Gay Priests Have a Place in the Catholic Church, Says Irish Senator

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Senator Jerry Buttimer

An Irish legislator has affirmed a place for openly gay priests in the Catholic Church, comments made as discussion continues about an unhealthy sexual atmosphere at the country’s national seminary.

St. Patrick’s College Maynooth is in the spotlight after Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin decided to withdraw the archdiocese’s seminarians from the school. As Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday, he cited as his reasons an alleged “gay culture” and questioned whether the seminary was a “good place for students.”

This archbishop’s decision has elicited many responses, including that of Irish Senator Jerry Buttimer who, according to the Evening Echo, said he was unsurprised that gay men would be in formation for the priesthood

Buttimer, an openly gay Fine Gael legislator from Cork and a faithful Catholic, said church leaders should welcome this reality rather than regard it as a problem. He said the church has failed to respect people of all sexual identities, and Archbishop Martin’s decision “exposed the hypocrisy of the Church around its teachings on sexuality, celibacy and attitude towards gay people.” This case highlights for the senator “the need for the Irish hierarchy to embrace LGBT people of faith and make them part of our church,” adding:

” ‘Many of these [LGBT] people are already making a huge contribution in parishes across Cork. The Church is nothing without its people, all of its people. Many of us pray for a Church that is inclusive, welcoming, accepting, open and transparent. We are fortunate that in many parishes across Cork and around the country a vibrancy does exists and liturgies are participative, led by good men. However, unfortunately, we could do a lot better.’ “

Buttimer studied at Maynooth for five years, and spoke highly of his time there which left a “lasting impression” upon him, saying he never regretted studying there. But he continued:

” ‘I disagreed with them at times about issues surrounding formation and teachings of the Church, but I still believe today that they were, in the main, interested in developing and educating young men to be good priests. As a person of faith, I pray and yearn that my Church and its leaders would move to be more progressive, open and transparent around the teaching on sexuality.’ “

Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), concurred in a piece for The Independent  where he called on Irish Catholics to use this controversy as a time for re-imagining ministry. Flannery suggested that most applicants to seminary today were either gay men (or at least men confused about their sexuality) and traditionalist men. He wrote:

“There is absolutely no reason why a gay man should not be a priest, but if a particular profession is attracting a far higher percentage than is present in the general population, then questions need to be asked about the nature of the profession. . .what type of priest is needed in today’s world, and what type of spiritual and theological formation should they be given?

“I believe that the present malaise has much deeper roots. The solution would have to involve a radical revision of our understanding of ministry and the requirements necessary to become a priest. So, rather than just tinkering around with Maynooth, the Catholic Church needs to initiate a process of discussion at all levels to discern what type of ministry is best suited for the Church of the future.”

Flannery said beyond affirming gay men in the priesthood, the church must critically examine the issues of women in ministry, clericalism, and Roman interventionism.

Fr. Brendan Hoban, himself a member of ACP, said Martin’s decision amounted to “moving deck chairs on the Titanic” because the larger question behind the Maynooth happenings is the crisis of priestly vocations. He told The Irish Times:

” ‘[In seminary] you are always going to have a mixture of gay and heterosexual candidates, that has always been the case, and there will be – from time to time, incidents that people would prefer didn’t happen. But they do happen, human nature being what it is.’ “

Hoban said despite allegations, “there doesn’t seem to be anything substantially proven.” ACP’s statement defended Maynooth, and claimed criticisms were coming from disgruntled former students, traditionalist Catholics, and “right-wing commentators who are unhappy with the focus on the theology of the Second Vatican Council and suspicious of modern psychological and other insights.”

Several commentators have also said that homosexuality is, perhaps unfortunately, a feint to hide the real and much larger problems at Maynooth and beyond. Irish Times columnist Una Mullally said hypocrisy was the real scandal in this incident, writing:

“The immature, archaic and coded language clergy members and others have used to describe the Maynooth story – ‘gay subculture’ ‘strange goings on’ ‘quarrelsome’ ‘not the healthiest place’ – belongs in the past, and compounds homosexuality as something to joke about or be scandalised by. Across social media, the temptation for crass jokes and wink-wink-nudge-nudge comments was too much for many. Unfortunately, all this does is re-enforce an attitude towards homosexuality that is crude and childish. . .

