Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Seán Brady, has told the Government not to weaken marriage by recognising gay marriage “in all but name”.
Dr Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, was responding to comments last week by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, where he suggested that the Government would legalise gay civil unions “at the earliest opportunity”.
It is the strongest statement yet from the Catholic Church in Ireland on the subject of gay civil unions.
Mr Ahern said that the Government would look at the recommendations of the Colley Group, set up by former Justice Minister Michael McDowell, in its deliberations on legislation.
The group, headed by former Progressive Democrat TD and solicitor Anne Colley was tasked with investigating the legal options for recognition for heterosexual and homosexual cohabiting couples.
The group suggested that giving gay cohabiting couples “full civil partnership rights”, which would amount to giving such couples virtually the same legal status as married couples, was the best way forward. The group stated that explicitly legalising gay marriage might give rise to a constitutional challenge.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Archbishop Brady said that the Church believed that the family founded on heterosexual marriage “is the first and vital cell of society, the cradle of life and love”.
Such families, he added, “make an irreplaceable contribution to the good of society”. This, he said, was recognised by the Constitution and increasingly verified by sociological research.
“Any measures which would remove the family based on marriage from its pre-eminent and unique place in society should be firmly rejected. This includes any effort by the Government to create legislative partnerships for heterosexual or homosexual couples which become marriage in all but name. In some of options available to the Government, this is a real concern.”
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