Pope’s comments on homosexual unions ‘a very strong message’
Idea church cannot live with gay civil unions is unacceptable, Archbishop of Dublin says
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin: “We have some people whose frustration with their own gay identity is leading them to be homophobic . . . The pope is clearing the air for a further discussion.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Pope Francis’s remarks that gay people were entitled to a family and the legal protection of civil unions sent “a very strong message to the community in the Roman Catholic church that our attitude has to change”, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
“There are, in other countries, strong homophobic tendencies even in church leaders. 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,” he said.
Archbishop Martin was responding to comments by Pope Francis in the documentary, Francesco, premiered at the Rome film festival on Wednesday where he said: “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”
‘Space for both’
Archbishop Martin said the idea that the church could not live with civil unions was “unacceptable”. Its problem was “how do you say to people that the church regards in a special way a marriage between a man and a woman without giving the impression that therefore anybody outside that framework is second-class. We have to be able to say that both are right and that there’s space for both.”
Speaking on Thursday’s RTÉ Radio’s News at One, he said “Sometimes we all get trapped into our absolutes. Certainly the church’s attitude has made the life of LGBT people miserable.”
On the same programme, former president Mary McAleese described Pope Francis’s words as a “complete contradiction to church teaching as set out by his predecessor Pope Benedict”.
That was “pretty awful for those who were gay and gay Catholics in particular”. It was “simply unsustainable now in the light of what Francis has said”.
The We Are Church Ireland group described Pope Francis’s words as “a hugely significant step” which they warmly welcomed. He “must now act to revise teaching to allow blessings and remove hurtful language”, they said.
They also called on him “to introduce church blessings for same-gender couples and to revise teaching to remove the descriptions of LGBTQ+ people as objectively disordered and their love as intrinsically evil”.
On the hostile response of some in the church to what Pope Francis said, Augustinian priest Fr Iggy O’Donovan felt it “remarkable how swiftly and fiercely traditionalists and conservatives have reacted to the comments”.
He found it “ironic to read the level of vitriol and abuse which has been hurled at the pontiff” and not “from the usual suspects on the liberal left but from the ultra right”. In the past, “these people used loyalty to the pope as a yardstick by which to measure theological deficiencies in liberals and so called dissenters. Now these conservatives are the dissenters,” he said.
If they “manage to frustrate Francis’s modest attempts at reform then I fear many more of the faithful will walk away believing that the battle for sane Catholicism is lost,” Fr O’Donovan said.