CATHOLIC CHURCHES in Ireland have said they would refuse to perform civil marriages as part of religious ceremonies if the constitution is changed to allow full civil marriage for same-sex couples – potentially forcing Catholic couples to have two separate wedding ceremonies.
The claim is in a submission made to the Constitutional Convention by the Irish Episcopal Conference, the group made up of the country’s Catholic bishops.
The submission says that the Catholic Church does not recognise “any other partnerships or legal unions as having an ethical or legal equivalence with marriage”, which the Church defines as being between a man and a woman.
“Any change to the definition of marriage would create great difficulties and in the light of this, if there were two totally different definitions of marriage, the Church could no longer carry out the civil element,” it says.
Move may mean couples need two wedding ceremonies
Because Irish law does not explicitly recognise religious weddings, and instead offers its own civil marriage, it instead gives religious bodies and their officials the ability to perform civil marriages, with powers similar to a State-employed civil registrar.
As a result, a civil marriage is usually performed in the same ceremony as a religious one. In Catholic weddings, the civil marriage register usually signed after the religious Mass has ended and before the newlyweds leave the chapel.
This means couples seeking a Catholic wedding, and who want their marriage to be recognised in law, only need to have one ceremony, despite having two separate marriages.
A directive from bishops to end this practice would mean that couples engaging in a traditional Catholic wedding ceremony would not legally be married – and would instead have to visit a registry office in order to have a legally recognised civil wedding performed.
“Changing the Constitutional definition of marriage to include same-sex unions would, over time, inevitably influence how society as a whole understands marriage,” the bishops’ submission says.
“Marriage would be reduced to an arrangement of the sexual relationship of any two people. It would cease to be the institution upon which the family, and therefore society itself, is founded.”