“The church still views homosexuality as a ‘problem’, inside and out of its organisation. But the real scandal at Maynooth isn’t about gay priests. Of course there are gay priests. Tonnes of them. The real scandal is the church’s addiction to secrecy, arrogance, and its hierarchy of hypocrisy.”

Colum Kenny, also writing in the Irish Timessaid the Maynooth controversy has nothing to do with sex or theology at all. Ireland’s hierarchy has again proven itself  not to be credible, Kenny said, and so the Irish church must use this opportunity to renew itself:

“It is a question of the spirit, a challenge to be converted to a new order of witness and theology – one that can help Irish people of Catholic background who have rejected outdated dogma and practice as empty forms to live spiritually in the modern world.”

Allegations of sexual relationships, harassment, and mishandling at Ireland’s national seminary will assuredly keep provoking conversations. Archbishop Martin’s decision to withdraw his seminarians remains controversial. This incident is immensely painful for an Irish church already in crisis and surely so for the seminarians and staff of Maynooth.

The responses to this case show the necessity and the increasing willingness of many Catholics to have extremely hard conversations about ministry, sexuality, ecclesial power, and the intersection of these issues. If done well, this moment of pain and scandal could lead to a time of renewal and flourishing.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Archbishop Withdraws Students Over “Gay Culture” at Irish Seminary

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St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

A leading Irish archbishop has withdrawn his diocese’s students from an embattled seminary, citing allegations of a “gay culture” there which led to sexual activity.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin removed the three archdiocesan seminarians from St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, the country’s national seminary, reported Crux. Martin, initially quiet about his reasons, has now explained:

“There are allegations on different sides. One is that there is a homosexual, a gay culture, and that students have been using an app called Grindr [which] would be inappropriate for seminarians, and not just because they are training to be celibate priests, but (because) an app like that would be something that would be fostering promiscuous sexuality, which is certainly not in any way the mature vision of sexuality one would expect a priest to understand.”

The archbishop will instead send seminarians to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, at least until the matter at Maynooth is resolved and structural reforms have been implemented.

Martin also criticized the anonymous nature by which complaints had been filed, saying it eliminated due process and created a “poisonous” culture.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore withdrew his diocese’s seminarians from St. Patrick’s, too, but other Irish bishops are publicly supporting the seminary. College President Monsignor Hugh Connolly said since no complaints had been publicly filed, there could be no investigation. He defended the seminary environment as “a wholesome, healthy one.”

Rumors about sexual relationships and administrative problems are not new for Maynooth, which hosts about 55 students currently, reported America:

“One former seminarian last week testified to its so-called gay culture, one that was widely known about but not addressed. Another former seminarian claims he was expelled from the college after he failed to report two colleagues for engaging in sexual activity. The reports revealed a deep disconnect between church authorities and the experience of some seminarians, along with the challenges the Irish church is struggling to address: homosexuality as a reality in the church, celibacy, accusations and secrecy and a formation process that is quickly becoming antiquated.”

But America’s coverage also noted further reasons why Archbishop Martin is removing his seminarians, stemming from the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland initiated by Pope Benedict and overseen by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. That Visitation, which Martin has criticized, “resulted in greater separation between the seminarians and lay students in Maynooth, with barriers erected and separate eating quarters introduced.” The article continued:

“It created a more isolated formation process for seminarians, one that has been criticized for being at odds with Pope Francis’ vision for a more inclusive, open and integrated church. . .Indeed, it was claimed that six seminarians were held back from ordination and told to take time out last year because they were ‘too theologically rigid.’ “

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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Though reported as a scandal about homosexuality, Archbishop Martin seems less concerned with whom seminarians may potentially be in sexual relationships, and more focused on the idea that seminarians would be in any sexually compromising situation at all. He used the words “gay culture,” but nothing he mentioned about the seminary’s culture is uniquely gay. There may, perhaps, be an unintegrated or immature culture around sexuality in the seminary, but there would seem to be no difference whether seminarians were using the gay dating app Grindr or its heterosexual counterpart, Tinder.

Martin seems equally concerned that this incident revealed an unhealthy atmosphere of secrecy and anonymous accusations at Maynooth. He questioned if seminarians would be better educated beyond the “closed, strange world of seminaries” in new programs of formation more grounded in the real world.

