Former President Mary McAleese has raised concerns over the marginalisation of the LGBT+ community in the run-up to the Pope’s visit in August.
Images of same-sex couples were removed from a World Meeting of Families (WMF) booklet which was sent to parishes.
The Pope is expected to visit Ireland during the WMF event in Dublin. The accompanying information booklet originally included a photo of a same-sex couple on page 24 and a paragraph which reminded readers that “other unions exist which provide mutual support to the couple”.
However, the new edition, which was issued by catholic publisher Veritas, no longer contains any images which could be interpreted as a gay couple have been replaced by depictions involving a father, mother and children.
The changes are believed to be a result of lobbying by readers of the conservative catholic website LifeSiteNews, which accused the original booklet of an “explicit promotion of homosexual relationships as a form of family”.
A spokesperson from WMF told the Irish Independent that the event “has always been understood as a meeting open to all. This remains the position of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.”
WMF did not directly address the reasoning for the changed images.
“How can LGBT families feel welcome when the very images of their existence are expunged from the literature as if they somehow contaminate it? If you cannot be visible, can you be counted?” Catholic theologian Angela Hanley challenged.
McAleese has expressed her disappointment at the move telling the Irish Independent that this event has historically been one of exclusion but she is still hopeful that Ireland can do better.
“For example, LGBTI Catholics and their families who in good faith attended the 2015 meeting held in Philadelphia have reported that they experienced traumatising hostility.
“Ireland can and hopefully will do better than that,” she said.
Nuala Ward, a former board member of the Amach! LGBT group in Galway said she was “once again shocked and disheartened with the Catholic Church in Ireland”.
“Shocked at the absence of awareness of the far-reaching negative impact the actions of the Catholic Church have on their followers. Disheartened that this dwindling element continues to condemn its followers to maintain a ‘head in the sand’ position which denies the reality of family life.”
She called for “a meaningful and overdue conversation” to be had by the Church.
The Pope is due to visit Ireland in August 2017.
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