The Archbishop of Dublin has welcomed Pope Francis’ comments on civil unions and said that pontiff is “clearing the air for further discussion” on LGBT rights.

– In the Church “we have some people whose frustration with their own gay identity is leading them to be homophobic”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took to the airwaves of RTÉ Radio 1 October 22 to analyse the Pope’s remarks in a documentary released last week.

“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”, Francis says in the new film, Francesco.

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

Asked whether he agreed with the Pope, Martin said “I do”.

“What is important is that we do have countries at the moment where Church leaders are opposing the introduction of civil unions for LGBT people, and this is therefore a very strong message to the community in the Roman Catholic Church that our attitude has to change.

“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”.

– “Certainly the Church’s attitude has made the life of LGBT+ people miserable”

Only five years ago the Irish Bishops opposed the introduction of same-sex marriage in that referendum to which Martin referred, and later described the eventual ‘yes’ vote as a “bereavement”.

Asked whether the LGBT community doesn’t deserve an apology for that language, Martin said that “there is a clear distinction in Catholic thought” between the heterosexual and homosexual marriage, and acknowledged that “that is something that would be consistently present”.

“But that doesn’t mean that the civil and public rights of LGBT people haven’t to be addressed properly. But I do believe that laws can change what happens, but if the culture at the same time doesn’t change, then you’ll find that the law won’t have its desired effect”.

Martin was also asked whether in light of the Pope’s new comments the Vatican would not have to withdraw a controversial 2003 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith that said the Church’s concern for gay people “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions”.

“Certainly the idea that the Church could not live with civil unions, that this is unacceptable…” – that language would now have to be revised, Martin admitted.

Though the archbishop said that “for many years I’ve been saying that we should have had in Ireland civil liberties”, he said that that doesn’t mean that he is necessarily in favour of marriage equality.

He acknowledged that the “big challenge” now in the light of the Pope’s comments “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”, the archbishop lamented.

More on Novena on the Pope’s comments on civil unions:

Theologian says Church can no longer refuse to bless same-gender relationships after Pope’s backing of civil unions

Four things the Pope must do now to further LGBT+ equality after same-gender civil unions support (and one we can do ourselves)

Pope Francis’ support for civil unions is a call to justice

“An historic moment”: LGBT ministry “gratefully welcomes” Pope’s support for same-gender civil unions, seeks same recognition in Church

In new documentary, Pope endorses same-gender civil unions: “Homosexuals are children of God and have a right to a family”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.