In recent years, Ireland’s church has been shaken deeply by revelations of widespread abuse at church institutions. Crimes were perpetrated against women who became pregnant outside marriage and children forced to endure sexual violence, and these crimes were often aggressively covered up by church leaders.
Leading Way of the Cross through Dublin on Good Friday, Ireland’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin spoke honestly about the ways the church has further “crucified” people who were already marginalized in society, reported the Irish Times.
Martin asked piercing questions, including about the church’s treatment of LGBT people:
“How is it that the church and its institutions could at various times in history, and not only in a distant past, have been so judgmental and treated broken people who were entrusted to its care with such harshness?
“How could we have tried to use the teaching and the merciful way of dealing with sinners to justify or accept harsh exclusion? Think of so many groupings who were misjudged: single mothers who wanted to keep a baby they loved, gay and lesbian people, orphans.”
Archbishop Martin criticized Christians who can be “so judgmental and hurtful” to socially marginalized people, and provided a partial answer to his own question:
“Scandals within the church, bitterness and division, empty ritual, a false clerical culture of superiority, judgmentalism of people who Jesus would have welcomed, have all contributed to darkening the possibility of many to recognise the true Jesus.”
The archbishop has a record of LGBT-positive statements, particularly during Ireland’s debate over marriage equality before it was legalized via referendum in 2015. He repeatedly called for respectful engagement(here, here, here, and here), acknowledging the harsh style with which church leaders had approached LGBT rights to that point.
Martin even joined Armagh’s Archbishop Eamon Martin in the rare act of criticizing a fellow bishop who had made LGBT-negative comments. The Dublin archbishop also referred to an anti-LGBT group’s messaging as “obnoxious.” After Irish citizens voted to approve marriage equality, Martin said that moment should be a “reality check” for the church. The archbishop has also said previously:
“Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that – they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people.”
Ireland’s church is, in a sense, enduring its own Holy Saturday. The entire nation is reckoning with church-inflicted suffering which so many people were forced to endure for years, “crucifixions” in their own right. But if church leaders seek to heal with the penitent and honest style that Archbishop Martin exhibited yesterday, the Irish church could experience its own type of resurrection.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 15, 2017