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RAISING MARRIAGE AGE FROM 16 TO 18 IN THE UK.

If I were asked for general advice I would advise that it is better to experience a bit of life before committing to marriage – and to leave getting married until at least mid 20s.

In Ireland, the absolute minmum age of marriage is 18.

In the UK it is 16, but marriage under 18 can still happen if you have the written consent if both your parents.

This matter is not very important to most people in our society.

But it is very important to the Irish Traveller Community as a significant number of their young people marry between the ages of 16 and 18.

There is a long history of young Traveller weddings in Ireland.

I heard, and lawyers please correct me if I am wrong, that at one time the President of the Irish High Court had the power to allow Marriages even under 16?

“RUNNING AWAY”

Generally speaking, Traveller parents these days, wa t their children to wait until they are 18 + in order to marry.

But younger Travellers are now putting their parents under immense pressure y the boy and girl “running away” and spending a night or several days with each other.

This causes the parents to panic – in as the girl especially might have had sex and could be pregnant

To be pregnant out of wedlock is a massive disgrace for a Traveller girl or woman and leads to great ridicule in the whole community – with the feeling no other man will touch her again.

So the parents and girls are left between a rock and a hard place.

I, for one, have solved some of these cases by celebrating the marriages of under 18 year olds with their parents written consent – consent that has be be given in front of me as a priest or a solicitor in their own locality.

I think the RCC insists on brides and grooms being 18?7

Of course, if the law changes in the UK and those laws are legally applied in Norther Ireland, I will no longer be able to perform legal marriages for such people.

I think the UK law is designed to stop the forced marriages of 14 year old girls in the Muslim community etc.

I suppose it is a balance between stopping abuse, protecting minors, the rights of the community and the rights of individuals.

The MP bringing in the new legislation is Pauline Leatham.

I dropped her an email yesterday’s and made her aware of Irish Traveller culture and asked her to take them into consideration.

We are all influenced by our own cultures and its not always easy to understand other cultures and customs.

PAULINE LATHAM’S REPLY

Thank you for your email.

My bill will have effect for all communities in England & Wales, including Travellers. It does not discriminate and indeed treats everybody in exactly the same way.

I do disagree with you about the desirability of allowing child marriage in the Traveller community. For me, one of the main motivations for this change in the age of marriage is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to complete their compulsory education before taking a decision as life-changing as a marriage. You point out that many Traveller couples marry at 16 and 17 with their full and free consent – I would argue that a 16 or 17 year old cannot consent to what they do not understand – and that marriage is too important and significant a decision to be taken by a child.

Furthermore, a House of Commons Select Committee report from 2019 (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwomeq/360/full-report.html#heading-13) highlights the disparity in educational outcomes faced by Traveller children. It seems to me that at least some of this disparity is affected by child marriage (a girl taking the decision to marry at 16 will not be able to concentrate on her studies), and so I would like them to be able to focus solely on their education or vocational training until they are 18 years old, as is required by the law, and only then take decisions about the rest of their lives.

However, whilst I hope that the above points have set out why I think this change is important to safeguard children’s futures, they will not directly apply in the situations you describe (in Northern Ireland). Currently, marriage is a devolved policy, and so my bill will only set the age of marriage to 18 in England & Wales. I hope that Northern Ireland will follow suit, but it will not be compelled to by my bill.

Yours sincerely

Pauline Latham OBE MP

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108 replies on “RAISING MARRIAGE AGE FROM 16 TO 18 IN THE UK.”

My parents married at 17 and I was born a day after my mother’s 18th birthday. I was conceived in the back of a Ford Capri. I guess these days I would have been cancelled by a morning after pill.

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I was the same- my mum had just turned 18 and they always told me I was conceived on a plane on the way back from Majorca!

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Having officiated at raveller baptisms, funerals and weddings, the only exception I would make is to celebrate them separately from the normal routine. On the occasions I officiated the disruption caused by the constant movement and restlessness was very difficult to cope with. I would officiate but for weddings, I do not agree with a lower age group.

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Pat, the Explanatory Note to the Bill explains that it would apply to England and Wales only, because the law in this policy area is devolved in Scotland and NI:
“The purpose of the Bill is to address the practice of child marriage in England and Wales. The Bill
will raise the minimum age of marriage and civil partnership to 18 in England and Wales. This will bring an end to provisions allowing for 16-17-year olds to marry or enter a civil partnership with parental or judicial consent.
2 The anticipated effect of this change on the common law will also mean that any marriages which
take place overseas, or in Scotland or Northern Ireland, involving under 18s where one of the parties is domiciled in England and Wales, will not be legally recognised in England and Wales. This change to recognition will also apply to civil partnerships. This will not affect the validity of any marriages or civil partnerships entered before the Bill comes into force.
3 The Bill will also make it illegal for a person to arrange the marriage of a person under the age of 18 in England and Wales in those circumstances where that is not already illegal.”

