The bishops, in a statement issued on Saturday, have appealed to people to “reflect deeply” on the implications of their vote in the upcoming referendum on divorce.

Bishop Denis Nulty, Chair of the Council for Marriage & Family of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, stressed that the referendum proposal seeks to “expedite the dissolution of marriage and that the common good would be better served by supporting and resourcing couples and families in preparation for, and during, marriage.”

He highlighted that Article 41.3.1 of the Constitution of Ireland proclaims that “the State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded, and to protect it from attack”.

Bishop Nulty continued, “Following last August’s celebration of the World Meeting of the Families and the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland, the Council for Marriage and the Family published A Word of Truth and Hope.  In it we recognise, as Pope Francis does, that people are called to live their married lives in the reality of the world with all its opportunities and its challenges.  For a wide diversity of reasons, even with the best efforts of the husband and wife, marriage sometimes reaches a crisis point.

“A Word of Truth and Hope acknowledges that “there is possibly no greater loneliness than to share a home with a person with whom one can no longer share life or love.  Sometimes with great courage and support from those around them, it is possible for a couple to continue their married life and even to deepen their love.  Sometimes, however, marriage ends in divorce.  Our experience would suggest that many divorced people have no wish to remarry.  Many, inspired by faith, seek to remain faithful to the promises which they made before God, while others, eventually, do remarry civilly or enter into new relationships”.  Our understanding of the Church as a “loving mother” and the parish as a “family of families” endorses our pastoral approach as Church in accompanying people in the brokenness and pain of their situation.”

Bishop Nulty said, “Marriage is essential and fundamental for the good of society worldwide.  It is imperative that we continue to work together to promote marriage and family. We believe that the incidence of marriage breakdown and divorce could be reduced through the introduction of socio-economic policies which support the family and through long-term education strategies which promote values such as fidelity and commitment.  While this would cost money, the human and economic cost of breakdown and divorce, both for the couple and for their children, is a far greater cost.”

Bishop Nulty went on to highlight the work of Accord, the pastoral agency of the Catholic Church supporting marriage and family life, which offers courses to women and men who are preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage.  He said that feedback from Accord indicates that the experience of couples who have undertaken a marriage preparation course has been very positive and this has benefits for their marriage and family life.

Concluding his statement Bishop Nulty called called on the Government to recommit resources to marriage preparation and invest resources into marriage enrichment. “Both initiatives will sustain marriages into the future and lead to great dividends for wider society,” Bishop Nulty said.

The referendum takes place on Friday 24 May.

ENDS