Pope Francis has confirmed that he will visit the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August, and Irish priests, lay Catholics, and politicians are expressing hope that LGBT and other “non-traditional” families will be included in the global event.
At a Vatican ceremony in late March, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and two Irish families met with Pope Francis. The pope confirmed with them that there would be a papal visit to Ireland during the World Meeting of Families (WMF).
Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests said it was disappointed that families of “different make-ups,” including LGBT ones, were not included in that Vatican meeting, reported The Irish News. The priests’ group is also concerned about the WMF’s spotty record on LGBT issues, including questions about why LGBT-related content was removed from preparatory materials.
The lay-led Association of Catholics in Ireland also called for an inclusive event. The Association said they are concerned by “recent interventions by some conservative elements in the church who appear ready to obstruct” Pope Francis’ more pastoral approach. In response to such interventions, The Irish Times reported that the Association is hosting its own pre-WMF forum where speakers “will represent family groups of all backgrounds and circumstances.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is gay, said the Government would let WMF organizers know that “families in all forms should be celebrated,” while respecting the Church’s religious liberty, according to PinkNews. Recently, similar calls for LGBT inclusion were made by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone and former Irish President Mary McAleese.
Commenting on the pope’s visit and the state of the Irish Church, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, Fr. Brendan Hoban wrote in The Irish Examiner:
“While Ireland moves on without us, we’ve [the Church] failed spectacularly to navigate the impulses of the modern world and seem content to maintain the moat that separates us from an Ireland that has changed (and continues to change) beyond recognition. . .In such a scenario, the Catholic Church in Ireland needs two things: To face the reality of life in a changing Ireland, and to listen to what the people are saying. The flow of the tide of the modern world doesn’t mean the ebb of the tide of Catholicism. We need to learn, to listen, and to hear.”
Calls for LGBT families to be included at WMF are continuing to increase, and have even been echoed by at least two bishops (see here and here). These voices recognize with Fr. Hoban the dire place the Irish Church is in and the need to adopt a humble, listening posture. But it seems unlikely WMF organizers and other church leaders think similarly.
As long as questions about why LGBT-related images and text were removed from WMF preparatory materials and why a bishop was censored in a video for even acknowledging LGBT families exist remain unanswered, a shadow will darken what could be a true celebration of familial love. Pope Francis should step in and ensure that “all are welcome” becomes more than an empty phrase at the World Meeting of Families.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 4, 2018