Referendum defeat should not silence Church voices

Dear Editor, Along with many of your readers I am disappointed by the result of the marriage referendum. We face a period of uncertainty as this vote has its knock-on effects in our country’s laws. However, it was heartening to see the brave efforts of the ‘No Campaign’ to defend the meaning of marriage in the face of a hostile media. I was also encouraged by the way in which many bishops found their voice and articulated our Church’s understanding of marriage in compassionate and clear terms.

Defeat in the referendum shouldn’t be an excuse for that voice to fall silent. Rather, it highlights the urgent need for us as a Church to speak and to teach about marriage and human sexuality with renewed vigour. Our doctrines are not something that are squeezed out of us in times of political crisis, and left on the shelf at other times. I hope the experience of airing the Church’s concerns about marriage in the context of the referendum will give us greater confidence in voicing this understanding in less-feverish times.

The Church now has the task of reflecting on how to effectively articulate and defend our teachings on the family in the new legal context. The leadership and encouragement of our bishops is crucial at this time. Our Church institutions must provide a space for these teachings in a hostile intellectual environment and an unsympathetic public square. Our entitlement to religious freedom and to live according to our doctrines only has effective value when our Church institutions have the courage to organise themselves and teach in clear harmony with those doctrines.

One final thought – our recent celebration of Pentecost should remind us that professing our teachings in a hostile environment is neither a new experience for the Church nor a reason to be downhearted.


Yours etc,

Fr Bernard Healy CC,


Co. Kerry.