Yesterday, we reported on some developments in Ireland that showed that Irish Catholics were responding more and more positively to LGBT issues. We saved one story for its own post, not only because it is a remarkable development, but because it contrasts so strikingly with what sometimes happens here in the States.
The Irish Times reported that Ireland’s St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) Society recently gave a grant of €45,000 to “Amach! LGBT Galway,” a resource center which serves the sexual and gender minority community there. The grant will be disbursed over three years. [Editor's Note: "Amach" is Gaelic for "out."]
What makes this story even more remarkable is that when Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway objected to the grant and asked for a clarification of the decision, the SVP defended their action, and countered the bishop’s concerns about “moral grounds” with an accounting of how they indeed acted morally.
The Irish Times reports:
“Bishop Drennan said that ‘on moral grounds we can’t support that.’ Homosexual activity was ‘in our eyes morally wrong behaviour and we cannot put funds at the service of what we don’t believe is morally incorrect.’ His problem was ‘the moral judgement involved.’ The reputation of the SVP ‘has been put in question by this grant,’ he said.”
Initially, according to the newspaper, an SVP official responded that the decision to fund the LGBT group
“was made purely on the basis of need in the Galway area, in the same way as all requests for support are assessed. It does not signify any other motive.”
In an article in The Independent, Jim Walsh, SVP spokesperson, further explained where the grant money came from, and that it did not impact their donations to other needy causes, which totalled about €42 million pounds in 2012. Walsh stated:
“He rejected suggestions that the money would be better spent on funding those more obviously in poverty, such as those asylum seekers trapped in direct provision or the elderly.”
Indeed, “Amach! LGBT Galway” itself serves needy clients. The Indedpent offers this description:
“The centre is intended to be a safe space where LGBT people can address issues and concerns such as prejudice, isolation, loneliness, depression and the lack of opportunities to network with peers.”
An Irish blogger on Gaelick.com points out:
“A popular stereotype is that LGBT people are happy! Fun! And are inundated with disposable income! They are fabulous and ageless men, they live fabulous lives, with fabulous homes and fabulous lifestyles. Everything is rosy, just like on TV or just like in some kind of liberal, south Dublin bubble.
“The reality, according to the evidence, can often be very different.
“LGBT people can experience marginalisation, stigmatisation, difficulty accessing essential services, all of which impacts on our health and well-being.”
The statistics used to support the above claim are staggering, especially on the situation of LGBT people in Ireland. The numbers strongly support the SVP statement that the grant was given to an “excluded and marginalised group in need.”
The main question that arises for me from this story is “Why does Bishop Drennan think of morality only in terms of sexual morality and not the morality of helping a population that has been ostracized, under-served, and in need of healing and reconciliation?” The SVP obviously saw morality in much broader terms than the bishop did.
An equally important point to make, though, is that the SVP action contrasts greatly with many recent actions in the U.S. where Catholic funds have been withdrawn from social service agencies because of LGBT issues. In all the cases, the funds were withdrawn not even because the agencies were serving LGBT clients, but because from time to time they acted in coalition with LGBT organizations. You can read about all those actions by clicking here.
Obviously, Catholic leaders in the U.S. have something to learn about humility, charity, and a-political service from Ireland’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry