Why would same-sex marriage, but not divorce, cause the Catholic Church to withdraw from state weddings?

Atheist Ireland welcomes the threat by the Irish Catholic Bishops that the Church may no longer perform the civil aspects of weddings, if marriage is extended to same-sex couples.

We believe a formal separation of the religious elements of a church marriage, and the civil elements of a state marriage, would be a good thing for Irish society.

However, why does it take the possibility of same-sex marriage to cause the Catholic Church to make the threat that “If there were two totally different definitions of marriage the Church could no longer carry out the civil element”?

Based on its own argument, the Catholic Church should already have stopped performing the civil aspects of weddings after the divorce referendum, which has already changed the definition of state marriage to make it fundamentally different from that of Catholic Church marriage.

There must be something about same-sex marriage that particularly threatens the Catholic Church, and it cannot be the inability of gay couples to have children, as the Church happily marries infertile heterosexual couples. So what can it be? We hope they can clarify this.

Here’s the background, from the Irish Times:

The Catholic Church first made this threat in its submission to the Constitutional Convention in 2013. Martin Long, director of the Catholic Communications Office said then:

“At the moment on behalf of the State, the priest acts as the solemniser of the marriage between a woman and a man. Obviously if the definition of marriage changes then this role will change.”

Last night Mr Long confirmed to the Irish Times that this is still the position of the Bishops, stating:

“This was the last public authoritative intervention. Nothing has changed since then.”

In that submission, the Bishops said:

“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.”

And that submission defined marriage as:

“Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others. In marriage, a woman and man promise love and fidelity to each other, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health as long as they both shall live.”


Atheist Ireland