Archbishop Michael Neary

Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland on the Upcoming General Election

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Bishops-pastoral-statementA general election is an important moment which offers a democratic society an opportunity to reflect on its successes and failures.  In Ireland we are fortunate to live in a lively democratic society, even with all its imperfections.   Democracy requires in the first place that all citizens exercise their right to vote and we strongly encourage all to vote in the up-coming election.

Democracy however is not limited to voting. Democracy is fundamentally about people working and walking together to foster the common good. Democracy is damaged by indifference and by a splintering of society or a fixation on individual interests.  A general election is a moment in which all citizens, and not just political parties, should reflect and take stock of the health of the nation and especially on how we respond to the plight of the most vulnerable.

Democracy flourishes when it is rooted in a shared social ethic.  To succeed, good social policy requires economic stability and sustained growth.  But economic growth on its own does not necessarily generate social equity.   Social equity has a logic of its own which must be worked on to achieve its aim. Our comparatively wealthy Ireland has still a long path to travel in this task.

We share the anxiety of many citizens in Ireland at the fact that there is an uncertain social climate in the country regarding vital sectors of people’s lives, especially regarding health, homes, education, security, the fostering of a solid human ecology, and international responsibility.

Health: Most people feel great unease about the current health care system.  They worry about what would happen to them if they became ill.  They worry about the health of their children.  They worry about what would happen to their parents and other elderly people should they become ill.  They are worried about the cost of health care.  They are worried about the quality of health care, including mental health care.  Successive governments have presented a variety of solutions and in so many cases they have either failed or have not been implemented. A blame game is not the answer.  Ireland’s health crisis is the result of a fundamental failure of politics.

Home: there is a crisis of homelessness, not just of those who sleep rough on our streets, but of those who are housed in inadequate and precarious accommodation especially in hotel rooms totally unsuitable for children and families.  All recognise that providing adequate and affordable social housing is an essential pillar of any solution. Some more recent social housing has been poor in quality. Private rental accommodation is scarce and property market dealings are even reducing the available pool.

Education:  This General election takes place on the anniversary of the 1916 Rising and the Proclamation of a Republic which set out to cherish all the children of the nation equally.  There has been much discussion about inequality in access to education.  We are a young country and we will urgently need more and more new schools for the future. The real inequality in Irish schools is not religious in nature but it is the economic inequality where poorer communities and schools with a large percentage of disadvantaged children are not being adequately supported. Ireland is still marred by neglect of children and of lack of opportunity for the children of the most deprived and groups such as Travellers.

Security:  Citizens can only exercise their rights fully if they live within an overall climate of security. The most fundamental obligation of the State is the protection of its citizens.  Recent killings on the streets of Ireland have shocked all of us.  These are not simply about gangland feuds; they are the product of a criminal industry of death which unscrupulously floods our streets and our children with drugs.  It is an “industry” which destroys young lives daily and which fosters even broader criminality.   People feel insecure in their homes both in rural and urban communities. They will willingly support policies which will strengthen An Garda Síochána.

Human ecology: Pope Francis speaks often of climate change.  But he also speaks of a “human ecology”. Austerity is not a popular word but there is another kind of austerity, that of simplicity in life-style in harmony with nature, through which all of us indicate where our real values lie, rather than in the empty values of consumerism and a rush for the superfluous. Families deserve much greater support in their work in fostering and transmitting values.   A true human ecology recognises the equal right to life of every person from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.   The Constitution of Ireland embraces the right to life of the unborn child.    It is a fundamental affirmation of equality, where the right to life of no child is considered of less value than that of another.   We strongly oppose any weakening of the affirmation of the right to life of the unborn.

International responsibility: Ireland is an island nation but not an isle of isolation.  We belong within a world community.  Ireland’s missionary past is a clear indication of the deep concern of the people of Ireland for the progress of peoples worldwide. As a traditionally emigrant country we share a historical memory of how our emigrants were received or at times rejected in the lands to which they moved. Now it is the time for us to reciprocate the experience of openness by welcoming to our communities people who flee from persecution, from economic exclusion or from religious discrimination.   Despite economic challenges Ireland can and must maintain its commitments in international life especially recent commitments to finance development and to combat climate change.