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For clarification: Ms Latham’s Bill relates to England and Wales only, not to the rest of the UK; and in Scotland persons aged 16 or over may marry without parental consent.

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That’s good to hear. But a lot of Irish Travellers are domiciled in Engalnd and the new law would mean their marriages in N. Ireland would not be accepted when they return to England.

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11.09: Pat, all kinds of cultural and socially different groups can make an argument for exceptionalism. Can or should a society have such variations of law? I truly believe only one rule should apply in any country. Britain, England and Wales have every rught to state what the law should be. Likewise we in Ireland should stand firm with the age requirement. Marriage is a huge decision to make and carries great responsibilities that require mature people to enter into it. What does a 16 year old know about life? Or an 18 or a 21 year old? You should know the breakdown percentages of those who enter into marriage at a young immature age! We need to educate teenagers on the absolute need for right, informed and mature judgment about marriage.

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Please make this known. Wrong sexual talk to boys by the warped authorities causes unlimited damage, unbalance and strain among all boys, men, girls and women. This has been coming from the warped secular and church authorities jointly.

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5.19am. Was it the winds of storm Barra that affected your brain or what???? This is a very weird comment. You should have put your head back under the duvet at this hour or were you bidding farewell to a stranger? “Imbalance” is the correct wird not unbalance…

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11.09
I wd say they know more than the 34 year old canon lawyer who told kids to withhold information from their parents….

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Pat the entry age into Maynooth Seminary should be raised considerably due to the levels of sexual abuse against young adult seminarians.

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The last minor accepted into Maynooth and ordained was about 2004 or so?? A man from Raphoe. I do not think they allow children in seminary any more.

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Kevin Doran went into Clonliffe when he was 17 years and three months old.

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Imagine the child protection issues for 17 year olds when there were “Strange Goings on”. Were there any there in 2016?

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@bishoppat ah, that makes a lot of sense – Doran is completely emotionally stunted and has the typical chip on his shoulder that a lot of the straight from school clergy have. Thank God he was never appointed to Dublin or Tuam. His ego would have exploded.

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How is somone at 17 a child? They can leave school, work, pay tax, drive, join the army.

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The age in Scotland in 16, with no parental consent required, and I don’t think there are any plans to change this. It’s England and Wales that are proposing to make the minimum age eighteen.

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🎵Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.
This I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.🎶
Society has gone mad between this and the EU trying to cancel Christmas. In respect of the diverse community of people of different faiths and none, the age of marriage at the very least should be the same as the age of consent.
Pax.

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Correct. If consent can happen before marriage then society is promoting sex before marriage.
At no point am I saying I have an issue with sex before marriage. What I am saying is that the Catechism does have this issue – but I ask, will the Bishops promote the teaching of the Church?

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THG 11:59,
There is supposed to be a new sex education programme for Catholic primary schools. It was written by a former principal and developed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
It states that when discussing LGBT issues, the “Church’s teaching in relation to marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted”. The introductory note to the resource also says the programme must not promote shame.
The book additionally says that consenting relationships “belong in a committed relationship.”
Episcopal leaders must surely promote this teaching of the church?
Pax.

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THG 2:16,
Are they his semantics?
I think they’ve tried to be careful with their language to be fair:
“marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted”.
“the programme must not promote shame.”
“belongs in a committed relationship.”

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@Seamus viii 2.27
I last quote looks very much like semantics to me. It represents the point when the Catechism clashes with the Song of Songs. To me the bishops should either be teaching the Catechism to the children or they should be standing in Rome asking for the Catechism to me amended to ‘committed relationships’.
Please do not get me wrong – I think they have done well. But if it is not in the Catechism then they need to fix either the Catechism or the syllabus. Middle-roads and and the inability to take a firm stand has got the Bishops into enough wishy-wash-water.

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THG 3:30,
Belonging in a committed relationship and marriage as a sacrament of commitment are two of the themes included in the resource. They are not reinventing the catechism to be fair. They have just opted to bring people on that journey of understanding step by step.

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Honestly if the young couple pay their way, what business is it of another? Now an apprentice driveway layer might struggle, but that’s his concern. Interesting a girl can marry at 15 in Mississippi with parental consent, and that age with or without in Colombia (one Pablo Escobar is an instance of that). That’s pushing it, obviously.

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Married or not, we have extra-territorial jurisdiction for child abuse in Ireland.

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@The Holy Goat I suppose it is more that we claim it, and if a state where the alleged perv cooperates, then the suspected nonce is coming home for trial and perhaps prison. We hardly have any business with the German pervs going to Thailand or Cambodia. That’s for Germany.

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Priests just do soft “Thought for the Day” homilies, so you won’t here a peep out of them about the right age for marriage, and certainly not about young people living together from an early age, or indeed any age.