In short, I do not believe Martin’s evaluation of Maynooth as not being “a good place for students” hinges upon seminarians being gay or in same-gender relationships. In general, he has evidenced a more positive approach to LGBT issues than most bishops. His positive approach is particularly distinctive, given the ugly history after the clergy sexual abuse crisis emerged in Ireland in the early 2000s, and gay priests and seminarians were frequently scapegoated.

Archbishop Martin’s decision to withdraw Dublin’s seminarians has provoked good conversations throughout Ireland about the priesthood, celibacy, and indeed homosexuality. His is a credible voice for an Irish public skeptical of the church, and he was described as a “maverick” among other clergy in a recent Irish Times profile. He cooperated fully with civil authorities in clergy sexual abuse investigations, and he has been pastoral in his treatment of LGBT issues. The conversations which Martin has initiated are important and ongoing, and they are applicable not only for Ireland but for the church universal. Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will cover more of those Irish conversations.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Has the Marriage Referendum Victory Ended Catholicism in Ireland?

The Irish vote for marriage equality will certainly have great effects on the lives of the LGBT people of Ireland.  For those who are interested in Catholic LGBT issues, another question may be equally important:  What effect with the marriage equality victory have on the Catholic Church in Ireland?

A number of commentators have provided answers to that question, and I will try to summarize their positions in this blog post.

The two major insights about the future role of the Catholic Church in Ireland that have emerged from the commentary on the referendum are that  1) Church leaders no longer have political influence over the Catholic population; 2) Church leaders’ continued opposition to marriage equality means that they will continue to alienate the already distant younger generation.

Writing in The Irish Times, Omar Encarnación observed that because of child sex abuse and other scandals, “the moral and political authority of the Catholic Church had all but collapsed” in Ireland and in many Western European nations.  The fact that so many Irish voters did not heed their bishops’ encouragement to oppose marriage equality is strong evidence that their once powerful political grip has loosened greatly.

Tim Stanley, writing in London’s Telegraph, also saw the vote as the demise of the bishops’ political power, however Stanley identified a different cause for this loss:  the concerted financial backing of progressive political forces.  Stanley wrote:

“To emphasise, the Yes vote was undoubtedly a reflection of growing tolerance towards gays and lesbians. But it was also a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism. How the Church survives this turn, is not clear. It’ll require a lot of hard work and prayers.”

Joining the view that the Catholic hierarchy suffered a stunning defeat in the referendum was Mary Hunt, whose essay on Religion Dispatches was headlined “Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?”  Her answer: ” . . . the Irish referendum means that a top-down, clergy-heavy model of church heard its death knell in Dublin.” Replacing this model, Hunt says is a new trend:

“It is for lay Catholics around the world to be clear, as Irish voters were, that we can and will make our own decisions.”

Similarly, Fr. Bernard Lynch, writing in  Gay City Newscalled the referendum a “declaration of independence”:

“We have broken the shackles of our colonial past and our colonial governance by the Roman Catholic Church. We are free at last to live and love as we were born to be.”

But not all commentators see the referendum as an end to Catholic influence in Irish society.  Others see the electoral event as calling for a transformation of the relationship between church and society, particularly in the way that clergy communicate with young people.

On the dotCommonweal blog, Kaitlin Campbell speculated about how young Irish people might have felt when they heard bishops denouncing marriage equality:

“. . . I can’t imagine that many young Catholics enjoy being recruited to fight a culture war, especially if the opposition includes family, friends, and peers. They find it alienating when a priest homilizes about the essential differences between men and women; they would rather hear that “all are welcome” at Mass and rather the homily stick to the gospel. When Catholic identity becomes less about spirituality and more about political battles, something essential is lost…along with thousands of believers.”

Maryknoll Father William Grimm disputed the notion that Catholicism in Ireland is in trouble. Writing from Tokyo on UCAnews.comGrimm reminded readers that people need to see the Catholic Church as more than just the hierarchy, but, instead, as the entire People of God. Through that lens, he offered a different perspective on the Irish situation:

“Rather than the collapse of the Catholic Church, might we be living through a period when the hierarchy must defer to the experience, insight and faith of the mass of Catholics? After all, they, more than celibate clerics, have a clear idea of what might or might not threaten marriage. . . .