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The believer in Jesus Christ cannot separate his or her understanding of responsibility in and for society from those criteria of judgment which are set out in the Gospel:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35–36).

The Christian in politics and in society cannot renounce his or her special responsibility to protect the weak and the marginalised. This responsibility cannot be delegated or supressed to party interests or emptied into the language of spin.   Politics is not just the art of the possible; it is a vocation where the interests of all citizens should respected and where the respect and trust of citizens will only be won by honesty and integrity.

As bishops we encourage all citizens to engage with and challenge their local candidates about their commitment to the questions we have indicated, and about their understanding of politics as truly working and walking together to foster the common good.

+ Eamon MARTIN                                  
Archbishop of Armagh
President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

+Diarmuid MARTIN
Archbishop of Dublin
Vice President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference

+Kieran O’REILLY                                
Archbishop of Cashel and Emly

+Michael NEARY
Archbishop of Tuam

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Pre Election Statement of Archbishop Michael

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Statement by Archbishop Michael Neary concerning the equal protection of the right to life of mothers and unborn children

Issues in General Election 2016

I am mindful of the many important issues which are being raised by voters and candidates in the run up to voting day for the general election on 26 February: unemployment and especially amongst our young people, emigration, rural crime, flooding, homelessness, housing, poverty; the quality of our education system; medical services; and the many challenges facing our farmers, all of which greatly affect the dignity of life for many families and individuals across our country.

Each human life is unique from conception until natural death

Of critical importance in any society is the unique value placed on each human life from the moment of conception to natural death. If life is not fully respected and protected then the very basis of our society is weakened. The Eighth Amendment guarantees the right to life of the unborn and the equal right to life of the mother.

Regrettably, some of those standing for election have declared their intention to work to remove this protection from our Constitution and laws. This simplistic approach to the most significant of issues is not only an outright attack on the unborn, but an affront to the charter of human rights enshrined in Ireland’s basic law.

If an unborn child has a life-limiting condition, it would be inhumane to withdraw the protection of the Constitution to their right to life. In this most significant of centenary years it is more pressing than ever “to cherish all the children of the nation equally” whether unborn or born, and irrespective of a child’s health status.

Broader than a faith issue

Just as education must be ‘student-centered’ so society must be ‘people-centered’. This is about life and basic human rights. It is not an exclusively ‘Catholic issue’.

Being pro-life in contemporary Ireland means, more and more, being counter-culture, being radical. However we cannot ignore the consequences of abortion for the unborn, for the voiceless. At this time we have a crucial responsibility to our future generations. Permitting abortion in difficult cases is like pulling a loose thread in a garment. There may be no definitive point at which the unraveling can be stopped.

Compassion for crisis pregnancies

Ireland’s social progress ought to be measured by how effectively we care for the most vulnerable amongst us, for example, a woman facing a crisis pregnancy. We should offer mercy, not judgement, in these situations. CURA’s 180 counsellors support women and men who face crisis pregnancies. Extending compassion, and providing tangible and creative resources to women experiencing crisis pregnancies, should be the ambition of all public policy makers.

Placing a culture of life at the centre of Election 2016

In his address to the United Nations in New York in 2015, Pope Francis said:

“The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of ever human life”.

As part of a conscientious engagement by citizens, I invite voters to ask their constituency candidates whether or not they support the sacredness of every human life, and to provide clarification about defending the weak and those who are easy to otherwise dismiss, and whose constitutional protection is now at risk.

Let us remember in our prayers the unborn child, and all who will be elected to the next Dáil and Seanad Éireann so that, as national public representatives, they may work in a self-confident way for the greater good of all and for a genuine culture of life where every citizen, especially the most vulnerable and including the voiceless child in the womb, is valued and protected.

