The World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, in 2018 

By Lisa Zengarini

Feb 28 2024

Commenting on the upcoming referendums on Family and Care, the Irish bishops say that the proposed constitutional amendments diminish the “unique” importance of the relationship between marriage and family, and stress that he role of mothers should continue to be cherished in the Constitution.

On Friday, Mar 8 Ireland is set to vote in a referendum to change the wording of Irish Constitution on Family and Care.

The amendments to article 41

Irish citizens will be asked to decide on a possible amendment to Article 41.1.1, which defines family as “founded on marriage”, to include “other durable relationships.”

The second referendum concerns Article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution which currently  recognises that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved, “  and “that the State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”  

The proposed amendment would delete the “women in the home” clause and insert a new article recognizing “the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them”.

In a statement released on 25 February the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference expressed their concerns over the proposed changes, lamenting in particular, that they would have the effect “of abolishing all reference to motherhood in the Constitution.”

The uniqueness of marriage

Regarding the first amendment on the Family, the bishops remarked that the proposed new text “diminishes the unique importance of the relationship between marriage and family in the eyes of Society and State and is likely to lead to a weakening of the incentive for young people to marry.”

“While ‘Marriage’ entails a public and legal commitment, the term ‘durable relationship’ is shrouded in legal uncertainty and is open to wide interpretation”, they noted.

“We believe that the commitment of marriage contributes to the common good in a unique way, by bringing stability to the family and to society, and that it consequently deserves the protection of the State, which is currently guaranteed in the Constitution of Ireland.”

With regards, to the Care Amendment deleting Article 41.2 and inserting a New Article 42B, the statement noted that the Irish Constitution “already recognises and seeks to facilitate the choice of mothers who wish especially to care for the needs of the family and the home.”

“Contrary to some recent commentary, the present constitutional provision emphatically does not state that ‘a woman’s place is in the home.’ Neither does it excuse men of their duties to the home and family.”

The Irish Constitution does not inhibit women from working 

The bishops express similar concerns about the removal of the term ‘home’ from the article. Noting that “in contemporary society there now exists a welcome co-responsibility between women and men for every aspect of domestic life, including the provision of care in the home”, the bishops suggest that “rather than removing the present acknowledgement of the role of women and the place of the home, “it would be preferable and consistent with contemporary social values that the State would recognise the provision of care by women and men alike.” 

“Care, both inside and outside the home, is at the core of compassion”, they say lamenting that so far the “State failed to financially acknowledge the role of women in the home; once again there is no indication that there will be provision for the adequate financial remuneration of carers”

The role of mothers should continue to be cherished in the Constitution

According to the Irish bishops, the proposed amendment would have the effect “of abolishing all reference to motherhood in the Constitution and leave unacknowledged the particular and incalculable societal contribution that mothers in the home have made and continue to make in Ireland”. 

“The present constitutional wording does not in any way inhibit women from working or taking their proper place in social and public life”, they insist.  “It does, however, respect the complementary and distinct qualities that arise naturally within the Family.” Concluding the Irish bishops  therefore reiterate that “The role of mothers should continue to be cherished in our Constitution.” – Vatican News