Irish Officials Seek Inclusive World Meeting of Families, But Who Defines Inclusion?

Minister Katherine Zappone

As preparations continue for the 2018 World Meeting of Families (WMF) in Dublin in August, Irish officials continue to insist that the event be fully inclusive for all families, including LGBT ones. But a cardinal’s remark shows the potential rupture between how inclusion is being understood.

Katherine Zappone, who is Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, said WMF should not be “a platform for remarks which exclude, isolate or hurt any family.” She added, according to The Irish Times:

“‘There should be a welcome for all. And never again should public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families be tolerated. . .[Ireland is] where people want marriage equality, where adoption by LGBTI people is government policy, and where all families are fully respected.

“The eyes of the world will be on Dublin. Indeed some of the biggest audiences will be in countries where LGBTI people are discriminated against, threatened and abused. . .The World Meeting of Families is a unique opportunity to confront such inequality, discrimination and hate. It can provide global leadership on inclusion.

“‘LGBTI families, like all families, should be celebrated and not excluded – that’s the message that should be coming not just from the World Meeting of Families, but from all who believe in justice, equality and fairness.'”

Zappone issued this call for inclusion at the WMF during the Copenhagen Conference on Private and Family Life for LGBTI People earlier this month. Zappone, who is a married lesbian, has both Catholic roots and a record of LGBT advocacy in Ireland.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese

Former Irish President Mary McAleese, who has made multiple headlines recently for her sharp criticisms of the Catholic Church, offered her thoughts on WMF and Pope Francis’ unconfirmed but expected accompanying visit to Ireland. McAleese told Crux:

“‘I’m hoping that the vision presented for the World Meeting by our archbishop [Diarmuid Martin] and by Bishop [Brendan] Leahy, and the event will be truly inclusive, in which every one is welcome no matter their relationship with the Church. . .My dream is that Ireland can be the place that retrieves that spirit of God’s family as truly inclusive and loving.'”

McAleese has previously criticized WMF organizers for potentially anti-LGBT actions, such as the deletion of LGBT-related images in preparatory materials.  Last week, McAleese spoke at a women’s event in Rome where she said a homophobic Church is “not the Church of the future.” She also said the Church was “one of the last great bastions of misogyny.”

In her most recent comments, McAleese also explained that given how “the Church is deeply implicated in the hurt so many people feel” in Ireland, the pope’s visit must be a truly pastoral one. But she wondered aloud whether Francis “fully understands the depth of pain out there.”

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life and who is also a WMF organizer, said the event would indeed not exclude anyone. “All people are invited, we don’t exclude anybody,” Crux reported him saying, while also expressing hope that the WMF would “bring family values back to life again” and would “promote the Christian concept of marriage.”

WMF organizers are moving ahead with plans, and announced at the start of March that the event would unsurprisingly focus on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Several top church leaders will be attending, including Cardinals Christoph Schonborn of Vienna; Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec; Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, as well as Farrell.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell

Some bishops have expressed a desire for LGBT families to be included (see here and here), and it is clear many Irish leaders would like to see inclusion reign. But LGBT-related images and text have been removed from WMF preparatory materials and a bishop was censored in a video for even acknowledging such families exist.

Cardinal Farrell embodies this tension. He claimed that the WMF will not exclude anyone while in the same breath suggesting the event would focus mostly on championing a heteronormative version of marriage. In recent weeks, the cardinal has barred a women’s group from meeting at the Vatican because of certain pro-LGBT speakers, including McAleese, offered confused remarks on dialogue, and now has made a contradictory statement about WMF’s welcome and goal. It seems Cardinal Farrell does not understand that you cannot say you are being inclusive while silencing a person’s voice or denigrating their family.

It is probably too early to know whether the World Meeting of Families in 2018 will be truly inclusive of LGBT people and their families. If the definition of inclusion being used is closer to Katherine Zappone’s than Cardinal Farrell’s the World Meeting of Families in Dublin will truly be a celebration of ALL families.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 16, 2018

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Crux, “Irish official warns against LGBT exclusion at World Meeting of Families

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