News (World)

A Catholic meeting about families welcomed gay ones – until it didn’t

Pope Francis
Pope Francis Photo: Public Domain

The World Meeting of Families is meant to be a Catholic celebration of all things family related. For a while, that even looked to include queer families.

However, in a move that seems inevitable, conservative pressure has led to gay people being edited out of the event–literally.

The event, which is scheduled for August in Dublin, was being promoted with a video featuring Bishop David O’Connell.

In the original video, O’Connell says, “Pope Francis, he gets it. He gets it that our society has changed so much in the last couple of generations. We have all sorts of configurations of families now, whether it’s just the traditional family of mum and dad together, or it’s now mum on her own or dad on his own, or a gay couple raising children, or people in second marriages. No matter what the configuration of the family is, the call is still to adults to think about how to provide the best, most loving, faithful environment for children possible.”

Needless to say, O’Connell’s comments threw the ultra-conservative wing of the Church into a frenzy. Typical of the reaction was a headline on the website Church Militant (coincidentally run by an ex-gay man, Michael Voris): “Sodomy Supporters Hijack World Meeting of Families.”

Another conservative Catholic group, Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith), had already mounted a successful campaign to get an image of a same-sex couple removed from the meeting program.

The pressure seems to have worked. O’Connell’s comments were edited out in the most recent version of the video. A spokesperson for the meeting said that the original version was uploaded by mistake and that the gay-free one is the correct one.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese, whose son is gay, criticized the move to delete the “words of welcome and reassurance to LGBTI Catholics and their families.” Editing the video, she said, sends “a strong message that they will not be welcome to attend the Dublin World Meeting of Families.”

The battle is far from over. Pope Francis is expected to attend the meeting, which makes the stakes high for both sides. After years of having its own way, the Church’s right wing thinks Francis is insufficiently Catholic because he has shown a modest change in rhetoric (but not policy). The anti-queer contingent wants to show Francis who’s the boss. In their eyes, it’s not the pope.

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