“The laity are challenging the leaders of the Church to find ways to affirm the sacramentality of matrimony while recognizing that marriage is a broader and more varied reality with legal, social, cultural and anthropological aspects that may differ from the practice of the Church.”

Gay Catholic Voice Ireland, the national LGBT Catholic organization, also expressed hope for the Church under the leadership example of the laity, In a statement, Dave Donnellan, the group’s leader discussed how poorer neighborhoods of Ireland supported marriage equality, while middle and upper class neighborhoods did not, prompting him to remark:

“How has the Catholic Church yet again found itself alongside the rich and privileged and against the liberation of what continues to be such a historically despised group in so many countries? The referendum result again shows up the Catholic Church’s abdication of its Gospel responsibility to stand alongside the poor and oppressed and be ‘Good News’ to groups that so desperately need to hear it. The LGBT community finally did have the ‘Good News’ preached to them last week but it wasn’t by the Catholic bishops. It was by the 1.2 million voters who voted ‘Yes’ to marriage equality for gay people last Friday.”

Father Tony Flannery, CSsR, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests Ireland, also saw this referendum moment as an opportunity for changing “business as usual” in the Irish Catholic Church.  In an interview with The Irish Times, he said:

“The day of doctrinaire Catholicism is over in this country. The people are no longer willing to listen to speeches and sermons on morality from the Church. Some might see this as a bad situation, but I would regard it as a time of wonderful opportunity for the Church, if they can recognise it, and learn how to present the fundamental Christian message.

“We need a period of at least a generation, when the Church authorities says nothing about sex. Then they will have a chance to speak about the far more basic aspects of the Christian message – love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion – and have a chance of being heard.”

In a separate Irish Times article, Flannery focused on the importance of Church leaders reaching out to the youth of Ireland:

“[It was] particularly sad was to see the bishops in total opposition to a mass movement of the younger generation.

“The very people whom the church should be trying to listen to, and trying to learn a way of communicating effectively with, were the ones they were driving further away with all their pastorals in each diocese.”

The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters also saw the referendum as signaling a new way for Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy to relate to the people in the pews:

“I do not know the degree to which the people of Ireland rejected traditional marriage but I am one thousand percent certain they rejected the judgmentalism with which the Church has too long, and too often, associated itself.”

The good news for Catholicism is that at least some bishops in Ireland seem to be getting the message that lay people there want change in the way the church operates.  Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has been in the forefront of speaking about the “reality check” that the referendum means to the hierarchy.

Armagh’s Archishop Eamon Martin, head of Ireland’s bishops’ conference, rejected disparaging language about Irish voters made earlier this week by Cardinal Raymond Burke who said they were “worse than pagans” for choosing marriage equality.  In an interview with Irish radio, Archbishop Eamon criticized Burke’s reference:

“I wouldn’t use that language.

“Throughout the debate and the discussion, we did ask people to try to be respectful and inoffensive in language.”

On the eve of the referendum, Derry’s Bishop Donal McKeown warned voters who would oppose marriage equality not to vote with hatred in their heart.  The Huffington Post reported his comments:

“I would hate for people to vote no for bad reasons, for sort of bigoted reasons, for nasty reasons, for bullying reasons. People have to make up their own mind, and I’m quite happy that they can do that in front of God, be it yes or be it no.”

This sampling of comments from bishops is also joined by Killaloe’s Bishop Willie Walsh who criticized the Vatican’s Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s characterization of the referendum result as “a defeat for humanity.”

Fintan O’Toole, an Irish commentator, urged reconciliation between the opposing marriage camps in a recent op-ed in The Irish Times. Writing specifically about the religious dimension of the debate, he saw that everyone will come out a winner because of the vote:

“[I]t looks like a defeat for religious conservatives. But nobody has been defeated. Nobody has been diminished. Irish people comprehensively rejected the notion that our republic is a zero sum game, that what is given to one must be taken from another. Everybody gains from equality — even those who didn’t think they wanted it. Over time, those who are in a minority on this issue will come to appreciate the value of living in a pluralist democracy in which minorities are respected.”

From the statements by several Irish bishops, and so many Catholic lay people, it doesn’t look like Catholicism in Ireland will die.  It will certainly look different than it has in the past, but isn’t that appropriate for a church who follows a Savior who said, “See! I make all things new!”  The referendum offers all Catholics in Ireland an opportunity to build a society and a church that is based on the equality of all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

(This post ends our series on the commetaries concerning the marriage equality referendum in Ireland.  For previous posts on the Irish results, see the list below.)

