A Catholic priest in Ireland who is also a military chaplain recently released a video in support of the LGBTQ community for Dublin’s 2020 Pride festivities.
According to The Irish Post, Fr. Seamus Madigan, Head Chaplain of the Chaplaincy Service for the Irish Defense Forces, virtually delivered a message of love, inclusion, and solidarity to express the church’s support for the LGBTQ community. 2020 would have been the inaugural year for Fr. Madigan’s office to march in Dublin’s annual Pride parade, but the march did not take place this year because of coronavirus pandemic prohibitions about large gatherings.
Despite the restrictions on such gatherings, Madigan expressed his strong enthusiasm for participating in the parade. The news report quoted some of his hopes:
“[H]e would have been ‘privileged’ to walk ‘side by side with our LGBTQI+ members, showing solidarity and support.’”
As reported by Novena News, Madigan was ordained in 1991 as a member of the Society of Saint Francis de Sales (Salesians). He later left the order and was incardinated in the Diocese of Limerick in 2003. He directs a cohort of fifteen military chaplains situated in Ireland, Lebanon, and Syria.
The Irish army has approximately 9,000 soldiers, but it is unclear how many identify as LGBTQ. In an effort to cultivate a more inclusive military, the Irish Defence Forces created an LGBT Network in 2016 called Defend with Pride. Multipurpose in scope, Defend with Pride is tasked, “to provide support for LGBTQI+ members, to educate the Forces and make them an employer of choice for the collective, and also so that LGBTQI+ soldiers can interact with each other and organise their own events and support.”
Madigan grounded his reflections in our shared humanity and common aspirations:
“‘We’re all different, yet united in our desire for happiness, belonging, meaning, making a difference, “living a life less ordinary”. We all face challenges and joys that come with being alive – knowing who we are, living meaningful relationships and finding our place in the world. Our diversity is rooted in a deeper unity.'”
The chaplain extended his warm invitation to believers and non-believers alike within the Irish Defence Forces, as well as to the wider LGBTQ community, articulating the importance of unity among our differences:
“‘[A]ll members of the Defence Forces, especially our LGBTQI+ colleagues know that your Chaplaincy Service is in solidarity with you, be you of any faith or none.’”
He also advocated for the well-being of all LGBTQ soldiers and underscored the tremendous value they bring to the Irish Defence forces:
“’We seek your flourishing and happiness, and recognise that we have much to learn from your gifts, courage and experience of life.'”
He concluded his reflections by offering a prayer to all Pride participants, reemphasizing the importance of cohesion as a vehicle for a harmonious society:
“‘Wishing you and your families every blessing and all that is good in life. Ní neart go cur le chéile [There is no strength without unity]. Take care and stay safe.'”
Madigan’s inclusive and loving message provides a powerful model for all Catholic chaplains working with any defense forces to embrace LGBTQ members. For an institution like the military that had been traditionally unwelcoming to its LGBTQ population, Madigan paves the way to heal past divisions while also reaffirming God’s love for all defense personnel, including LGBTQ soldiers who seek to courageously serve their countries.
–Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, August 1, 2020