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I suppose the jibe that a celibate man of God is hardly an expert on marriage, since he cannot marry, holds many back. It did not stop priests of old preaching on it, and while the old ways are not always the best, speaking clearly on the Church teaches is something that will be appreciated, I think.

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12.48: This is a distorted view and very misleading. If you are in touch with reality, most people nowadays don’t get married till late 20’s or early 30’s. I’ve also had a few who were in their 40’s!! All much better ages to make so important a decision. As for “soft thought homilies. I’m glad of that epithet as Jesus was very kind, caring and empathetic in his style. If you want theological homilies, go to a lecture.

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An expensive was of money sending priests to study philosophy and theology for six years, if Thought for Day is all we get. Many priests extemporise and don’t prepare at all or copy from the Intercom or even the Furrow. Also, do you realise that Jesus had plenty of hard, indeed “intolerable” teachings?

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@12:59, Jesus also preached sermons that would have scorched paint off walls. Jesus Himself is the “hellfire preacher” par excellence when required.

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I’m arranging for my daughter to get married to an Egyptian man and I will not be judged by freaks like you lot.

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I got married at 19, 26, 31 and 43 and I wish I had of just waited to 43 as that was when I was more comfortable in my own skin and I finally found someone for me. 3 years on and we are still happily married.

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Just like we can’t condemn the clerical abuse survivor who murdered his abuser by ramming a crucifix down his throat.
The clerics who ramble on about mercy, etc, would soon change their tune if their church was burned down – the insurers would give them a cold dose of reality.

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Francis talks in riddles. He constantly contradicts himself. What he says so often doesn’t seem to be considered. He just seems to talk off the cuff. That is confusing and not a bit dangerous for someone in his position. People listen to what he says and come away confused and uncertain. His minders need to stop him giving these ad lib impromptu interviews. I wonder how much advice he takes before spouting off ? He should be more careful, more considered and more responsible, given the position he holds.

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@ 3:04pm
Your very charitable but somehow I don’t think so, nobody could be that unlucky. Anyway unless he was widowed all his other ‘marriages’ are invalid in the eyes of The Church.

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3.19 the Church has shown itself inadequate at defending moral consent because it keeps muddling the real issues up with “the eyes of the Church”. The age of matrimony is the age of consent. The official pressure by the county council and the Dept of Education’s Teacher Training Colleges wasn’t the same as what lighthearted playground tittle tattle there was from other boys (one’s actual equals). It’s only a few years since the Holy Roman Agitators were scare mongering about unmarried over 25s and that couples had to sacredly trot out their private details in front of others (implicating them in verbal abuse). Pre John was evil? Pre JP was evil? Pre Bergoglio was evil? Am I the only one to (belatedly) recognise ghouls, svengalis, creeps and pervs in more than one quarter? Jim’ll fix will he? I met a traumatised BBC (studio) cameraman. And Mme Giselle? The lot of them should keep their noses, and their waffly stories that don’t square, out of our lives, young and old. Some schoolgirls aided by discerning boys complained about the rape culture in school: have their school bosses made that go quiet? A generation got weaponised, by authority, and their children (the parents of today’s children) are saying that’s fine when the children of now (of no particular religion) are saying it’s not.

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With respect, I believe the law should be raised and travellers should wait until they are 18 years old. Cultures change and adapt with time, and the traveller’s community shouldn’t be the exception.
Traveller’s should change their culture to encourage education, maybe even higher education. LGBT+ inclusion is at present not a part of mainstream traveller’s culture and is of real concern to the mental
well-being of so many Irish travellers who lead a double life out of fear of shunning and potential violence.
Bishop Pat, you have a responsibility to support this new legislation and to educate your traveller friends as to why this is a good thing and how they can change their culture for the better.

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I agree with much of what you say. The Travellers will not be pushed but must be gently led.

I have dealt a lot with gay Travellers and their plight is pretty rough.

Culture generally evolves and that can take a bit of time.

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@ 1:32pm

I watched a documentary about Gypsy weddings, it’s not so much the age they marry at that’s the problem. It’s the immodest disgusting dress worn by the Bride and bridesmaids and the women guests. Also their behaviour in the Church was atrocious, have you had any of these problems at your Oratory and how do you deal with them?

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The Traveller girls and ladies do not view these dresses as immodest.

Basically Traveller women have THREE big days in their whole lives where they can pull out the dresses – Holy Communion, Confirmation and Wedding.

They have a “country and western” sense of taste.

They can arrive in the snow in the flimsyest of outfits.

