This article appeared in the The Independent, today I think, concerning the Irish Bishops's remarks on solemnising marriages in Ireland following the referendum result. The article is interesting and the journalist does have something legitimate to say about the Church's confidence and credibility today. However I do think she is being little unfair, the Bishops have to be prudent and need to wait and see what the Marriage Act will contain before making any decisions. They may well be waiting to see if Church ministers will be given an exemption or will be protected.
However, and I am open to correction, given the way the amendment to the Constitution is framed any legislation that limits citizens's access to marriage may well be unconstitutional. If the State is to protect marriage, gay marriage included, then it cannot tolerate organisations, religious or otherwise, which dissent from that. We shall see.
The real test will come after the publication of the Marriage Act and any Constitutional challenge which may follow, then the aspirations of the Bishops will face hard reality and decisions will have to made. Courage will be needed then. I hope and pray we may well find the witness and strength of Oliver Plunkett and John Fisher among them then.
That said, even if Catholic priests are protected, Catholics and other Christians who provide wedding services are not. Those who choose to stand with Christ's teaching will face prosecution and civil suits as we see with Ashers in Belfast and Bulah Print in Drogheda. The Church cannot abandon them. It is interesting to note that those two cases above concern evangelicals, Catholics, as far as I can see, have not featured in acts of resistance to the new laws. What does that say about the Church here in Ireland?
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