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