herald

Friday 2 December 2016

Catholic pre-marriage service ‘disappointed’ by government cuts to funding of its courses

Posters on lampposts ahead of the referendum
Posters on lampposts ahead of the referendum

STATE funding to the Catholic Church’s marriage preparation course has been cut but the agency responsible says it’s not linked to church opposition to same-sex marriage.

Bishop Denis Nulty, president of Accord Catholic marriage care service, confirmed the child and family agency Tusla wrote to the agency to inform them of the withdrawal of some funding and said he is “disappointed” by the decision.

Another Bishop, Dr Kevin Doran, told the Irish Catholic: “It seems to me that if the State does have a commitment to marriage, as the Constitution requires it to do, it is a rather strange move to be withdrawing funding from pre-marriage preparation courses.

“It remains to be seen whether this is part of a wider policy of the Government,” he added.

Last year, Accord, which does not support the May 22 referendum on gay marriage, received €1.992m in funding from Tusla and this year will receive just €1.6m.

However, Tusla has rejected reports that funding to Accord has been reduced because of Government pressure.

It stated it “does not favour any religion or culture”.

The organisation said it seeks at all times to prioritise the wellbeing and protection of children through its budget allocation.

Fergus Finlay – the boss of children’s charity Barnardos which is supporting the ‘Yes’ side in the referendum – said its funding has been cut by Tusla as well, though he is appealing it.

“The idea that they’re cut because of the Catholic church’s attitude to the referendum... how then have we been cut in the same time since we’re supporting the referendum? It doesn’t make sense to me,” he told Newstalk this morning.

Separately, a Dublin priest has said his belief in family in all its forms was one reason why he stated publicly that he will vote Yes in the referendum on same-sex marriage.

Fr Gerry O’Connor, who works in the Cherry Orchard parish, said same-sex families share the same strengths and weaknesses as traditional families.

“At the beginning of the referendum debate the church urged people to reflect good and hard, which was welcome. Then certain bishops recently publicly stated they wanted people to vote No and I looked upon it as my chance to express my own opinion,” Fr O’Connor told the Herald.

“Whenever there’s a referendum I examine it on the basis of the principles of the common good. I ask if it is in the interests of society, and in this instance I think it is and that is why I will be voting Yes.

“The are so many different types of families. From the nuclear ones with a mam and a dad and children to single parents of children from one father and single parents of children from different fathers – as well as same-sex couples.

“I believe in relationships and family and marriage in all those different types of situations,” he added.

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