Prominent Irish Gay Catholic Calls for “Full Sacramental Marriage” for LGBT Couples Ahead of WMF

Ursula Halligan

Church reformers in Ireland recently met in advance of the World Meeting of Families (WMF) to discuss marriage and family issues. At the meeting, a prominent gay Catholic called for full sacramental marriage equality.

Catholics of diverse family backgrounds joined together for the conference, entitled “Future Families: Challenges for Faith and Society.” The meeting was sponsored by the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI), a lay reform organization. The purpose was to “examine the realities of family life, particularly for those who feel abandoned by or alienated from the Church because of their circumstances.” A report from the conference is being sent to Pope Francis and WMF organizers.

Ursula Halligan, a gay Catholic who formerly covered politics for Ireland’s TV3, addressed the conference. She called for the institutional Church to allow same-gender sacramental marriages, explaining to The Independent:

“As a gay person, I don’t want pastoral care from the Church. Pastoral care only brings comfort to the Church. . .I reject the Church’s teaching that gay people are ‘objectively disordered’ and that our love is ‘intrinsically evil’. . .

“‘As a woman and a gay person, I’m not putting up with it any longer. I’m not sitting at the back of the bus any more. The institutional Church has to change on this. . .[Church teaching on homosexuality is] deeply insulting and offensive, not only to the dignity of every gay person, but it is deeply insulting to God whose image and likeness we are made in.’

“‘I believe my love is as good as anyone else’s love and as a Catholic I’m looking for full sacramental marriage for same-sex couples.'”

Halligan also commented specifically on the World Meeting of Families, saying it was “disturbing and alarming” that LGBT-related images, text, and video footage have been removed from promotional materials. She asked, “What preparations are under way to ensure at least one of these families [of five who will give witness at WMF] will be a family headed by a same-sex couple?”

Denis O’Brien, vice-president of the National Youth Council of Ireland, cautioned the “Future Families” audience about the impact problematic church teachings are having among younger Catholics. The Irish Times quoted him as saying:

“‘Young people these days…tend not to follow rules that they don’t see as valid or sensible. . .For the current youth generation, much of the church’s teaching in areas related to sexuality and reproduction is irrelevant and barely rouses their curiosity. . .Depending on your perspective it could be said that this generation, and perhaps the current generation of young parents, has either escaped the control of the church in this area or has been lost to it.’ . . .

“‘Shutting down discussion, seeking to promote rules that do not seem to make sense and focusing on whether or not something is sinful will drive young people away.'”

Additionally, Irene Graham, the mother of a gay son, asked:

“‘When will the church say that our sexuality is part of who we are?. . .We want to know when we are going to normalise sexuality – when no one would be looking [at a person] and saying, oh he is gay, or she is gay?'”

Halligan is strong and unequivocal in her demand for full sacramental equality. These words likely find resonance in many Catholics, especially those young ones about whom O’Brien spoke. Tolerance for extremely slow change and piecemeal inclusion is waning in younger generations who feel little obligation to remain engaged in an institutional Church that fails to respect LGBT people and to recognize the love they share as good.

Another path is possible, however, and ACI has provided a model. The World Meeting of Families provides an opportunity for similar honest reflection on the realities of family life today and the problematic ways by which they are addressed by church leaders. But if it is going to be truly honest and open reflection, the conversation needs to move beyond simple inclusion. Prophetic calls like Ursula Halligan’s need to be allowed to be voiced and seriously engaged as she points the way forward for the Church that is to come.

For Bondings 2.0’s ongoing coverage of the 2018 World Meeting of Families, click here or click the “World Meeting of Families” category on the right hand side of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 23, 2018

5 replies
  1. Mary Jo Hoag
    Mary Jo Hoag says:

    Thanks for this. When I read this article it hit me why the tepid things folks like Father James Martin writes/says bother me – he tries so hard to make every little sort of, kind of, nice thing the Pope or others in the chuch say sound so inclusive and such a move in the right direction. This woman really comes out and talks truth to Power. We are insulted by what the church says and teaches and she’s not taking it anymore. Yup, Ursula, you say it plain and clear. Thank you.

    • Sarasi
      Sarasi says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I have doubts at times about the possibility of maintaining the church position and building a bridge.

      It’s also very interesting that the “credibility” message keeps coming up in relation to young people. This is not the first time a prominent Catholic, sometimes even a cleric, has pointed out that the Church’s theology of sex is lost on most young people for whom “LGBT” represents real people, real good people!, not moral laxity. “We just don’t believe you anymore.” That’s when you know your approach has failed.

  2. Barb Monda
    Barb Monda says:

    I want Ursula to be CEO of the Vatican! Enough of the pandering and being concerned we are not polite or fair enough in light of the centuries of abuse to women, LGBTQ, people of other religions,and anyone who is designated not allowed to have even a different opinion than the mean spirited men in charge now. The plazas, hills and road ways are paved with the blood and bodies of those “needing purification”. Just ask Gallileo, Michaelangelo, Joan of Arc and so many millions more.

  3. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    It is one of the biggest sadnesses of my life that my kids have to reject Catholicism. They say to me, “Mom, you are Catholic because of culture (I’m Italian) and tradition. If someone described all the church teachings to you now, as an adult, you would say it is a discriminatory organization and to steer clear/actively fight against it. You would be angry at us for joining such an organization.” I agree with Halligan 100%. It is past time for the church to stop the nonsense. LGBT Catholics deserve full participation in the church, and until this happens, the church is dead wrong.

  4. John
    John says:

    Ok brace yourselves. I’m a part of the LGBT community and not only am I insulted by what the Church teaches about sexual orientation and identity, but I’m also insulted by people like Fr James Martin. On the surface it seems as if he’s an ally. The book about “building a bridge”, the sweet talks all around the country are actually a HUGE part of the problem NOT the solution. How in heaven’s name can one build a “bridge” with a Church that smiles at you while she spits at your sexual orientation or identity and attempts to extinguish it with forced celibacy? It’s like saying Jew’s should have attempted to build a bridge with Hitler. By the way, I have long thought that teaching 13 yr old LGBT children that they must live their life in forced celibacy to be cruel and inhumane child abuse. No, the Fr Martin’s are not in reality LGBT allies and aren’t building any bridges at all…not while they continue to accept that gay relationships are “intrinsically evil”. Until the Church accepts our lives FULLY and allows us marriage….the bridge will never , ever be built.


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