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Irish government threatens Catholic marriage agency over gay couples

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The Irish government has threatened to stop funding the bishops’ marriage counselling agency unless it changes its policy to accept gay couples.

Accord, an agency of the Irish bishops’ conference, received £1.4 million in state funding last year and could potentially be forced to close if such funding is withdrawn.

The Times said that Tusla, the government’s childcare agency, has said that any agency it funds must make its services “accessible to everyone”. A new agreement has been sent to state-funded counselling services including Accord.

In England and Wales the bishops’ marriage counselling agency, Marriage Care, already offers its service to same-sex couples. (This service is offered as part of its general counselling, which is separate from its Catholic marriage preparation.) The agency received over £850,000 from national government contracts in 2014-5.

The dilemma facing Accord recalls that of Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales following the 2006 Equality Act. About a dozen agencies either had to stop placing children with families, which often meant closure, or offer services to gay couples and cut their links to the Church.