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Irish voters mull constitutional amendments downgrading traditional family structure

March 8, 2024 Catholic News Agency 0
Maria Steen, an Irish barrister, makes the case for rejecting proposed amendments to Ireland’s constitution. / Credit: Screenshot/EWTN News Nightly

CNA Staff, Mar 8, 2024 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

Voters in Ireland went to the polls today to decide on whether or not to strip from the country’s constitution recognition of the central role of the traditional family founded on marriage as well as the societal value of women within the home. Final results from the vote aren’t expected until Saturday.

In an interview with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol, Maria Steen, an Irish barrister, made the case for rejecting the proposed “Family Amendment” that would both remove a clause about the importance of marriage and family to society as well as legally redefine “family” as either “founded on marriage or on other durable relationships.”

“Now, the government isn’t able to tell us what ‘durable relationships’ means, and although it has been put to them many times, they say it will be up to the courts to decide,” Steen told Sabol. “So, in effect, the Irish people are being asked to vote on something with no definition, that they don’t know who the parties to it are, or the effects that it will have.”

In addition to the “Family Amendment,” the proposed “Care Amendment” would also remove a constitutional clause noting that the “state recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

The proposed “Care Amendment” would also remove an article of the Irish Constitution that says “the state shall, therefore, endeavor to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

“The government is talking about deleting the word ‘woman,’ the word ‘mother,’ and the word ‘home’ from our constitution,” Steen noted. 

These clauses would be replaced by an article noting that the state will “strive to support” the care that “members of a family” give to one another “without which the common good cannot be achieved.”

When asked about the response of the women of Ireland to the proposal, Steen noted that there’s “a lot of concern.”

“There’s a feeling among women that the idea, the symbolism of erasing the words ‘woman’ and ‘mother’ from the constitution is, in effect, grotesque,” she said. 

When asked about the effects of these amendments, Steen said it could have unintended consequences for things like family inheritance. 

“The benefit of marriage is that everybody knows what they’re getting into,” she said in reference to civil marriage, adding: “… Because it is publicly witnessed, everybody knows that both parties have consented to it.”

Without this “external evidence,” the legal category for long-term couples is unclear, she explained. 

Steen also noted that the “durable relationship” would be “put at the same level” as a marriage. 

“So, for instance, somebody could make a claim for inheritance or maintenance from a former boyfriend or girlfriend at the same level as a husband or wife could,” she explained. “And the other person had never consented to being in a marriage or a marriage-like relationship.”


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Irish diocese to rely on laity to preside over funerals amid shortage of priests

December 19, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
St. Macartan’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Clogher, in Northern Ireland. Laypeople will soon preside over funerals in 12 parishes in the diocese due to a shortage of priests. / Credit: JohnArmagh|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

CNA Staff, Dec 19, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

More than 40 laymen and laywomen in the Diocese of Clogher in the north of Ireland will soon begin presiding over funeral liturgies amid a shortage of priests.

A major vocation crisis could result in fewer than 10 active priests in the diocese in less than 20 years, according to the local ordinary, Bishop Larry Duffy.

“Over the past few months, over 40 people from 12 parishes across the diocese have taken part in a formation course to enable them to accompany people and families at the time of bereavement,” Duffy, bishop of Clogher, announced in a Christmas pastoral letter Dec. 16.

Other parishes have indicated a “willingness” to nominate people for a similar course in the spring, he wrote. 

In the letter, he said that the lay ministers would lead the “liturgy of reception of the body at the church and the Rite of Committal at the graveside.”

Duffy said the lay ministers will continue to be trained over the “coming months” and be commissioned to preside over funerals in their parishes. “We are very grateful to all those who have come forward for the formation and training and to the priests of those parishes for their involvement,” he said. Duffy asked for prayer for the new ministers. 

He said that the ministers will be “commissioned publicly to act in the name of the Church” and added that “this is not a lessening of service to families and loved ones at the time of a death but, rather, a strengthening of the local parish commitment to accompany people at such a difficult and sensitive time.”

Duffy announced in a July pastoral letter that the northern Irish diocese has a severe shortage of priests and will be ordaining just one priest in the next seven years. By CNA’s count, the diocese has 72 priests and deacons covering about 40 parishes and 85 churches.

“The figures given to us indicate that if we continue as we are, in less than 20 years there will be fewer than 10 priests covering the 85 churches across the whole diocese — from Bundoran on the Atlantic to Inniskeen and Killanny near Dundalk,” he said.

A shortage of priests

“The truth is that we cannot continue to operate and provide pastoral ministry across our diocese in the same way as we do now or as we did in the past,” Duffy said in July. He said that there would be fewer Masses as a result of the lack of priests.

Duffy said that the diocese is “far too dependent” on priests for pastoral care, administration, property maintenance, planning, and parish governance.

The “well-being” of clergy needs to be a “priority area for immediate attention,” he said.

“We need to move from a model that is clergy-dependent and based almost solely on sacramental provision to one that is broader in terms of recognizing, utilizing, and honoring the vocation and varied gifts of all the baptized and which will, over time, allow for really effective and meaningful co-responsibility in the Church’s mission,” he said.

In 2021, a survey by the Association of Catholic Priests found that only about 30% of Catholics in Ireland attend Mass weekly — a significant drop from 91% in 1975.

In 2022, a survey from the Irish organization Association of Catholic Priests found that 2,116 priests serve the nation’s 26 dioceses, which consists of more than 2,650 churches or “Mass Centers,” according to the Irish Times.

That survey also found that almost 15% of priests are over the age of 75 and “still working,” while more than a quarter are between the ages of 60 and 75, the outlet reported. That survey found that only 52 priests in the country were under 40 years old, and 464 priests were between the ages of 40 and 60.