An Irish bishop criticized Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s claim that Ireland’s passage of marriage equality was a “defeat for humanity,” saying the comment was inappropriate and not likely approved by Pope Francis.
Bishop Willie Walsh, Emeritus of the Diocese of Killaloe, spoke with Irish broadcaster RTE and contested Parolin’s conclusion as inconsistent with Pope Francis’ more inclusive style. Walsh told the interviewer:
“I was quite uncomfortable with that statement. I mean there has been lots of disasters in the world but I certainly would not support the belief that the referendum was among them.
“To suggest that over a million people who went to the polls and voted yes were so false in their judgment that it was a disaster for humanity is not something I can accept . . .
It is an inappropriate statement… [and] not one I think that represents the mind of Pope Francis despite it coming from a very senior Church figure. It is a very heavy judgement on the whole issue.”
According to the Irish Times,Walsh refused to say whether he supported equal marriage rights, saying only:
“[O]ne could hardly look at the celebrations and say it didn’t increase the sum of human happiness [in Ireland].”
Walsh has previously spoken out positively on LGBT and other controversial issues in the church. Speaking at a 2010 reception, Walsh referred to gay people when he said the church must “be always conscious of the fact that very often we in the church have hurt them and hurt them deeply and I am saddened by that…”
Fr. Seán McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland echoed Walsh’s criticism of Parolin, reported the Irish Times, saying the referendum’s outcome was “no surprise,” and that it would add to the discussion of LGBT issues at this October’s synod of bishops.
“Unfortunately, Cardinal Parolin’s comments demonstrate exactly the kind of inflexibility and arrogance that have driven so many people from the Church…It is very hurtful and insulting to supporters of marriage equality to be spoken of as having unchristian, even inhuman, values…Their vote was no ‘defeat for humanity,’ but a victory for the fundamental Catholic values of love, inclusion, and the inherent dignity of all people.”
National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson suggested a connection between Parolin and Pope Francis, a “good cop, bad cop” situation. She asserted:
“Francis clearly agrees with Parolin’s ‘defeat for humanity’ opinion on the outcome of Ireland’s same-sex marriage vote. . . But rather than respond directly to Ireland himself, this time, Pope Francis is putting the harsher, condemnatory language in the mouth of his secretary of state while he does the work of evangelizing the youth about the truth and beauty of the church’s teachings on marriage.
“Parolin is taking on the old-fashioned role of Vatican scold while Francis takes the new, more merciful, catechetical approach. But ultimately, both men agree with the institutional church’s opposition to marriage equality. Both men believe same-sex relationships violate the traditional understanding of natural law and gender complimentary.”
In Manson’s scenario, Francis and Parolin ultimately fail at evangelizing marginalized Catholics because they, especially those who are LGBT identified, will not tolerate a church which welcomes them while withholding equality for all. This perspective is juxtaposed to the one of LGBT advocates excited by Pope Francis’ pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics, such as his “Who am I to judge?” comment or the granting of VIP seats to LGBT pilgrimages at a papal audience.
Whatever the strategy may or may not be, let us hope that Bishop Walsh’s words make their way to Rome. Opposing marriage equality is one thing, but using hyperbolic and harmful language is indeed inappropriate.
The good news is that Ireland’s Catholics are truly increasing happiness, not merely in their own country, but around the world by advancing LGBT rights and welcome.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry