Archbishop says there is ‘no ideal family but there is an ideal of family’

Diarmuid Martin includes parents who are gay and lesbian, single, separated, non-married

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin performs the Washing of the Feet ceremony  on Thursday, including members of the Palestrina Boys Choir. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin performs the Washing of the Feet ceremony on Thursday, including members of the Palestrina Boys Choir. Photograph: Dave Meehan


It was a statement of fact not ideology to acknowledge that what made up a family today varied, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

“Children are brought up in different settings, by married couples, by grandparents, by single parents, by non-married couples, by separated couples, by gay and lesbian couples. This is a statement of fact not of ideology. The church must work to help that all these children are loved and are introduced to an appreciation of the Gospel of love,” he said.

Archbishop Martin, who will host the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in the presence of Pope Francis next August, said “families vary. It is hard today to socially define what we call ‘the traditional family’. Every family has its own personal story and its own personal history. They are all different.”

There was, he said, “no ideal family but there is an ideal of family that springs from the teaching of Jesus.” He continued: “We do not put any of us under the microscope of where we are in our search for perfection. We are all sinners on a constant path of conversion. We learn to work together and support each other, to pray for each other.”

Future generations

The church “must of course also find new and robust ways to attract future generations to an integral understanding of the beauty of Christ’s unchanging teaching on marital love and fidelity. Passing on the Christian understanding of marriage and families is another difficult challenge for families,” he said.

Archbishop Martin was speaking at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral on Thursday morning.

He said that “the failures of the church in the past and the present very often struck at the lives of families. I have heard the cry of parents who experienced the pain of one or other family member having been abused and many were not listened to.

“Women who found themselves as single parents were often taken away from their children and at times children were left without knowing that they belonged to a family and had brothers and sisters. Where the church failed families and children then the Church failed Jesus himself.”

Referring to the World Meeting of Families next August, he said it would be “not just a five-day event but a moment in which we focus of the mission of families within the church and society. In families, life and faith and love are celebrated and lived in an integrated way. Spouses witness to Jesus through their love for each other.”

‘Enormous challenge’

Family life, he said, was not easy. “Families are under enormous challenge. There is a sense in which the struggle of families is central to understanding many of the social challenges of life today: families struggle financially; they grapple with uncertainty about the values of society; refugees long to be reunited with their families or are struggling to keep their families together.

“Many more families are homeless, but in the face of indignity they still keep heroically alive their love as spouses and their love for their children.”

He was “really saddened by the fact that, in the Capuchin Day Centre for the homeless, they have had to open a special section where homeless families can share a meal together. These are parents and their children without a home who are, thank God, offered the possibility of being together to share – what we all wish to do – a family meal.”

He concluded by praying that “the church will become more visibly the community that witnesses to the care of Jesus and which enables every family to realise its dream for fulfilment and the healthy growth of children”.