Related articles and  posts:

Crux: “Lamenting the Church’s loss of influence in Ireland”

Bondings 2.0:  The Personal Dimension of Ireland’s Marriage Equality Victory

Bondings 2.0: How Did Catholic Ireland Achieve Such a Definitive Victory for Marriage Equality?

Bondings 2.0: Bishop: Referendum Not ‘Defeat for Humanity,’ But Increases Human Happiness

Bondings 2.0: “Cardinal Kasper: After Ireland, Same-Sex Unions Now ‘Central Issue’ for 2015 Synod

Bondings 2.0: Vatican’s ‘Defeat for Humanity’ Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example

Bondings 2.0: Irish Referendum Results Warrant a “Reality Check” for the Church Says Dublin Archbishop

Bondings 2.0:  A Great Day for Irish Lay Catholics! And for Lay Catholics in El Salvador, Too!

The Personal Dimension of Ireland’s Marriage Equality Victory

Continuing our coverage on the Irish referendum on marriage equality, we turn today from the political to the personal.  Many people commenting on the vote have noted that the effects of this social change in Ireland will be felt beyond the new political reality of gay and lesbian couples marrying.

Perhaps no one expressed these other effects as poignantly as Irish priest, Father Martin Dolan who received a standing ovation from his parishioners a few months back when he came out as gay while giving a sermon in support of marriage equality.  After the referendum, the Dublin pastor told the Irish Times that he now feels accepted in Irish society.   Countering Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s statement that the Church needed to find new language to discuss their view of sexuality, Dolan offered a different view of what the referendum’s results mean:

“With great respect, it is not a new language that we need but a new way of being and living.”

Donnachadh McCarthy, a long-time Irish gay advocate, wrote in the Irish Examiner that he “cried lots of tears every time I watched the coverage of the positive marriage equality referendum.” The reason for his tears is that he remembers a time when things were not so positive for LGBT people, and he marvels at the speedy change that Ireland has experienced:

“When I came out in Cork, in my late teens in 1979, the punishment by law for sleeping with your partner was life imprisonment with hard labour.

“I had two gay friends brutally murdered in homophobic attacks — one was left in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs with 27 knife wounds and the other left tied up with a knife through his heart.”

Less than 36 years later, the nation voted in marriage equality, he stated, and he asked the people of Ireland to remember those pioneers who had paved the way for this victory:

“So, let’s take a moment to remember with love the gay people murdered in Ireland over the centuries, and those who took their own lives because they could not take the mental pain any more.

“Then let’s also truly celebrate that the new generation of young people — gay, straight, bi — who can grow up to love and marry if they wish, whoever their heart leads them to do so.”

Following a similar sentiment to McCarthy’s, Ger O’Keefe, who campaigned for the “Yes” organization, expressed a hope that the referendum would send a strong message to the LGBT youth of Ireland. Reuters captured the thought:

“It changes everything, the worries and fears I had as a young gay kid in Ireland, they’re all gone.

“This will tell kids now that you don’t need to be afraid.”

And, the referendum was a victory for the “personal” dimension in the political realm.  Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, was a strong supporter of the “Yes” campaign, in part because she is also the mother of a gay son.  In an Associated Press story before the referendum, she explained the personal dimension of the issue for her, and for so many other Irish families:

” ‘A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything,’ former President Mary McAleese said at a gay rights event in Dublin this week after her only son, a 30-year-old airline executive, revealed he is gay. McAleese, a canon scholar and former legal adviser to the church, spoke of her son’s experience of bullying and isolation as a teenager, and of friends who learned that their own sons were gay only when they tried to kill themselves.”

The parental sentiment was echoed on the other side of the Atlantic by Paula Mattras, of Fort Myers, Florida, who leads a support group of Catholic parents of LGBT people.  Mattras commented on the Irish vote:

“As the mother of a gay son who has felt the overwhelming desire to protect him against those who would call him disordered and negate his many outstanding qualities, or deny him the same opportunities afforded anyone else, I find the Irish vote not as much of a protest against an ecclesiastical argument, but rather an enlightened realization and confirmation of the qualities and normal human activities that our GLBT loved ones share with humanity.”

