During an interview on RTÉ Radio in relation to recent reports that Pope Francis supported civil union laws for same-sex couples, Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin spoke about the poor relationship the church has had with LGBTQ+ people.
Martin, talking about the years before decriminalisation in 1993, explained, “Certainly the church’s attitude has made the life of LGBT+ people miserable. Even for a person of my age it’s very hard for me just to think, people were put in prison simply because of [being gay] and the church contributed to that.”
Last week, a documentary was released which featured a 2019 interview with Pope Francis where he stated: “Homosexuals have the right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be rejected or marginalised because of it. What we need to work on is a civil union law. They have the right to be protected under the law.”
It was pointed out that although a show of support, the statement did not actually refer to same-sex marriage, only civil union laws. Martin responded that the statement was still “a very strong message to the community in the Roman Catholic Church.”
He continued, “So the first thing I would say is that the Pope is clearing the air for further discussion. After the same-sex referendum here in Ireland, I talked about the idea of a reality check. And this again will be an opportunity for people to do a reality check within the church.”
While elaborating on the point, Martin was asked about pre-referendum days and the church’s negative stance on equal marriage. He shared his thoughts; “For many years I’ve been saying that we should have had in Ireland civil liberties. I said it on one occasion and the next day I was in London and I was walking along the street and I see a headline, ‘Archbishop of Dublin in favour of gay marriage’. I wasn’t in favour of gay marriage.
“The big challenge will be, how do you say to people, 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?”
The Irish Archbishop then went on to blame internalised homophobia for the church’s treatment of queer people. “There are in other countries very strong homophobic tendencies even in church leaders,” he said, “and 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.”
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