ENDS

Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam

 

Homily of Archbishop Neary on Marriage

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HOMILY IN SUPPORT OF CHRISTIAN VIEW OF MARRIAGE

Importance of Marriage

Within weeks the people of Ireland will be asked to vote in a referendum that will change the meaning of marriage in the Constitution of Ireland.    The Church’s position on this is entirely positive: it is against the proposal to redefine marriage. We are not taking a conservative viewpoint or wilfully inhibiting genuine progress. We are not being mean-spirited towards those who have same-sex attractions. On the contrary, we regard marriage as the central and crucial social relationship, which is of natural law and plays an indispensable part in human life. This is seen nowhere more than in pro-creation and the parenting of children. What happens in marriage serves the common good of both the man and the woman and society itself. Our view of Christian marriage, properly explained and understood, is not in any way disrespectful of people who experience same-sex attraction. As a Church we believe every person is equal in the sight of God and should always be treated with love, dignity and respect.

CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

Scriptural Background

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of St. Mark that “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife, and the two shall become one. So there are no longer two but one”. (Mark 10:6-8). Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, based on the complementarity of male and female. This truth is being challenged today. Maleness and femaleness are aspects of our dignity through which we have the potential for creating new life. This is underlined by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which says “by its very nature the Institution of Marriage and married love is ordered to the pro-creation and education of offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory”. (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World).

A Challenging time for Marriage

The Rights of Children

There is no denying the fact that Marriage faces difficulties throughout the Western world today. These pressures impinge on all, but particularly on children. In the forthcoming referendum we are not just being asked to redefine marriage, we are redefining the family and depriving, in the words of Pope Francis, “the rights of children to grow up in a family with a mother and a father”. One of the most important and fundamental questions that each of us has to consider is the rights of the child. Following the Referendum on Children’s Rights our laws now enshrine the principle that, in all decisions relating to a child, the welfare of the child must be paramount.

Honouring the Traditional View of Marriage

The family is the crucible of our humanity, the miniature world in which we learn how to face the wider world. The family is the seedbed of the future, the best way we have yet found of fostering security and trust. We should be aware of what is at stake here. We are in fact redefining the family. Throughout history and across all cultures, marriage has been consistently understood to be the union of male and female with procreative potential. A society that identifies the two parties in marriage as spouse I and spouse II has lost sight of a deep truth of human nature. Do the complementary roles of mothers and fathers matter in the upbringing of children? Are we going to be the first generation in human history to say that mothers and fathers don’t matter any more in the upbringing of children? Pope Francis has been very clear in his response to this question. As he said recently: the family is the foundation of co-existence and a guarantee against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. This referendum is not and should not be about judging the various family types which have always existed as a reality in Ireland. Married parents and single parents deserve as much support as possible as they live out the challenging vocation of parenthood. It is a referendum, however, which is seeking to redefine the very values underpinning our faith-based and cultural understanding of marriage itself, the consequences of which will impact upon our future generations.

Referendum not about Equality

In saying this we are not disparaging anyone, nor are we being disrespectful to same-sex relationships. Despite what we are led to believe this referendum is not about same-sex relationships or about equality, but about the family. Civil partnerships have already been introduced which give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in terms of inheritance rights, next-of-kin status, employment, and tax related benefits. Such relationships ought not, however, be classified as marriage. So why the need to redefine marriage?

Comparing other Jurisdictions

We are being told that we must introduce this because lots of other countries have. In fact only one quarter of European countries have done so and none by a popular vote. Indeed, it has been defeated whenever it has been put to the people.

Viewpoint of the European Court of Human Rights

Contrary to popular belief same-sex marriage is not a human right. The highest human rights court in Europe is the European Court of Human Rights and it has found that there is no right to same-sex marriage in the Convention on Human Rights. States are free to make a distinction in their own laws between marriage and same-sex unions.

Inter-denominational and non-denominational approach

The point should be made that many people who are not Catholic and indeed might rarely find themselves aligned with the Church on any subject have expressed misgivings about the purpose of the referendum and the manner in which the Government has prepared for it and in which some sections of the media have conducted and facilitated debate in its regard.

Pray for Marriage

The effects of this proposed amendment will be far-reaching for this and for future generations. We invite people of faith to bring this decision to prayer. In the coming weeks, and particularly in May, the month of Mary, we call for prayer for marriage and the family.

