Leading archbishop admits the church’s homophobic attitudes ‘made LGBT+ people miserable’

Patrick Kelleher
·3-min read

A Catholic archbishop has admitted that the church’s treatment of LGBT+ people has left them feeling “miserable” in a surprising admission of error.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 on Thursday (October 22), Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin and primate of Ireland, addressed Pope Francis’ recent comments in support of same-sex civil unions.

Martin said he agreed with Pope Francis’ comments, and said his words will send “a very strong message to the community in the Roman Catholic Church” that change is on the horizon.

The archbishop went on to criticise church leaders in countries across the world who oppose the introduction of civil unions for LGBT+ people.

He added: “There are in other countries very strong homophobic tendencies even in church leaders, 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.

“So the first thing I would say is that the Pope is clearing the air for further discussion. After the same-sex [marriage] 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.”

When questioned as to why the Catholic church in Ireland had opposed same-sex marriage when the country held its momentous referendum in 2015, Martin said there is “a clear distinction in catholic thought” between heterosexual and same-sex unions.

“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”

He continued: “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?

“We have to be able to say that both are right and there’s space for both, but sometimes we all get trapped into our absolutes.

“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 [their sexuality] and the church contributed to that.”

Martin’s comments came after Pope Francis appeared to endorse same-sex civil partnerships in a documentary that premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday (October 21).

The pontiff said: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

He added: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

The comments are a significant break from his own past comments as well as the position of the church, which has long deployed its lobbying influence to oppose any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.