Bishops Accused of Same-Sex Blackmail

Daily Mail (London), April 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

Bishops Accused of Same-Sex Blackmail


Byline: Michelle O'Keeffe

THE Catholic Church has been accused of 'blackmail' after bishops indicated priests might no longer carry out the civil aspect of weddings if marriage was extended to gay couples.

A refusal by the hierarchy to cooperate with the new legal definition of marriage if the marriage equality referendum is passed would effectively mean couples would not be officially married in a church ceremony.

Couples would have to go to a civil registrar to have their marriage recognised by the State. For a wedding to be legally recognised, it must be solemnised by a person on the Register of Civil Solemnisers. Of the 5,461 people on the register, 4,121 are Catholic priests. Labour senator Ivana Bacik said the bishops' threat could be seen as 'blackmail'. She said: 'I am not sure how real a prospect this is. I would be surprised if it was a serious proposal. It sounds like a threat, like blackmail. It would be counterproductive and put a huge burden on couples in relation to expense and inconvenience.

'I hope it is just a kite being flown. If there is any reality of it happening then it sounds like blackmail. I'd be very surprised if any right-minded Catholics agreed with this.' Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests said the bishops' threat smacked of 'not liking the game being played so you go home with the football'.

He told the Mail: 'I don't think it is going to come to the point that priests will be told not to carry out the civil aspects of a wedding.

'If it did happen because the referendum on same-sex marriage was passed, it could be seen as petty.

'It could be seen a bit like you didn't like the game being played so you go home with the football.

'The bishops will make the policy decision but priests would expect to be consulted.

'There would be resentment if priests were not consulted about it.' However, Fr Hoban said most priests would be happy to see the civil ceremony separate to the church ceremony as the civil aspect of marriages was 'a burden on priests'. He said: 'Priests are regarded by the State as unpaid civil servants who are expected to carry out the civil aspects of the wedding.

'If it was decided that they were not to be the solemniser of a marriage it would be seen as a burden being lifted off them.

'But of course it would also be a burden put on couples and would be more expensive for them.' Catholic Communications Office director Martin Long said: 'The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference has to date made no decision regarding the implications for solemnisation in the event of a redefinition of marriage in the Constitution of Ireland.

'The bishops made a statement at their spring general meeting of March 2015, which included: 'We cannot support an amendment to the Constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children. Exactly two years ago in April 2013 the Irish Bishops Council for Marriage and the Family made a submission to the Constitutional Convention session on marriage which was held in Malahide, Dublin. …

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