Bishop of Derry Most Rev. Dr Donal McKeown calls for reflection ahead of Friday’s referendum.
- Its content is to be decided by the whole people, and not at the insistence of Church authorities or of any other interest groups.
- In discussing such key questions, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have said that the task of the Church is not to attempt to impose its will, but to help civic society “to purify reason”.
The marriage referendum proposes a major constitutional change because it involves altering the traditionally accepted understanding of marriage and the family, with father and mother, as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of society. (Constitution, para 41.1.1). This does not deny or devalue other sorts of family – but a special position is given to the role of the traditional family unit in building society.
Those who propose the change have the task of showing, beyond reasonable doubt, that the proposed change will improve the context for the raising of children and the overall stability of society.
I believe that those who argue for a ‘yes’ vote have not shown any compelling evidence that the proposed redefinition of marriage will promote a better society for all its citizens.
Indeed, there are many reasons to believe that this would damage the common good and make it very difficult for citizens to advocate traditional marriage in schools and other public fora.
In any constitutional referendum, the burden must surely rest with those who argue for change, and this proposed amendment does involve a significant change in our national understanding of marriage. As the Irish Bishops have said, “Marriage is important – reflect before you change it.”
Bishop of Derry Most Rev. Dr Donal McKeown