In the continuing controversy about whether LGBTQ families will be welcome at the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families, to be held in August in Dublin, a new challenge has been offered by Ireland’s community of sexual and gender minorities.
Dublin LGBTQ Pride, the largest pride parade and festival in Ireland, will be organized this year under the theme “We Are Family.” According to The Irish Times:
“The decision was taken by organisers in response to ‘the exclusion of representation of LGBTQ+ families in literature’ for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August, which will be attended by Pope Francis. . .
“Spokeswoman Clodagh Leonard said ‘it is no coincidence that in the year when Pope Francis will visit Ireland and take part in the World Meeting of Families, we have chosen the theme “We are Family.” ‘ “
The festival takes place from June 21st-30th, exactly two months before the World Meeting of Families (WMF) begins on August 21st.
“We Are Church Ireland,” a progressive Catholic reform organization issued a statement praising Dublin LGBTQ Pride’s decision:
“We Are Church Ireland welcomes the Dublin Pride Festival’s adoption of the theme ‘We Are Family’ for this year’s celebration and we would ask all Catholic families and people of Faith to support this year’s festival that recognises the inherent dignity of every person irrespective of gender orientation.
“We are a Catholic Reform Group and we call upon the World Meeting of Families, being organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, to extend a public invitation to all LGBTQ families to a place of honour at this meeting being attended by Pope Francis in August.
“Such a public gesture would help to dispel the implied rejection of LGBTQ families from this Catholic event as evidenced by the removal of both photos and text relating to LGBTQ families which We Are Church Ireland condemns as an insult to the dignity of every LGBTQ person.”
The Irish Independent further quoted Leonard on the controversies surrounding the WMF and also the importance of family in Irish culture:
” ‘Like many people, we were appalled at the exclusion of representation of LGBTQ+ families in literature for this event, but we were also encouraged by the number of people who spoke out about this, especially those from within the Church.’
“She also highlighted that there are thousands of parents across Ireland – including those of faith – who love their LGBTQ+ children and ‘more than anything want to protect them and show them that they are loved and welcome in our Ireland.’
“She added that there were family members lost along the way and families that were ripped apart. ‘It is not so long ago that we don’t remember the oppression, exclusion and violence that took them from us.’ “
The WMF has been plagued with controversies surrounding the elimination of LGBTQ references in any promotional literature for the event. At the same time, a number of Catholic bishops have expressed the idea that all families should be welcome at the event, though not mentioning LGBTQ families in particular. You can read about some of the previous controversies here, here, here, here, here, and here.
When I was living in New York City in the 1980s, homelessness was a major problem, and many citizens, including people of faith, were calling on the city’s elected leaders to open more shelters. Ed Koch, who was then mayor, turned the tables and challenged religious leaders to live up to their ideals by opening shelters in churches and religious buildings. Koch’s statement stung New York’s religious leaders, but, upon reflection, they realized he was right. The churches had been derelict in their responsibility to the homeless, and quickly church-run homeless shelters sprung up in houses of worship of all stripes.
Dublin LGBTQ Pride’s action reminded me of Mayor Koch’s bold challenge. In a sense, this secular organization is reminding the Catholic leaders of Ireland that they need to be truly welcoming to all families. Additionally, the decision emphasizes that family values are not the exclusive property of churches, and that, indeed, the LGBTQ community has incredibly strong family values.
The WMF organizers should recognize that they have been taught a lesson, and they should respond by living up to Catholicism’s strong family value of inclusion, which they should have done in the first place.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, April 7, 2018