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31 May 2015
posted by Canon Dakin on 10-06-2015

You will be aware that the people of Ireland in a referendum have voted in favour of gay marriage though the bishops of Ireland expressed their opposition. So what has happened to Catholic Ireland? The same as has happened to the Catholic Church in England. I spoke a few weeks ago about a lost generation. When I came to Thornton in 1968 there was a group of keen teenagers well integrated into the Church through their families.. It was at their prompting, for instance, that we had an all-night vigil for Cafod. As they grew up, those youngsters, they were submerged by the cultural storm of the 70s. Most of them married outside the Church and subsequently divorced. They are now becoming grandparents - their children having lost all connection with the Church. The secular society has spread and Ireland has not been immune. It couldn’t be. It belongs to the same cultural world.  It is noticeable that Archbishop Martin of Dublin was not able to say: ‘Let’s remember that marriage is a sacrament’. He had to make a case for ‘reasoned argument’, saying that in a `society where individual personal fulfilment can become so dominant, every other argument can be laid to the side and we can come to the conclusion that there are so many concrete manifestations of family that it is no longer possible even to speak of family’.  When the same question was being debated here at home I felt the same constraint. When writing to our MP I couldn’t talk of marriage as a sacrament. I had to argue from reason -  saying, for example, that by analogy the word marriage just wouldn’t stretch to cover a gay relationship.

Supposing I had been able to use a faith-based argument, what would I have said? I would have begun with the Blessed Trinity - the basic belief of anyone who claims to be a Christian. We were made, we are told, in God’s image.  God is a relationship between three persons, the third person proceeding from the love of the other two. Immediately we see the image of God in the family, a third person, the child, personifying the love of man and woman. This loving relationship, which may issue in a third person, we call marriage. It is an absolutely unique relationship and so the term marriage can never be stretched to cover any other mode of physical attraction, however strong and sincere it may be. There’smore. The quality of love in marriage is to be that of Christ for his Church. He laid down his life for his Church. The grace of the sacrament is a love of divine quality; a divine energy.In other words, it is a sharing in the love and in the life of the Bl. Trinity. It doesn’t matter that you are not married. You are the child of a unique human relationship - as a child you are the third person. Family love is trinitarian and so a lifein communion with God. You are thinking that I’m living in cloud-cuckoo land; that if what I have been saying were to be true then all would be peace and harmony. It is you, perhaps, who may be mistaken in believing grace to be like an injection which works willy-nilly. When we talk of grace we mean that God is being gracious, inviting us into a relationship. Weare free to refuse or we may accept but rather edgily. What would be the status of a loveless marriage? It would have no sacramental reality. I consider that it would not be a marriage at all, simply a sham.  

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