CATHOLIC LGBT HISTORY: Irish Theologian Urges Greater Acceptance of Gays

“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s  feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues.  We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.

Once a  month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years.  We will comb through editions of Bondings 2.0’s predecessor: Bondings,  New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format.   We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases. 

Irish Theologian Urges Greater Acceptance of Gays

The month of St. Patrick’s Day is coming to a close.  During this time of the celebration of Irish heritage, Bondings 2.0 carried a story about a parade in New York City denying an LGBT group permission to march, as well as news about some of the LGBT controversies surrounding the upcoming World Meeting of Families, a Vatican event to be held in Ireland in August.

In keeping with this Irish theme, and looking at a more positive past, we dug into our archives and found a March 17, 2000 National Catholic Reporter news story about a prominent Irish theologian arguing for lesbian and gay equality.

Fr. Enda McDonagh presented a lecture to the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement at the conference that year in London.  McDonagh emphasized what he called “the topsy-turvy kingdom of God,” and related it to the lesbian and gay community, saying:

Fr. Enda McDonagh

“Without being patronizing, for too many Catholics, too many Christians, too many religious and non-religious people, gay and lesbian people are strangers who inspire fear rather than love, who are not given a priority in the preaching or promotion of the kingdom or reign of God.

“What we need as church and society is to let that richness emerge for all of us.”

McDonagh also urged lesbian and gay Catholics to use their experiences of marginalization to help build a more just church and society:

“I honestly believe that the challenge for lesbian and gay Catholics now is how you can set the rest of us free, enrich the community to which we belong, to let your vision and realization of the values of the kingdom be free to free us in an important way.

“You are one of the groups that can help us to find the space that we can call Catholic and free in the Pauline sense of being free as the children of God.  In the very strangeness of God we find the union, the communion of disciples of Jesus, of people of kingdom instincts and kingdom values, of human beings, all created by that loving God and called to flourish in communion.”

Fr. McDonagh has now retired from a distinguished career as Professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law at the Pontifical University at Maynooth, Ireland.  The bishops of Ireland who are organizing the World Meeting of Families would do well to consult with him concerning how best to welcome families with LGBT members to the August event in Dublin.  So far, they have promised inclusion, but they have also had some actions which conflict with a welcoming stance.  Fr. McDonagh’s wisdsom and early example of welcome would serve them well.  Most important from his message from the 2000 conference is not just that the church should not fear LGBT people, but that the church could benefit from the gifts and spirituality of LGBT people.   That would be an added blessing to the World Meeting of Families.

To learn more about Fr. McDonagh as a theologian, click here to read an interview he gave to a County Mayo newspaper in 2008.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, March 28, 2018

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