It was the many personal discussions that people had in Ireland, a community of tightly-knit communities, that made made the difference in this referendum, as Donny Mahoney noted in a Politico article we cited on a blog post a few days ago. People knowing people knowing people is what made the difference.

Professor Paul Lakeland of Fairfield University, Connecticut, identified this dynamic in a blog post about the Irish vote.  He notices the same dynamic in his U.S. college students:

“In my long years as a teacher of mostly Catholic undergraduates I have found the growing support for gays and lesbians to have nothing much to do with moral relativism and everything to do with encountering and befriending gay and lesbian kids in high school.”

Indeed, as Lakeland asks why Catholics support marriage equality, he offers three possible reasons, two of which, the first and third, focus on the personal dimension, not the intellectual:

“First, perhaps the fact that Catholics have a celibate clergy that includes a large number of gay men means that the fear bred from ignorance is less likely to be operative than in other traditions. Second, could it be that a natural law approach to ethical questions, that is, that reason should guide our thinking and our conclusions,  is bred into the Catholic bone? Third, might Catholics be so imbued with the sacramental principle that they recognize any expression of genuine love to be evidence of God’s presence in the world, and hence to be cherished rather than condemned?”

Benjamin Brenkert explained that youth see this personal dimension as primary in their thinking.  In a blog post on Believe Out Loudhe said:

“Catholic youth want a different Church – they want a Church that publicly recognizes their friends, family members and colleagues.”

This Irish moment will surely bring about much good for LGBT people beyond the institution of marriage.  So many in Ireland are looking forward to a vast improvement in the quality of life for all LGBT people, whether they choose to marry or not.  This is just one more reason why it is so important that marriage be extended to all loving couples, regardless of the gender of the partners. This political change will bring about much personal happiness for all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Dublin Archbishop Calls for an “Ethics of Equality” in Marriage Debate

Ireland’s upcoming referendum on marriage equality has evoked the expected opposition from the Catholic hierarchy in that nation, sometimes approaching an extremist tone, such as publicly considering that Catholic priests would not be allowed to perform any wedding ceremony–heterosexual or homosexual–if the electorate approves legal marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Yet, recently, the archbishop of Dublin has offered a more reconciliatory tone.  While he still opposes the marriage equality law, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has also called for “an ethic of equality” which would include legal protections for gay and lesbian committed couples.

London’s Tablet reported on the archbishop’s comments, made at All Hallows’ College, Dublin, during an address to diocesan communications specialists. You can read the entire text of his talk on the Archdiocese of Dublin website. I will excerpt some of the main points in this blog post.

The main point of Martin’s talk is to defend the issue of complementarity as essential to marriage and social and human stability.  For most of his talk, he explains his reasons for this defense.  He also argues for the importance of theological input into social and political debates.  If one were to read only this section of the talk, one might think that this was his only point, but towards the end of his talk, his subject he considers the situation of lesbian and gay people.

After discussing Pope Francis’ example of openness to lesbian and gay issues, he examines the idea of equality:

“An ethics of equality does not require uniformity. There can be an ethic of equality which is an ethic of recognising and respecting difference. A pluralist society can be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation have their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference, while respecting the uniqueness of the male-female relationship.”

Martin also critiqued people who cite Pope Francis in a positive way when they discuss Catholic support for marriage equality, saying that the pontiff has clearly expressed his defense of heterosexual marriage and complementarity. Of these Catholics, Martin said:

“I find it interesting that many of those supporting the yes campaign object to the use of religious language, but they are not shy in quoting Pope Francis in support of their arguments, although I feel that their knowledge of Pope Francis’ repertoire is somewhat restricted.”

He presented the pontiff’s view of same-gender marriage and LGBT people, noting that neither conservatives nor progressives are completely happy with the nuanced position:

“In the debates around same-sex marriage in Argentina, Pope Francis was unequivocal in his judgment about its non-admissibility, yet he consistently told people not to judge any individual. Many find that a position of that kind is untenable: certain things, they will say, are simply wrong and to be condemned and there is no way in which we can countenance any response except repentance and change of life style. Others will say that the only way in which the Church can show mercy is by changing its teaching. Pope Francis espouses neither of these positions in isolation.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin

More important than the content about same-gender relationships, however, is the Dublin archbishop’s discussion of traditional hierarchical discourse about marriage equality. In the same week that Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland warned that religious freedom would be endangered by passage of marriage equality, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took a more reconciliatory approach.

