After serving a Roman Catholic parish in Ireland for 15 years, the Rev. Martin Dolan told congregants the truth about his sexual orientation over the weekend.
Dolan was standing at the pulpit during a Saturday mass at Dublin’s Church of St. Nicholas of Myra when he began encouraging parishioners to support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to The Irish Sun. Then, he made the unexpected announcement: “I’m gay myself.”
The priest reportedly received a standing ovation.
A community youth worker in Dublin told The Irish Sun, “We are all very proud of Father Martin. Because he has admitted that he is gay doesn't change the person that he was before it.”
Two Irish LGBT rights groups confirmed the priest's remarks to the HuffPost in emails.
Andrew Hyland, director of Marriage Equality, said that he lives on the same street as the church and that his father is one of Dolan’s parishioners.
“Fr. Dolan’s acknowledgement from the pulpit that he is gay and supports marriage equality has been warmly welcomed in Ireland,” Hyland wrote. “The parishioners of Francis Street have expressed a deep loyalty towards him since his brave announcement.”
Tiernan Brady, policy director for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, said Dolan's coming out is "first and foremost a wonderful personal story."
"It takes a lot of courage to do what Fr Dolan did and he must have experiences some trepidation before he said it," Brady wrote. "The wonderful reaction of his congregation giving him a standing ovation after he spoke is a powerful endorsement of his brave decision."
Neither Dolan nor Dublin’s archdiocese responded to requests for comment.
The church doesn't formally ban gays from the priesthood, but requires all clergy to take a vow of celibacy. Pope Francis famously addressed the question of homosexuality in the priesthood in 2013, saying in Italian: "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can't marginalize these people."
Ireland is preparing to hold a referendum on legalizing gay marriage in May. According to a 2011 census, Catholics made up 84.2 percent of Ireland’s population. Although the Catholic Church does not favor same-sex marriage, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll found that 71 percent of the electorate was willing to vote to approve marriage equality this spring.
“Fr. Dolan’s support will undoubtedly give a boost to a positive outcome in the referendum,” Hyland said. “It signals to people that despite what the hierarchy of the Church wills, regular Church goers can vote yes and know they join thousands of others in good conscience in doing so.
“Fr. Dolan’s move reminds people that many LGBT people have a deep faith and are an equal part of the Church and should be valued as such,” Hyland added.
Carol Kuruvilla; Huffington Post; 12 January 2015