The Rt Revd Dr Willie Walsh, Roman Catholic Bishop of Killaloe in Ireland, said in a radio interview on Clare FM on 27 October 2004 that, while he has “difficulty” with same-sex marriage, he does not see any problem with civil unions that are similar to the Civil Partnership bill currently being debated for the UK. Dr Walsh also said that he did not believe sexual diversity was a sin and that catholic teachings in the past may well have contributed to homophobia. “I have no difficulty in relation to recognising the civil liberties of people of homosexual orientation,” adding that sexual diversity was not a sin or a virtue, but just “a fact”. However, he said the institution of marriage was something he could not link to same-sex couples. “I do have a difficulty in relation to marriage. I do believe that marriage is a loving life-long relationship between a man and a woman,” he said, according to the Irish Times.
His comments come as Ireland’s government is reportedly looking into offering rights to same-sex couples. The system could well be similar to that on offer in France and Germany, or to the bill currently passing through Westminster. Belgium and the Netherlands offer full marriage rights to same-sex couples, while Spain is set to offer them in the near future.
Dr Walsh’s comments will anger other senior members of the Catholic church, who have repeatedly called for a block on laws giving lesbian and gay people equal rights. Most recently, the Pope hit out at “threats” to marriage, preaching chastity as the only “solid hope” in the fight against HIV and gay marriage.