Diarmuid Martin, who in the past has acknowledged that church leaders and others have too often spoken negatively to and about LGBT people, admitted that he may not been as credible by some:

“I know that the harshness with which the Irish Church treated gay and lesbian people in the past – and in some cases still today – may make it hard for LGBT people to accept that I am sincere in what I am proposing.”

Noting that hierarchical language has often been “insensitive and overly judgemental,” Martin advised:

“The Church has to learn to voice its criticism clearly and without fear, but it must always do so in language which respects her Master.”

He recognized that the harsh language has been one of the biggest ways that bishops have failed in getting across their view of marriage:

“The problem in many ways is that the Church has often in the past presented its message poorly. What is a message of love was presented in language that was harsh. What was rational argument was presented as a dogma which all should accept. The truth about Jesus Christ can only be proclaimed in love.”

Martin has made the case for a more civil debate about LGBT people before and has called on church leaders to be more courteous and respectful in their discussions.

Ireland’s referendum will be held on May 22nd.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

 

Irish Times: “Churchgoers give their views on marriage referendum”

Belfast Telegraph: “Catholic bishops urge ‘No’ vote in Republic of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum”

The Independent: “Voting No to same-sex marriage is not homophobic, say bishops”

The Journal: “Senior Archbishop warns: Church could face legal action for opposing gay marriage”

Irish Times: “Interfering with definition of marriage not a ‘trivial matter’ “

The Independent: “Catholics fear being labelled homophobic – Primate”

Dublin Archbishop: I’m No Expert on Family; Anti-Gay Groups’ Language is “Obnoxious”

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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin displayed a humility rarely seen by someone of his office, admitting last week he knew little of the realities of family life today. He also criticized the language used by anti-marriage equality campaigners in Ireland, saying plural societies must respect gay and lesbian people.

Speaking on “The Teaching of the Church on Marriage Today,” at the Iona Institute, Martin answered critics who question the bishops’ credentials in pronouncing on marriage and family life, reports The Independent. These critics, including former Irish president Mary McAleese, doubt “rightly” because, Martin continued:

“I have no experience and understanding…I must be honest and say that I am also lacking in knowledge of more fundamental day-to-day realities of the sexual, marital or parental experiences in a family.”

The Iona Institute is a think tank actively involved in the ‘No’ campaign against marriage equality in Ireland.

Elsewhere in his talk, the archbishop criticized anti-LGBT groups during his speech . PinkNews quotes Martin as saying:

” ‘I have consistently said that the debate must be carried on respectfully without the use of intemperate language…

” ‘I do however feel obliged to say that I have received in recent time correspondence from people who support a “no” vote in the referendum in which the language used is not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting and, unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people.

” ‘If people use such language to support a position they feel is Christian, then all I can say is that they have forgotten something essential about the Christian message.’ “

While opposed to marriage equality, Martin said society must ensure equality before the law. The Independent reported:

“Dr. Martin suggested that a pluralist society could be creative in finding ways in which people of same-sex orientation had their rights and their loving and caring relationships recognised and cherished in a culture of difference.

” ‘I’m not saying that gay and lesbian people are unloving or that their love is somehow deficient compared to others, I am talking about a uniqueness in the male-female relationship,’ he said.”

Archbishop Martin has also called for a “conscience clause,” should the referendum pass, to allow lay people who are opposed to marriage equality to express objections, such as denying business services for lesbian and gay weddings, without breaking equality laws. LGBT organizations are calling such clauses a “license to discriminate,” reports Yahoo News.

Though opposed to marriage equality, Martin has also made a name for positive statements on LGBT issues. Just last week he and another archbishop openly condemned Irish Bishop Kevin Doran’s comparison of homosexuality to Down’s syndrome and spina bifida. He has previously said church teaching is “disconnected from real experiences of families” and had been used “in a homophobic way” to do great harm. There are also no reports that he sacked a Dublin priest for coming out and openly endorsing marriage equality during Mass a few months back.

