Bishop Wants All Families Welcomed at International Catholic Gathering

A bishop in Ireland has insisted that supporters of marriage equality, and all families, be included in the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families happening in Dublin next year.

Bishop Brendan Leahy

Speaking to a diocesan gathering about the World Meeting of Families (WMF),Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick said that in a changing world, “family too is changing.” Citing Ireland’s successful referendum on marriage equality last year, Leahy said “all are equally welcome to join in this celebration of family.” The Irish Independent captured his quote:

“‘Everyone must be made feel welcome next year. We all want to build a good family network of support in Ireland at all levels. . . [WMF is] an international event but it will have special meaning for us as Irish people because family means so much here. . .It anchors us in life, defines us. It’s comfort when we are in difficulty and the first place to go to celebrate. . .The World Meeting of Families is a major celebration of this. . .

“‘My hope for next year’s event is that it will be for all families; for the traditional family, single parents, people in second relationships, people divorced and remarried, people of great faith and no faith, people of other faiths, people who agree with the Church and those who disagree.'”

Bishop Leahy practiced this kind of inclusion last year when the Diocese of Limerick held a synod with some 400 delegates. He described the event at that time as the “distilling of the wisdom of the listening that has gone on across the 60 parishes of our diocese of Limerick.” This listening process revealed how many people had been hurt by the bishops’ opposition to marriage equality, leading synod delegates to approve a proposal for outreach to ostracized Catholics, including LGBT people. Leahy himself has acknowledged the church must admit “the failure and disappointment we see in our own wounds, those at the heart of the Church, in all that has not been right in the Church, in the complex situations of the world around us.”

Terence Weldon of the blog Queering the Church has made a more precise suggestion than Leahy. Weldon recommendsa that the WMF should have a recognized delegation of LGBT people and their families. He noted that at the 2015 WMF in Philadelphia, a group of pilgrims sponsored by the Equally Blessed coalition attended informally. Weldon then argued:

“For Dublin 2018, circumstances have changed, dramatically.  The local archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, is far more pastoral and supportive of LGBT Catholics than Blaise Cupich, as evidenced by his nuanced, non-agressive response to the introduction of same-sex marriage in Ireland. . .For example, in a recent homily at the Knock shrine in Ireland, he observed that ‘while there is no family that is ideal, there are families who struggle, at times heroically.'” In orthodox Vatican doctrine, our queer families are certainly not regarded as ‘ideal’ – but it is also abundantly true that many of them are included among those that ‘struggle, at times heroically’. . .

“It is possible (even likely?) that an attempt to secure formal accreditation for a coalition of LGBT Catholic groups to represent queer (‘non-ideal’) families at the 2018 assembly, will be more successful than was the case in 2015. . .Why not?”

The WMF 2018 is a prime moment to realize the kind of encounter and dialogue sought by Pope Francis.  Church leaders should formally welcome LGBT Catholics, their families, and ministries working with these communities to the gathering.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 16, 2017


6 replies
  1. Terence Weldon
    Terence Weldon says:

    Thanks Bob. I have written to the organising team, asking about the possibility of formal recognition as a group, but have not yet had a reply. I assume that this is simply a slip in the admin, not a deliberate rebuff: Bishop Leahy is not the first leading prelate to make this point. Cardinaly Schonborn at an earlier workshop, said that same-sex couples also need families. The conference program includes some time for people to provide “testimony” on what family means to them. I am hoping that this will include some testimony from queer families.
    I have already put my proposal to the Catholic working group of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, who have supported it in principle. Next month, I will be making the case in Munich, to the conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

  2. R. Boyle
    R. Boyle says:

    I hope the Holy Spirit would keep blowing some of these gently new ideas and “inSpirations” into the ears and heart of Bishop Leahy…

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    Let’s hope and pray that Bishop Brendan Leahy is raised to the status of Cardinal, and is subsequently elected Pope, upon the departure — through the voluntary retirement or the end-of-life Ascension — of Pope Francis. The leadership of this kind man is exactly what the RCC needs, at this critical juncture, to restore any hope of people being able to take seriously the spiritual role and mission of the Roman Catholic Church. He’s clearly the right man, in the right place, at the right time!

  4. Cheryl Rogers
    Cheryl Rogers says:

    thank you Bishop Leahy. May God continue to bless you with the courage you are showing walking the true meaning of what it means to be a Christian and a Shepard………..may your courage to ‘walk the walk of Christ as well as talk the talk bring others forward to do the same.


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