Monday, June 21, 2010

Catholic Bishops issue new statement on "Civil Partnerships" seeking free vote on the issue

The ‘Civil Partnership Bill 2009’, about which I have written on numerous occasions recently, appears to be going ahead under full steam. The Catholic Bishops of Ireland having previously issued their statement in support of marriage "Why Marriage Matters" issued a further statement in relation to the Bill last week calling for a free vote on the issue which would allow all Dail (Irish Parliament) members to vote in accordance with their consciences
Protection and support for marriage and family
(The) Bishops discussed the statement Why Marriage Matters which was published by the Bishops’ Conference in March in the context of the Civil Partnership Bill which has just completed its Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann. Why Marriage Matters is available in print format and has been distributed in parishes. It is also available to download from the Bishops’ website

Bishops appealed to Oireachtas members to consider Why Marriage Matters as they discuss this Bill and in particular to consider in conscience the following excerpt from it before voting on the Bill:
“Oireachtas Eireann is about to pass legislation that seeks to give same-sex relationships a standing which will be as similar as possible to marriage. The Civil Partnership Bill will not permit adoption by same-sex couples. In most other respects, including tax and social welfare purposes, same-sex civil partnerships will be regarded as being equal to marriage.

“This is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and State. Nor does it ‘guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded.’” (Art. 41.3.1, Bunreacht na hÉireann)

Bishops called on Oireachtas members to allow for greater recognition of the proper autonomy of Churches and the right to social and civil freedom in religious matters. This includes the right of individuals to the free exercise of conscience in accordance with the objective moral order and the teaching of the Gospel. The current Bill, by exposing Civil Registrars to a fine and/or imprisonment should they act in accordance with their conscience on the matter of same-sex unions, undermines this cherished principle of a free and diverse society and imposes unjust limits on the ‘freedom of conscience and free expression and practice of religion’ guaranteed to every citizen in Article 44.2.1 of Bunreacht Na hÉireann. Bishops therefore appeal to Government to introduce amendments to the Bill to accommodate freedom of religious conscience on this vital matter. Bishops also ask Government to support a free vote for all members of Dáil Éireann and the Seanad on this Bill as it passes through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Unsurprisingly, they were immediately attacked in the media, and by various politicians. Senator Bacik, the well known pro-abortion advocate, said that the Catholic Bishops had ‘displayed an 'extraordinary arrogance' in intervening in the debate on the Civil Partnership Bill and by describing it as unconstitutional.’ ‘It is most unfortunate,’ she said, ‘in what should be a secular republic, we are still seeing them intervening on matters of this nature.’ see Irish Times article

Hello? – the bishops speaking out on a moral issue that is of such vital importance to the future of society and the common good?

Another Senator observed that ‘the Catholic Church had finally been flushed out on the Bill.’ Senator David Norris, the notoriously pro-homosexual activist, said that although the bishops were entitled to express their view, their ‘attempt once again nakedly to intervene in the political process was’, in his opinion, ‘completely deplorable.’

The Minister for Justice, Mr. Dermot Ahern, has consistently refused to allow a ‘free vote’ on the Bill in the parliament, and Mr. John Gormley, criticised the bishops, saying that he was ‘taken aback’ by the comments of one of the bishops to the effect that the Bill was unconstitutional, and that some of the provisions in the Bill, imposing sanctions of fines and imprisonment on those who might conscientiously object to carrying out certain provisions of the Bill, were also unconstitutional. Mr. Gormley is Leader of the Green Party (the party that with Fianna Fáil makes up the Coalition Government).

The usual suspects, such as the Equality Authority, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, homosexual groups, etc., have also been vociferous in their criticism of the bishops. Although the Minister for Justice, and others, continue to deny that the Bill will affect marriage in any way, it is obvious from parliamentary debates and also from publicity (including bus and other site advertising) on the part of a group called ‘Marriagequality’ that the bill is for them just a stepping stone towards the status of marriage and the adoption of children for homosexual unions,their more than likely, ultimate goal.

Each Wednesday, for the past number of weeks, a representative gathering of people from various parts of Ireland has maintained a three/three-and-a-half hour vigil outside the Dáil (parliament) buildings in Kildare Street in Dublin, calling on politicians to scrap the proposed Bill. A further vigil will take place next Wednesday, 23 June, from 11 am to 2.30 pm.

It is interesting, and frightening, to note that a form issued this year by the Revenue Commissioners in relation to tax returns already recognises the reality of the ‘Civil Partnership Bill’, in that one of the categories listed on the form is that of ‘civil partner’. How’s that for anticipating the legalisation of ‘civil partnerships’!