Family and Marriage – Important – Reflect before changing it!

In conclusion marriage is of fundamental importance for children, mothers, fathers, and society. Marriage should remain a cornerstone of the family unit and all of us need to reflect deeply before changing it. For this reason we encourage everyone to vote on May 22nd.

HOMILY NOTES FOR UP-COMING REFERENDUM ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

In the hope of assisting reflection on the question of same-sex marriage the following observations may be worthy of consideration.

  • The Church’s position is against the proposal to redefine marriage but it is an entirely positive position. We are not merely taking a conservative viewpoint or wilfully inhibiting genuine progress. We are not being mean-spirited towards those who have same-sex attractions. We regard marriage as the central and crucial social relationship which is of natural law and plays an indispensable part in human life. This is seen nowhere more than in pro-creation and the parenting of children.What happens in marriage is essential for individuals and society.
  • It is not only a religious or Church claim to say that marriage is a unique and exclusive union between a man and a woman. It is a conclusion based on human reason.       Our complementarity as male and female, as man and woman, make us uniquely capable of generating new life.
  • It is not only a religious or Church claim to say that marriage is a unique and exclusive union between a man and a woman. It is a conclusion based on human reason.       Our complementarity as male and female, as man and woman, make us uniquely capable of generating new life.
  • Many people who are not Catholic and indeed might rarely find themselves aligned with the Church on any subject have expressed misgivings about the purpose of the Referendum and the manner in which the Government is prepared for it and in which the media has conducted and facilitated the debate in its regard.
  • We are being told that we must introduce this because lots of other countries have. In fact only a quarter of European countries have done so and none by a popular vote, indeed, it has been defeated whenever it has been put to the vote, in Slovenia, in Croatia and in most American states.
  • Although many claim that same-sex marriage is a human right, there is no legal right to same-sex marriage under the European Convention on Human Rights and the State is free to make a distinction in its own laws between marriage and same-sex unions.
  • Civil Partnerships already give same-sex couples the same rights as hetero-sex couples in terms of inheritance rights, next-of-kin rights, tax and employment benefits and so on. So whey do we need to change marriage?
  • In the forth-coming Referendum we are not just redefining marriage, we are redefining the family and depriving, in the words of Pope Francis, “the rights of children to grow up in a family with a mother and a father”.
  • One of the most important and fundamental questions that each of us has to consider is the rights of the child. Following the Referendum on Children’s Rights our laws now enshrine the principle that in all the decisions relating to a child the welfare of the child must be paramount. This raises the question: Do the complementary roles of mothers and fathers matter in the up-bringing of children? Are we going to be the first generation in human history to say that mothers and fathers don’t matter anymore in the upbringing of children? Clearly children can thrive in a variety of environments. But one of the consequences of changing the definition of marriage will be that mothers and fathers will be simply regarded as one among other equal options for a child in adoption and other circumstances.       Will the words “mother” and “father” be removed from official State documents such as Birth Certificates?       Do we believe, all other things being equal, that mothers and fathers bring something more important and unique in the upbringing of children? Pope Francis has been very clear in his response to this question. As he said recently: “the family is the foundation of co-existence and a guarantee against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity”.
  • By destabilising marriage we are rapidly eroding the social structures on which humanity depends. What kind of adult world is it that indulges itself and neglects its children. The family is the crucible of our humanity, the miniature world in which we learn how to face the wider world. The “Family” is the seedbed of the future. It is the best way we have yet found of fostering security and trust.
  • We tend to forget that marriage is a social institution, not just a private contract between a man and a woman and it needs social support.
  • On the 22nd May we will be asked as citizens of Ireland in a Referendum if we want to change the definition of marriage in our native Constitution. It is sometimes said that people of faith should not be concerned by the proposed Amendment because it concerns only the civil and not the religious understanding of marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every citizen should be concerned about changing an Institution which, as the foundation of the family, our Constitution already defines as “the necessary basis of the social order and indispensable to the welfare of the nation and the state”. As the Irish Bishops said recently about the forthcoming Referendum, “marriage is important – reflect before you change it”.

+Michael Neary

Archbishop of Tuam