Considering that all but an almost negligible four percent of its roughly three hundred thousand members live in the Irish Republic, this might just be yet another case of Ulster Says No. In its statement yesterday the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said that it upheld the “historic – and Christian – view of marriage;” placing careful emphasis on the Christian understanding of marriage as belonging exclusively to one man and one woman. With respect to my Christian sisters and brothers in the Presbyterian Church it has to be recognised that the Belfast authorities of their Church have a remarkably thin claim on a representative voice of Christianity; they barely represent three percent of the global Christian faith. As a Church it is free to speak for itself, but things will always get problematic when any group speaks on behalf of all Christians.

Most Christians, as the polls are now showing, do not accept this static understanding on marriage, and so what we see from Belfast is more likely to be a reflection of a particularly Northern Protestant take on the Christian faith – a region where Creationism and Biblical Literalism are still very much in vogue. While the Presbyterian and Catholic Churches have underlined their respect for the “rights of all people within a democracy,” they remain quite unwilling to enable this democracy by answering a very simple question that will be of great importance to Christians when they cast their votes.

In the past week I have gone to the trouble of emailing a number of people in pursuit of an answer to this question. The email sent to the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, was responded to by his personal secretary saying, “Thank you for your e-mail. I have passed it to the Archbishop for his attention.” There has been no further reply despite two more reminders. No reply has been sent from any member of staff at the national seminary in Maynooth, nor has there been a reply from Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome. In fact no one has replied to this question at all. It might seem that Christian leaders are no longer interested in sin. Why such silence? I’ll tell you. It is not a sin to vote in accord with a well-informed conscience, and a yes vote from another Christian country would begin to suggest that the Sensus fidelium – the real opinion of Christians and hence the Church – is that same sex marriage is not contrary to the laws of God. This is why the bishops and moderators are silent.

Ùr-Fhàsaidh is a Christian social justice blogger and the author of his own random public journal – the Tuppence Worth blog. If the Christian faith is to have a place in the public discussion it must first ensure that it is a source of liberation for those who are oppressed. Faith of any kind means precious little if it is not about and for people.



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