World Meeting of Families Deletes References to Same-Gender Couples

Are LGBT people being erased from promotional materials for the World Meeting of Families to be held in Dublin, Ireland this summer? Some observers have suggested this is the case based on picture and text changes in one resource.

The resource in question is a discussion guide booklet titled “The Joy of Love: Six-Session Parish Conversation,” the current version of which is available here. A report from The Irish Times explained the controversy:

“Five pictures featuring same-sex couples have been removed from a reissued booklet sent to Catholic parishes in preparation for the visit to Ireland next august of Pope Francis for a World Meeting of Families event.

“The text of the publication has also been edited. A line in the original booklet has now been removed. That line stated: ‘While the Church upholds the ideal of marriage as a permanent commitment between a man and a woman, other unions exist which provide mutual support to the couple. Pope Francis encourages us never to exclude but to accompany these couples also, with love, care and support.'”

In a press statement, the organizers of the World Meeting of Families (WMF)  described the event as “a meeting open to all,” affirming a previous statement that all families would be welcome.  The statement, however, did not disclose why the booklet, which had already been sent to parishes and posted on the website, was changed. The changes come after a right-wing attack last fall which criticized organizers for allegedly promoting same-gender unions.

The removal of the text mentioning “other unions,” which ostensibly includes same-gender couples, is clearly a point of LGBT erasure. The removal of a photo on page 24 seems to be so as well. On that page, where the “other unions” text had appeared before its removal, there were originally two pictures: one of an elderly couple and a second one of what appears to be two women hugging, one of whom has a rainbow flag drawn on her hand. In the revised PDF posted on WMF’s website, only the elderly couple remains.

Other photos that had been removed depicted people of the same gender together, but did not have any contextual details denoting them as necessarily having an LGBT identity or relationship (to view the photos, click here).  For example, on page 41 originally contained a photo with two men of different ages and another photo with two women. In the revised PDF, these photos have been replaced with upbeat families. Page 13 originally had a photo of two men shown reading what appears to a Bible. In the revised version, this photo is replaced by a photo of a group Bible study of men and women. Is there such homophobia operative in WMF staff that even pictures of platonic interactions by two people of the same-gender are considered dangerous?

Finally, there were photo changes that seemed to replace sadder photos with happier ones. A photo of two youth hugging on page 32 was replaced by a mother holding her child. On page 33, a photo of a man speaking with an upset child is replaced by a family party. Could the change in these photos and the others signify something unrelated to LGBT issues, like a desire for more upbeat photos over those photos showing struggle?

The deletion of the text about “other unions” and the photo of the two women hugging are clearly indications of homophobia.  Such editorial changes are damaging and indicate that the organizers of the WMF are backpedaling on their welcome to all.  This move directly contradicts the wishes of at least two church leaders who have expressed their desire for the event to welcome all people. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said that same-gender unions were “part of a new narrative around the family in Ireland,” and needed to be included. Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick said last year that, “everyone must be made feel welcome next year.”

What do you think? To view the pages with changes, click here. Then tell us what you think about these changes in the “Comments” section below.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 31, 2018

11 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    It’s pretty obvious that this editorial gerrymander is a deliberate act of attempted GLBT erasure. The more pertinent question is whether this erasure was the act of one single editor who held a certain amount of authority and power, or whether it represented the concerted anti-gay bigotry of a much larger cohort of editors. Either explanation is possible — but the anti-gay bigotry of a single individual is slightly less grievous than the anti-gay bigotry of an entire editorial committee. In either case, the ultimate “product” remains highly insulting and offensive to GLBT Catholics who share deeply committed loving relationships.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    Christ did not say, “Come to me, all who are are tired and weary and I will give them rest, except for gays and lesbians.” Christ said, “Come to me, all who are tired and weary and I will give them rest.” When will the Catholic church finally become Christian?

  3. Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
    Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

    Ignoring same-sex couples is absolutely unfair and unchristian. It actually denies the meaning of the teachings of the Christ.

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Are LGBT people being erased from materials for the World Meeting of Families?

    “While the Church upholds the ideal of marriage as a permanent commitment between a man and a woman, other unions exist which provide mutual support to the couple. Pope Francis encourages us never to exclude but to accompany these couples also, with love, care and support.”

    The above deleted line from the WMF document is generic about persons in other than sacramental unions. That includes a lot more than LGBT unions. Although, it is clear by what the Irish Times said in their article LifeSiteNews was only concerned about LGBT unions.

    “[US website] LifeSiteNews accused Ireland’s Catholic bishops of using Pope Francis’s teachings on marriage and family to promote homosexual couples as a new form of ‘family.’”

    It is reports like these that I find very troubling because I don’t know how to process them in the light of the gospel. It is clear that alt right Catholic organizations like LifeSiteNews are now our most threatening obstacles to full inclusion in our church. So yes, the goal of the alt right is to make the LGBT Catholic community invisible while they pretend that we do not exist.

    But, didn’t Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia try to do the same thing to us at the Philadelphia World Meeting of Families in 2015? The coalition of LGBT advocacy groups ended up in a venue directly across the street from the convention center instead of five blocks away. Our alternative symposium complimented that meeting very nicely. At the same time, because of our various identifying buttons our presence was very much noticed throughout the event.

    LGBT community members who attend this World Meeting of Families should also use pins and symbols that clearly make their presence known to all present.

    There is another insidious addition to the text of the new WMF Document. On page 24 where the photo of a same sex couple was removed, and additional quote from Amoris Leticia was added: “No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society.” (AL #52). This added quote demonstrates animas toward LGBT unions of any form.

  5. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens at the meeting itself. Will people gathered for the meeting, put up a ruckus at the deletion? Will there be enough allies of LGBT people there to force a change? Will any LGBT couples or family members be participants? If the meeting members go along with this erasure, it will be a clear message that there is no place for LGBT couples or families in this image of Church projected by Francis and his bishops.

    There needs to be a ruckus. The voices of prophetic LGBT people and our allies need to arise to full volume within the halls of a Catholic meeting purporting to address the reality and needs of families in our day and age. Jesus called the religious leaders of his day to task for their exclusion. We need to call the religious leaders of our day to task for any exclusion embedded in this gathering. We need to open the doors and the windows to let the Spirit in.

    • Sisters Lea and Consilia
      Sisters Lea and Consilia says:

      Will a ruckus help when “eyes to see and ears to hear” are so tightly closed? Is it time for us to recognize that the majority of Catholics who remain in the Church are adamantly focused as much against LGBT+ persons and relationships as they they are focused against abortion?
      Is it time to stop fighting and trying to reform the majority Church and use our time and energy to seek canonical status for a Post-Vatican II Church welcoming all…just as Opus Dei sought prelature status for its “Reform of the Reform” Catholicism from Popes John Paul II an Benedict XVI?

      Then the post-Vatican II prelature’s example would stand in full stature and example (in union with Rome) next to its majority brother, the Opus Dei-genre Church.

  6. Richard Boyle OSM
    Richard Boyle OSM says:

    One which disturbs me in this sort of gradual changes through deletions and editing is how it apes and echoes the tactics used by the Trump administration to mislead people by offering what may at first seem hopeful or positive, then only later to retract, retreat, and/or recant. I loathe that type of hypocrisy and manipulation.


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