A Catholic bishop has said that Catholic voters and other electors must consider whether the proposed constitutional change on divorce might further weaken the social commitment to marriage.

In a statement, Sligo-based Bishop Kevin Doran also said that Catholics should ask themselves where candidates and political parties stand on the right to life and on four other key questions impacting on the common good.

Bishop Doran said he understood that the original intention of inserting into the Constitution a four-year waiting time between the separation of a married couple and their eligibility for civil divorce was designed to give couples space to seek a resolution to their difficulties rather than divorcing "at the first sign of trouble".

The Bishop of Elphin said the Catholic Church understands marriage to be a life-long commitment, which contributes very significantly to the stability of society.

He added that, through human frailty, sometimes combined with difficult personal and economic circumstances, marriages sadly fail.

"I think Catholic voters, like everyone else, must now consider whether the proposed Constitutional change might have the effect of further weakening the social commitment to marriage". 

"The important parallel question that we need to ask is whether society is living up to its responsibility to prioritise the family and to provide the human supports that might help couples to resolve difficulties that arise in their relationship, before their differences become irreconcilable."

The bishop also encouraged Catholics to vote in the upcoming Local and European Parliament elections.  

He urged members of his diocese to do all they can before they vote "to establish what the candidates actually stand for".  

He said if they belong to political parties, then a vote for them is usually a vote for that party's policy.  

"Past experience should have taught us by now that what candidates say before an election may not always be the same as what they do once they have been elected," Bishop Doran warned.

"It is not enough to read the slogans. Neither does it make sense simply to vote for the same party that your parents and grandparents voted for."

"Ask yourself, where does the candidate stand, and what is the track record of the party on the questions that really impact on the common good:

  • the right to life from conception to natural death
  • the provision of effective and timely care for the sick and the elderly, in a manner which is consistent with their human dignity
  • the education of children, with due regard for their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being
  • support for the integrity of the family, including especially the right of the family to have a home and the right and responsibility of parents as the primary educators of children
  • the right to work or to participate in a meaningful way in the life of society, not only for citizens, but for all who are willing to commit to the common good of our society, including those seeking asylum.

The bishop said that, since these are core Christian values, it does not make any sense for Christians to vote for candidates or parties whose policies are at odds with those values.