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@bishoppat there was the Knock outcry some years back over immodest young girls there, although I’m sure if a mini-army of English security men were hired to keep them out, like what happened for a recent SSPX pilgrimage to Knock which had taken place over a good many years. Anyhow traveller culture is different, as you surely know. A thing for them are for certain leading travellers to have big nearly empty show houses while they live in a caravan nearby. There’s a house overlooking Tallaght like that, and a sort of cant they speak among themselves. Some traveller communities can be disruptive, others as quiet as mice.

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@ 4:49pm

What I saw in that documentary it was to me and and many others the epitome of bad taste. How they don’t see it themselves is a mystery, they were tacky beyond words. You said that they had Three big day’s First Holy Communion and Confirmation, I hope to God and His Holy Mother they don’t dress their children like that. The Guards were outside the Church anticipating trouble, and they were right, four men were arrested for fighting.

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Frank I married my ex wife when she was 17 and I was 20. I was her first ‘love’ if you get me, two years down the line, and one child later, I found her in bed with my own father. I have since forgiven both but my relationship with my dad was strained til his death. I think she and I were married too early and I think the age should be 21.

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I caught my disgusting gay brother giving oral sex to my fiancé but he had plied him with alcohol and seduced him. We have been happy married now for 31 years and we were both 20 when we made our vows. Marriage is for life, work on it and forgive.

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How did things turn out with your brother? Did you forgive him and reconcile? Blood is thicker than, well, water…and all that.

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2.30pm is indulging in a fantasy. It never happened. I thought Pat had turned up his troll detector.

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I got pregnant at a house party in the 1980’s and an active priest in the community today could be one of the potential fathers.

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Luvvie, you’re letting yourself down loads even writing that. One of the potential fathers? Sweet holy Jaysus and the wee donkey. It wasn’t like that in my day. Sounds like it could be the priest- but also sounds like it could be half of Ireland luv.

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2.36: Typical….blame someone else for your own irresponsibilities..The father could be an active guard, civil servant, politician….you sound ridiculous. THINK SENSIBLY.

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Danny mind your own business. I exiled my dirty rotten brother for betraying me. He’s dead now anyway mwahahahaha what goes around comes back around

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My daughter run off to Scotland and married a real tramp of a man. I was distraught and thought she had made a massive mistake but the tramp won the lotto a few years ago and they are very much a happy couple. You never know what’s round the corner.

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2.54: The daddy types you want can be found on sites, as I’m sure you are aware. Perve.

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First time I got married the priest was chewing gum during the service. So unprofessional. It was my last time also mind you

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Delia Neeson was a young bride and widow and now she’s the first female clergy in NI, always breaking boundaries –

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I had to get my marriage annulled as after my 6th child I refused to have anymore and as my husband wanted to continue breeding he left me. It was all about politics with him though

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3.19: On what grounds, after 6 children, was your marriage annulled? All politics with him?? What do you mean?

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3.28: There are some very sick, evil people out there who know how to be very twisted, and dangerously evil. Such men should be treated like vile predators.

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My dear sister Rosa was married young and had 3 kids by 23, became a heavy drinker and the marriage split up. She got sober but it was the drink that still killed her in the end, she was run over by a Guinness truck.

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3.30. This is a sick joke, surely? Should not have been printed. Might be believable were it not for the Guinness trucks part! Sick joke.

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It’s not a sick joke- I knew Rosa well. It happened just outside Dublin. You’re the sick one to deny it and treat a grieving family this way

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Pat if you’re in the mood to allow lots of ridiculous childish comments will you put a warning in the blog post so that sensible people needn’t check back for the rest of the day?
Many thanks.

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I don’t know why bigamy is punished by the courts. Surely having two mothers-in-law is punishment enough?

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All joking aside, why is bigamy illegal? Why does the State concern itself with it? In NI you can go to jail for up to 7 years if found guilty.

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Bigamy in communities where it is a thing, aside from issues of equity is that it result great numbers of frustrated young men who can never get a partner as some wealthy types monopolise women. It has been seen with various, usually US based cults, where surplus young men have to be driven off so the powers that be in the community retain power, and the community its stability.

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8.12: Bloody hell. That’s a 2016 article. We’ve grown tired of repeat stories and of Brian’s ssdnesses after ssdnesses after ssdnesses…My tears are dried up!! Have you a fixation on Fr. Brian? Move on…..you could be accused of elder abuse!! Fr. Brian is old..😁😂🤣😃.

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Pat, did you know that Maynooth University is applying for planning permission for new student accommodation just outside the gates of St Patrick’s College? So what, you might ask, until you hear that it will be called Buckley House. Imagine the lols when the bishops pass that during their visits.

https://www.demesne-architects.ie/buckley-house/

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In her email response she says that she “would argue that a 16 or 17 year old cannot consent to what they do not understand – and that marriage is too important and significant a decision to be taken by a child.”
So a 16 or 17 year old is a child when it comes to marriage but not other consenting decisions like starting a family? Talk about putting the cart before the horse!

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