This post is part of Bondings 2.0‘s ongoing coverage of Pope Francis’ support for civil unions that recognize same-gender couples and reactions to it. For previous reports and commentaries, see the bottom of this post.
A top Irish prelate has suggested that Pope Francis’ recent comments on civil unions for same-gender couples should be a “reality check” for the church, while Ireland’s former president has pushed the pope to reform church teachings about homosexuality.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, speaking to RTÉ Radio 1, said the pope’s remarks were a sign “our [Catholics] attitude has to change.” He continued (via a transcript provided by We Are Church Ireland):
“There are in other countries very strong homophobic tendencies even in church leaders. And what I find, even here ourselves, we have some people whose frustration with their own gay identity is leading them to be homophobic in ways. So, the first thing I’d say is that the Pope is clearing the air for a further discussion.
“After the same sex marriage referendum here in Ireland I talked about the idea of a reality check. And this again would be an opportunity for people to do a reality check within the church.
The Irish Times reported on comments by former Irish president Mary McAleese, who has a gay son and has repeatedly condemned church leaders’ negative approach to LGBTQ issues (for Bondings 2.0’s coverage of her advocacy, click here). The Times explained:
“Responding last night to the civil union comments by Pope Francis, Mrs McAleese said that if his words were ‘as quoted and attributed, ‘. Mrs McAleese campaigned for same-sex marriage in the 2015 referendum campaign.
“But, she pointed out ‘the church does not prepare dogma or doctrine via documentaries. That happens when the pope sits down behind his desk.’
“The pope’s comments ‘follow years of misery and homophobia suffered by LGBTIQ people who, with the Catholic people, have turned the tide,’ she said.
“‘The pope has seen that tide. Let him now follow through.'”
Asked on RTÉ 1 Radio about whether McAleese was correct in her suggestion that church teaching about homosexuality must change, Archbishop Martin replied:
“Certainly, the idea that the church could not live with civil unions – this is unacceptable. For many years I’ve been saying that we should have had in Ireland, civil liberties. Now, I said it on one occasion and the next day I was in London. I was walking along the street and I see a headline: ‘Archbishop of Dublin in favour of gay marriage’. I wasn’t in favour of gay marriage. The big challenge will be how do you say to people that the church regards in a special way a marriage between a man and woman without giving the impression that therefore anyone outside that framework is second class. We have to be able to say that both are right and there’s space for both.”
“But, sometimes we all get trapped into our absolutes and certainly the church’s attitude has made the life of LGBTI people miserable in ways. Even for a person of my age it’s very hard for me just to think that people were put in prison not terribly long ago simply because they [were gay] and the Church contributed to that.”
Both Martin and McAleese have, in their own ways, been LGBTQ-positive figures, not only for the Irish church, but globally. Though their beliefs and approaches diverge on issues such as marriage equality, they share an appreciation that the church’s status quo on LGBTQ issues is insufficient. In this moment, it is especially notable that an archbishop would name the internalized homophobia of some church leaders as a cause of distress, and would recognize the church’s complicity in the criminalization of LGBTQ people. These are all hopeful signs that, in Martin’s words, the pope is indeed “clearing the air for further discussion.” Perhaps Martin and McAleese could come together and model how that discussion on LGBTQ issues can proceed respectfully and fruitfully.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 27, 2020
Bondings 2.0’s Previous Coverage
October 22, 2020: “The Good and the Bad of Pope Francis’ Support for Civil Unions”
October 24, 2020: “Exuberant Praise for Pope Francis from One Bishop, But from Others, Not So Much”