Criticism of anti-LGBT voices from any church leader is rare and this is not Archbishop Martin’s first time calling for a more respectful tone from the church on LGBT civil rights. Rarer still is the humility displayed by Martin that he is no expert on marriage and family. That is unprecedented in all of the discussions during last year’s synod and those that are leading up to this year’s meeting. The archbishop seems to be willing to follow Pope Francis’ requests to bishops to be close to their flocks.

This latest admission of non-expertise will hopefully allow for a greater opening space for those with expertise in family life — like married couples and LGBT people — to speak their truths during next fall’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Archbishops Correct Irish Bishop’s Insensitive Remarks About Lesbian & Gay People

The two leading bishops of Ireland have refused to support the recent statements by another Irish bishop in which he said that gay people are not parents and that homosexuality was comparable to Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Archbishop Eamon Martin speak with the press about Bishop Kevin Doran’s comments.

The Irish Times reported that Armagh’s Archbishop Eamon Martin and Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin held a press conference during the national bishops’ meeting to correct the statements by Bishop Kevin Doran, of Elphin, which he made during a recent radio interview focusing on the Irish hierarchy’s opposition to the upcoming national referendum on marriage equality.  [For a transcript of selected portions of the interview, click here.]

Both Eamon Martin and Diarmuid Martin are, respectively, president and vice president of Ireland’s national conference of bishops.  The Dublin archbishop made headlines last year when he said:

“God never created anybody that he doesn’t love.…

“Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that – they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people.”

The Irish Times report carried a good deal of the two archbishops’ statements concerning Doran’s interview:

“Asked whether Bishop Doran had his confidence following a Newstalk interview he gave on Monday, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin replied: ‘I won’t go into that.’

“He continued ‘I believe certain types of language are inappropriate.’

“He described as ‘an unfortunate phrase,’ a comment by Bishop Doran in the interview that ‘people who have children are not necessarily parents.’

“The Archbishop continued: ‘I hope that people were not offended by it. We have used the term parenthood…we talk about adoptive parents, we talk about lone parents. There are very many, many definitions. I think that we should look on that variety of situations in a way that is more positive. We shouldn’t use phrases that may offend people.’ . . .

“Archbishop Eamon Martin said ‘I believe there are many different kinds of parenthood and indeed there are many gay people who are parents.’ ”

Archbishop Eamon Martin also commented on another important error in Bishop Doran’s interview:

“On Bishop Doran’s claim that ‘the jury is out’ on whether people were born gay or became gay Archbishop Eamon Martin said ‘I believe people are born the way they are born and I believe that God creates us as we are.’ “

While Bondings 2.0 reported on Doran’s comments on Down’s Syndrome and spina bifida, we were not, at the time, aware of his comments on parenting.  What follows is the transcript of that portion of the interview with host Chris Donoghue:

Doran: “Yeah, but you obviously haven’t heard what I’m saying. There’s an essential relationship between marriage and the giving of life to, and caring for, children.”

O’Donoghue: “What I’m saying is…”

Doran: “Ad so when you change the meaning of marriage, you change the relationships of parents because if children are now, to have say, two parents who are of the same sex, that…”

O’Donoghue: “But children do, Bishop. As in lesbian people, lesbians, gay men they are already parents..”

Doran: “They’re not parents. You see the point about it is…”

O’Donoghue: “But they are, all over Ireland. They have children.”

Doran: “They may have children but that’s the difference, you see that’s the point, people who have children are not necessarily parents. ‘

Both archbishops did not back down on their opposition to marriage equality becoming the law of the land in Ireland.  They restated their arguments, including noting that Pope Francis is opposed to marriage equality laws.

Significant still, however, is that these two leaders would make such a public denouncement of one of their brother bishops.   In fact, they noted that Doran does not speak for the conference:

“When it was put to him that Bishop Doran had been fronting the Catholic bishops stance on the marriage equality referendum, the Archbishop of Dublin said the position was being fronted ‘by the President and Vice President of the Conference. That is why we are here today.’

Archbishop Eamon Martin said that Doran apologized for any hurt that his words had caused.

In a separate incident earlier this month, Doran made headlines by stating that gay people could already legally marry–jut not each other.  Thes public relations fiascos are a lesson in how bishops need further education on LGBT issues, and this could best be accomplished by greater dialogue with LGBT people.  Let’s hope that Bishop Doran, who will likely not be speaking further on the marriage referendum, will use his time to educate himself by open and honest conversations with Catholic LGBT people in his diocese.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry