WAC Press Release: Call for State funding to be withheld from WMoF 2018 unless LGBT couples welcomed

WAC Press Release: Call for State funding to be withheld from WMoF 2018 unless LGBT couples welcomed

Posted by Colm, With 2 Comments, Category: Church News, Church Reform, Latest News, LGBT, World Meeting of Families,

PRESS RELEASE                                                1 February 2018

Call for State funding to be withheld from WMoF 2018 unless LGBT couples welcomed

We are Church Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to withhold state funding of the World Meeting of Families 2018 (WMoF 2018) until assurances are received from the organisers, the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese, that the event will welcome and include families headed by LGBT couples.

Such assurances are necessary in view of the removal of images and text relating to LGBT people from the WMOF2018 brochures.

" The Government should not use Irish taxpayers' 'money to fund any organisation that discriminates against LBGT families" stated Brendan Butler, spokesperson of We are Church Ireland.

Brendan Butler, We are Church spokesperson.

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  1. Date: February 9, 2018
    Author: Colm

    The World Meeting of Catholic Families A few pertinent Questions By order of the Bishop of Rome the gathering of these is coming to Dublin this summer of 2018. It is hoped indeed that the Bishop of Rome will also be there. One can only wish this gathering joy, peace and every good wish. It would be a kill-joy who did not. It could well be a special or even unique event in many peoples’ lives. More than that it could be something where there is a wonderful atmosphere and an almost tangible breathing of the Holy Spirit. We all need it. It may too be a reversal of traditional roles where young people are there in great numbers enjoying the vast crowds and fully participating in the beautiful music and liturgy. It is an event hardly to be missed without due consideration for Catholics and hopefully others as well. The present pope is a very good and holy man with his Jesuit training. He is not perfect of course and like all of us he has made mistakes but he is caring, kind and reaches out to the ordinary person in a humble way. Most of us would love to see him. Only some extreme right-wing Catholics would consider that he is a liability and a ‘nobody’. That he is not! I suppose the problem would be if he is not able to come. At 81, he must be nearing the end of his active pontificate unfortunately and he may not make it. If that were the case then one suspects that at least half of those contemplating going – will probably not go. That is a hard one for the wonderful people who are trying to organise this event. There could be a million or even two million or more at the Phoenix Park Mass. It depends upon the Pope and upon the weather. When I became a Catholic I was told by the priest who received me into the Church in 1994 that it was my job to ask the hard questions. I have been doing that ever since. It can be very annoying but on balance I think that it is a good thing. So I ask a few questions appertaining to this gathering – questions which simmer in the background of the mind. I do not pretend to have answers but the questions remain. One point that strikes me more and more is – the answers you get or the conclusions you reach reflect the questions that you ask. Ask other questions and you tend to get different results. So without apology I ask a few pertinent questions that this event provokes, like it or not, within my conscience. Firstly – What is a family and what is a Catholic family? We all have a pretty good idea but can we put it into sharper focus? I would define family as a group of people usually with kinship ties living together or living in relationship. The Catholic family is one where many of those involved are in some way Catholics. Maybe that is too loose but if you narrow it down – many families today would be left out. Traditionally it was mum and dad married and the children living together in a more or less faithful relationship with the extended family in the background and the traditional Catholic family was just that but practising their common Catholic faith which provided an additional bond. We have to now face the fact that in the last half century or so our world has changed probably more than it ever did before and the hard lines have become blurred or fractured. In cities especially parents tend now to delay marrying, if they do at all, till the children have arrived. LGBT relationships are increasingly common and the traditional stable unit – though still there is now one amongst others. Large numbers of people now come from ‘broken’ homes where partners have changed within the general orbit of monogamous relationships. Diversity has greatly increased perhaps less so among Catholic families but it is clearly there and will be more marked in the next generation. So who is welcome at this gathering of Catholic families? There will be LGBT ‘families’ wanting to go. Will they be welcomed with open arms – or will they be frozen out? Already I see trouble brewing. How will the brochures illustrate the Catholic families? Is the traditional family type a ‘must’ or an ideal? In the past where that ‘must conform’ ideal was imposed upon the populace it brought stability and built community but for those who did not fit within its norms there could be untold hardship, rejection, and condemnation. Secondly –how and why was Dublin chosen? You might be delighted that it was but it is worth asking the question. I do not know but I assume that the Pope was advised. I do not think, however, that there were delegations hard at work as with the World Cup. Ireland has a good case – having suffered much from a deep recession and just getting on its feet. Ireland has seen in recent years a collapse in church going, in vocations, in the orders and most markedly in the numbers of young people attending mass as well as the rising average age of those attending mass. There are a host of problems besides. Maybe that came into the equation. We are not told why. We have to work it out. And why select Dublin in particular? Is it because of the obvious venue of Phoenix Park? Is it because it is the centre of the population? Or is it just assumed that –if it is Ireland –then it must be Dublin? Limerick would have been possible with the mass on the racecourse. Or perhaps there is Killarney with the huge central park area? Or maybe Knock? Or maybe not Knock as it needs a breather from this type of event. Thirdly how does the single person fit in? I know something about being single having been 49 when I wed and then was a widower some two and a half years later. I have never had any real problem about feeling included. We are nearly all part of a family in some way and probably more than one family. I was a ‘convert’ to Catholicism so most of my family are not Catholics. Again that is not a major problem. Where I do feel there is a problem is in some of the preaching where it tends to be about mum and dad and sometimes granddad and grandma whose duty it is to pass on the faith. I have heard homilies on that theme – with not a word about anyone else and you are left feeling excluded. You come away feeling –‘Well don’t I have some role?’ I do also have problems with the ‘pass on the faith’ bit which can reduce the gospel to just being passed down without too much thought and a total unconcern for a mission to adults. What has taken us thus far will probably not suffice to take the present church beyond the end of this century. All the markers of decline and retrenchment are clear to see. We have to reach beyond the present mould. It will be interesting to see how far this forthcoming meeting succeeds. The previous visit of a pope in 1979 gave a short fillip to the Church here which was followed by continuous decline. Will it be the same again? Fourthly – there is a danger of the apotheosis of the family. The family is a vitally important concept and social entity. Take away the family and what have you got? Yet it is not the totality of our vision. Sometimes families can be restrictive and you need to get away. It is worth having a look at the picture of the family in the early church. The Holy Family is a difficult concept as our picture of it emerged over many decades and has a questionable historical base. Even if the gospels are taken at face value they do not present this family in an idealised form. There are not many stories of the Holy Family and where there are the members tended to fall out even in Luke’s highly idealised late first century portrayal (Lk 2:28-50). In its starkest portrayal in Mark 3 we see Jesus publicly turning his back on his family (and his mother) which had temporarily concluded that he was mad. This story has all the hall marks of being authentic in that it is quite likely to have been a recollection (from before the cult of Mary started) of a slightly embarrassing incident which Matthew later subtly changes. Mark of course – probably a part of the Pauline mission which was at odds with the later dominance of the family of Jesus in the early Christian mission may well have had an axe to grind. Between Paul and the Jerusalem Church led by James the ‘brother’ of Jesus and Peter there was undoubtedly tension (Gal 2:11-14) Be that as it may – you cannot go back to the gospels for an ideal of family life. Indeed there are quite clear and stark statements in the gospels regarding the need to prioritize the gospel over family ties (Mtt10:21-22; 34-39). Families would be torn apart by the gospel. I suppose that this had its origins in the early church families in which there were those who converted to Christianity and those who retained the traditional Jewish teachings and rejected the new. Families were indeed torn apart. Throughout therefore you get the impression that it was the gospel message which was the more important. How else can one explain the stark saying of Jesus? - ‘Let the dead bury their dead but as for you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’(Lk 9:60). To be fair however one could write a PhD on this saying if you had more energy than I do – such indeed are the nuances. Nevertheless the family is very important but it should not be put before the gospel. There is another related problem. In the New Testament we read of several examples of conversion and baptism of a person such as Cornelius (Acts 10: 2; 47-48) or Lydia (Acts 16:15) with all their household. We can only hope that each member of the household was given at least some choice and not coerced. (It is unlikely that slaves would –if they were there.) We have no means of knowing, probably they did not, but informed choice is important in coming to faith. It seems that the present system of confirmation is failing. More often it is an exit strategy coupled with a chance to stash some cash and a rite of passage. Very few if any of those confirmed tend to be in Church the following week. Something is badly wrong despite great work done at schools. If the confirmation were delayed a few years it would give more opportunity for a young person to make a mature decision for themselves. One can only hope that the coming gathering of world families will be a stage for honest reflection and discussion regarding important issues like this. Fifthly there is the imperfection of the Church itself. In saying that let us not forget the positive role of churches in supporting communities and families in forming positive bonds and in outreach to the poor or less fortunate. That can never be denied. Yet in the present established church there are difficulties. In almost every town or village in Ireland you can find one of the largest and most imposing houses with considerable grounds and you can tell that that is the presbytery. Often these houses are incommodious and badly heated. Often the priest does not really want to live there and they cost the earth to maintain. They make a statement however – that of power and status. In fact they reverse Jesus’ teachings ‘...He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts...’ (Mark 6:7-9). The bishops and archbishops tend to live in even bigger dwellings. Our present pope has said that it is time to get out of the palaces. It is. It has already been done to some degree by the Church of Ireland. Today there is a notable housing shortage- and lack of a home in which to feel secure is extremely destructive of family life. If the church is really sincere about its support of families it would make these buildings available in some way to families. The most obvious ways are to sell them, put them into housing trusts or rent them out. In the small town in which I live there are three large clergy houses – none of which are particularly suitable for the occupants. At the moment however throughout the country demands of status and power still win out over common sense. At the same time there are families (often immigrant families) living in crowded conditions because of lack of housing or indeed there is the ongoing crisis of the ‘homeless’. The Church, however, seems to be quite desperate to hold onto its privileges and its properties. I believe it is time for a re-think if it is really serious about family life and values. Sixthly there is the perennial problem of crowds. It was a source of tension between Jesus and his disciples in the late twenties C.E. (Mk 6:35-37). Indeed there seems to have been a tension within Jesus himself between crowds and solitude (Mk 6 30-34). Many of us would find a vast crowd daunting whilst others would find it exhilarating. I have not made up my mind as to what I will do. There is the attraction of a wonderful event but these events often have a shadow side. There are fortunately many smaller meetings. Hygiene and sanitation could be an awful problem at the Phoenix Park mass. I came away from an event like this in that location and was quite ill from a virus most likely picked up there. Problems regarding accommodation, traffic and being able to see and hear, of health or the weather and the ground underfoot make me wonder. Oh ye of little faith! Seventhly it must be admitted that the Church has made considerable strides in the protection of children from abuse. Procedures are now in place in most churches if not all and generally the Church can now be considered a safe place for young people to occupy. There are still areas however that need to be considered. At the top we still await reappointment of a committee to oversee this work and there is concern about the matter at a high level in South America. It cannot be easy for an aging pope even a very good man like the present pontiff to get it right all the time but questions remain and still many sufferers from the past feel inadequately treated. For some the wrongs of the past have been too easily covered up. There is another problem however. It is mandatory when a PPC meets for the question of child protection to be upon the agenda. That is good. The problem is that many churches do not have PPCs – or if they do the PPC is no more than a list of names. Some are not properly constituted. This could and should be put right by the bishops as well as the fact that many finance committees do not exist. However some bishops seem more intent on curtailing the role of lay persons than promoting it. Herein exists a considerable loophole. If indeed the Church is really sincere about promoting family life this is one vital area to be dealt with at once. Eighthly, almost certainly there will be statements of concern in the area noted above. We could add to this the whole issue of immigrant welfare and the taking in of immigrant families from Europe. There is likely to be concern but one wonders how much action there will be. It is the same with the environment – the most pressing issue of our times. Nothing will threaten life and family life more than our present destruction of the environment. The earth will be –at the present accelerating rate – a dangerous place to inhabit after 2050 especially for the poorer and low-lying countries like Bangladesh. I will be off the planet almost certainly by then but a generation is growing up that will still be here in 2100. Then after that, what will there be? In Ireland there seems to be a reluctance to face the issues springing from increasing population pressure and consumerism. News is endlessly filled with domestic issues about missing emails and churches remain more vexed with issues of dogma. The future of life itself and therefore of family life remains less of an issue unfortunately for our children and theirs. Can this be changed? Ninthly, this gathering comes after what will be a bruising and painful referendum on abortion. Views will have become polarized and the subtleties of the arguments lost in the stridency. What the result will be we cannot predict. One only suspects that there will be a lot of healing to be done and can only trust indeed that this event will be magnanimous enough to fulfil that role rather than assume a gloating or defiant attitude. If it does then that will bring healing and help to many families. Finally there is the perennial problem of whether or not the Church can change any of its teachings. I recently listened to one bishop speak about the problems of society and housing and all that affects family life. I thought it was very good. Yet then the inevitable statement was put in – ‘without changing any of the church’s teachings’. This was no doubt to ensure that there could be no whiff or accusations of unorthodoxy. It is hard to deny that many of the church’s teachings have changed as have many of its disciplines, practices and attitudes. J.H. Newman said, ‘To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often’. Fortunately gone now is limbo and radically changed is our attitude to the Jews. For a thousand years clergy could marry – then they could not. There were women deacons and indeed ‘Apostles’ in the early church. I believe that the ‘no change’ attitude will not carry us through to the next century. We have to work out –what are our ideals and what are our ‘musts’? Inevitably they will change. We also have to engage with a changing society and not pull up the drawbridge nor must we ever be afraid to ask the hard questions. Above all we have to have an attitude of welcome to all –‘Come to me – all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens... for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’(Matt 11: 28, 30) If such an open attitude prevails at the coming meetings then much will be gained. If it is closed down too far and the various colours of the cultural rainbow drained into black and white – we may lose more than we gain. Martin Rigg February 2018

  2. Date: February 9, 2018
    Author: Colm

    In a communication from WAC (Ireland) I read: Duddy-Burke noted that Bishop Leahy of Limerick and Archbishop Martin of Dublin have both indicated they wanted the World Meeting of Families to be open to all families, including same-sex couples and their children. Now I read: We are Church Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to withhold state funding of the World Meeting of Families 2018 (WMOF 2018) until assurances are received from the organisers, the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese, that the event will welcome and include families headed by LGBT couples. The WMOF is not being organized by the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese, and there will be no state funding. It was never considered. I read in the Parish Programme for the WMOF the programme explores Pope Francis’ understanding of human fragility in the reality of family life, the importance of reaching out to all, regardless of their circumstances, and the priority of God’s mercy in how we approach that fragility. This challenges all pastoral agents and all families to reach out to people on the margins. At a recent meeting of volunteers for the WMOF I raised the issue of the high cost of groups and organizations participating in the WMOF, and it was pointed out to me, that running the WMOF is expensive and money has to be raised. There is no question of state support. Noel Fitzpatrick