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Catholic Church responds to Ireland gay marriage vote, contemplates future
With the legalization of gay marriage in Ireland, the Catholic Church is drawing upon theology to examine the referendum while pondering its future relationship with Ireland's society. - photo by Massarah Mikati
Roman Catholic bishops are voicing concern about how Ireland's gay marriage referendum will affect the stability of the family and society.

A special position is given to the role of the traditional family unit in building society, the Most Rev. Donal McKeown, bishop of Derry, wrote in the Derry Journal. Those who propose the change have the task of showing that the proposed change will improve the context for the raising of children and the overall stability of society.

According to Bishop McKeown and other bishops, those who voted yes have failed at providing such evidence, foreshadowing the difficulty of advocating traditional marriage in the public and the roles of fathers and mothers.

There is a unique complementarity between men and women rooted in the very nature of our humanity, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who is also primate of Ireland, wrote in the Irish Times. I believe that this complementarity belongs to the fundamental definition of marriage.

Archbishop Martin told the New York Times, however, that the 62 percent of voters who support gay marriage has served as a major wake-up call for the Catholic Church and its future relationship with society.

The church needs to take a reality check, he said. Its very clear theres a growing gap between Irish young people and the church, and theres a growing gap between the culture of Ireland thats developing and the church.

Paul F. Morrissey, an American prison chaplain and author of "The Black Wall of Silence," attributes that gap to the clergy sex abuse scandal.

"The Church has no credibility in matters of sexuality in Ireland," he wrote in USA Today.

Having an even stronger influence on the vote, however, is the Catholic teachings on marriage and family, Morrissey said.

"Because the Irish have been brought up by the Catholic Church to view marriage as a sacrament is the reason they can shift sideways to see a same-sex relationship in the same God-blessed way," he said. "Love conquers. The Irish are lovers."

Preceding the referendum, the Catholic Church remained relatively quiet on the issue, limiting campaigning to sermons for its followers, according to Reuters.

However, the Vatican newspaper, LOsservatore Romano, published letters written by Irelands bishops, who are concerned not only with how same-sex marriage will affect the stability of society but the problems it could pose for interpreting existing state statutes.

One of those laws is Article 41 of the Constitution of Ireland, titled The Family.

The article states: The State recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.

According to Archbishop Martin, the relevance attributed to women in the Constitution could create confusion because the introduction of same-sex marriage will change the gender basis of mother-father roles.

It will no longer be only women who give the state such support, and hence no longer only women who earn the state's economic protection. However, there is no guarantee about how this section of the constitution would be interpreted with the introduction of same-sex marriage.

These references would remain with constitutional authority, leaving a Constitution which would be speaking out of two different sides of its mouth, he wrote in the Irish Times. That would hardly be marriage equality."
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