lamentable, this does not mean that sodomy is now ok; it should mean that the church preaches about both heterosexual and homosexual morality.
    I have gone through Catholic school and Collage and have never heard a sermon on sexual ethics. The Catholic church is dead in the west and the souls of those lost because of this will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Shepard’s ordained to educate and protect them.
    No young person can respect the clergy because the mask of social buffoonery and lack of any supernatural faith can be deduced by osmosis within two minutes of being in their company.
    I am well versed in philosophy and the post-modern weasel-think which this article represents should have no place in the church.

    • I agree with you 100%. Enough of this hippy rubbish nonsense that has watered down the church today. Such weak leadership and attempts a mass popularity are a disgrace and have no place in the Catholic Church.

  2. The Catholic church at present is an embarrassment and needs to stop trying to “Win over the Masses” so to speak. The Catholic Church’s teachings on such issues including marriage are very clear and need to be reinforced. The above article dips into this wishy washy, lovey-dovey nonsense into which the church today has sunk into.
    If necessary, the church should take a harder line in terms of what is morally acceptable on these issues and if that means reverting to a smaller but truer church then that will have to happen. The premise of the church at present is collapsing with regards to its core underlying teachings including this thundering disgrace of an article which should be taken down at once.
    I agree with the previous comment made on this article and we need stronger, tougher individuals to lead this church and maintain its teachings and principles. Enough of this hippy love rubbish.

    Kind regards,


    • Thomas, I find it more than a little curious that you should condemn a ‘lovey-dovey’ church. Is the Church not an instrument of God’s eternal love for humankind? Did not Jesus command his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34)? It would appear to me that those who propose a Church of love and mercy are firmly in line with Jesus who was sent, not “to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). I can understand your desire to see a human race that is more holy and closer to God, but didn’t Jesus show an intolerance to those who adhered too closely to the letter of The Law and, in so doing, stray far from the Love that inspired those laws? Further, your call for a smaller, truer Church falls far from the very definition of the word: catholic. We are the universal Church and should endeavour at every opportunity to live up to that definition. We can, and likely will, disagree, but we need not offend or condemn one another. Let us not rush to usurp The One who will, in the end, separate the wheat from the weeds (Matt. 13:24).

      • Cesar, the point of my comment is to highlight that the Catholic Church has been washed down and has lost its moral compass and standpoint. This is across the board with regards to the church, especially in the primary and secondary schools, where the focus is all about love, love, love.
        When I grew up I admired and respected the catholic Church as an entity that was not afraid to speak out and speak out on moral issues. Back then, the clergy and nuns were a great inspiration and really taught people about ethics. The helped to shape people’s mind to develop strong characters and well-developed moral compasses. The rubbish they teach in the primary and secondary schools today is appalling. The church needs to be a stronger force ins society today and to achieve this, it needs to consolidate itself as an organisation and be something meaningful in society today.
        The Catholic Church is based on the principle of a strong institution to lead and guide people in strong ethical and moral parameters. The way it is today in general is that it is like a new evangelical church with everyone going off and interpreting the church’s teachings in a liberal way. This is not what the Catholic Church is about and they need to get real.
        I want a strong church with a strong ethical and moral standpoint that is lead with good strong leaders and which is to afraid to speak out against these issues such as Gay Marriage so as not to rock the boat. The above article is just damage management and trying to curtail the fall-out from the referendum.

  3. If this article had been written and published before the referendum it would have been relevant – its appearance now suggests band-wagoning or (even worse) editorial censorship. I agree with all the sentiments in the article and found it interesting that God wasn’t required once to back anything up. Well done.
    Just one question: what’s the “shame of homosexuality”?

    • Let me reassure the Citizen that there has been no editorial censorship of my blog. I myself decided not to engage in the referendum debate. I deliberately left it till after the vote in order to open a debate within the church on the wisdom of the traditional strategy of promoting church teaching on sexuality in the public forum. The Citizen my see this exercise as irrelevant, but I do not.

      • Dear Father,

        I am ashamed and annoyed as a 30 year old Catholic having been committed to my church all my life to see the nonsense you have written in this article.
        The church’s teachings on this issue are very clear and to see this article being published by a religious order I have admired all my life is truly shocking.
        The Jesuits were great leaders of the church and were immensely influential at reaching out to people to the message of Christ and of the church. While I understand that there is this notion of “God loves us all” the whole meaning and purpose of the church is to provide a moral and ethical premise that is strong and based on fundamental principles of the church. You must have spent 7 + years training as a Jesuit and in that time were you not immersed into catholic teaching and doctrine. Some of the greatest catholic teachings and encyclopaedias have been instrumental is shaping society. As a devout Catholic, I believe that you need to really read this shameful article again and consider your position as a Jesuit. This “jumping on the bandwagon” after effect is unacceptable and you should be ashamed of yourself. The church’s teachings on this issue are unequivocally clear and should be reflected across all strata and orders of the church.

        Kind regards,


  4. Dear Thomas,
    It would appear to me that you are more interested in the concert hall than the symphony playing within.
    Although delighted that you recognise the “notion” that God loves us all, your directive to the reader on what the church is would appear to this one as being simultaneously arrogant and sad.
    Maybe you should try sitting on the steps of the concert hall in the sunshine and look around you – you’ll still hear the music.
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”