World Meeting of Families Attendees Demand an Apology

The Dublin World Meeting of Families (WMF) and Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland that just concluded were remarkable for what was NOT said. Unquestionably, the dominant news story from Ireland this summer was the result of the May 2018 Irish national referendum on abortion. The pro-abortion side won this vote by a large majority while the Catholic Church in Ireland only quietly objected to the proposed mass killing of preborn babies, and the Vatican was silent as a tomb. Since May, despite legal challenges alleging voter fraud and illegal manipulation of the campaign that are winding through the Irish court system, the Irish government has proclaimed its firm determination to legalize abortion-on-demand following the summer break.

Enter the World Meeting of Families organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life of the Roman Curia and the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. Pope Francis came to conclude the event with a large Mass and met with the Irish president, prime minister and other high-ranking government officials.

Could there have been a more heaven-sent chance for the Church to intervene and plead for legislators not to open the floodgates of slaughter for preborn children in the Republic of Ireland? Is there any doubt what Saint John Paul II, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the champion defender of life and family as president of the Pontifical Council for the Family under John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI would have done or said?

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Neither Pope Francis nor Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of Laity, Family and Life for the Holy See, took this golden opportunity. Abortion was a non-issue from the official microphones of the 2018 World Meeting of Families: Pope Francis, in his sermon, made one small reference to the “hard sayings” of Jesus including protecting the most fragile, the unborn and elderly as well as welcoming migrants and strangers. He did make a very lengthy apology for the sins of abuse by the Catholic Church in Ireland.

In his meeting with the Irish authorities, including the prime minister, Pope Francis had this to say on the topic. “Can we say that the goal of creating economic or financial prosperity leads of itself to a more just and equitable social order?  Or could it be that the growth of a materialistic “throwaway culture” has in fact made us increasingly indifferent to the poor and to the most defenseless members of our human family, including the unborn, deprived of the very right to life?  Perhaps the most disturbing challenges to our consciences in these days is the massive refugee crisis, which will not go away, and whose solution calls for a wisdom, a breadth of vision and a humanitarian concern that go far beyond short-term political decisions.”

So what message was proclaimed during this World Meeting of Families and from Pope Francis? It boiled down to apologizing for the sins of the Church and voicing no clear objections to the recent national referendums approving same-sex “marriage” and abortion-on-demand. The WMF went out of its way to be “inclusive” of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, etc. (LGBT) activism. Three talks I attended either focused on fostering and implementing homosexual ministry that supports the “gay lifestyle” or included welcoming LGBT people as part of the message. Of course, the acronym LGBT is now hopelessly out of date. It leaves out the ever-expanding alphabet soup such as LGBTQIAPK+ (Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Kink and more to come…). The United Nations and other entities, like Facebook or New York City, now “recognize” dozens of genders with no end to the “creativity” in sight.

One archbishop did, however, go off the dominant script quoting Pope Francis on the dangers of the Gender Ideology at a plenary weekday mass during the WMF. Some Irish said it could have been worse. They expected homosexual activist groups to be granted full access to the WMF exhibitor’s area, but it seems they were not allowed to set up shop alongside the many worthy Catholic apostolates represented.

One thing that was made very clear, from interviews and statements by the press and protestors, was that no amount of apologies will satisfy them. Their answer to the question what do you want is simply “more.” Once they obtain same-sex “marriage,” transgender rights move to the top of the agenda, then perhaps legalizing pedophilia and incest as certain groups are currently advocating in the USA, etc. No mention was made of homosexual priests abusing boys and teens, but some terrible stories of “Magdalen” homes and orphanages were given prominent attention by the press.

As Pope Francis got on the plane back to Rome, the headlines on TV and news outlets were all variations of “Pope Asks for Forgiveness.” Of course, he himself refused to answer the latest personal allegations from the former papal nuncio to the USA, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, that he was briefed in 2013 about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual predator actions. Pope Francis unquestionably lifted the restrictions on McCarrick imposed by Pope Benedict XVI. Worse, it seems Pope Francis relied on McCarrick as a “trusted counselor” in nominating US bishops, particularly Blase Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago and Joseph Tobin as Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, who were then made cardinals. Cardinal Wuerl of Washington DC did cancel his appearance at the WMF over the latest scandals, but Cardinal Cupich was an honored speaker at the Dublin WMF, although he kept away from the “Showing Welcome and Respect in our Parishes for ‘LGBT’ People and their Families” that Father James Martin S.J. headlined.

If one had to choose one word to describe the World Meeting of Families and papal visit from a mass communications standpoint, it would be “fiasco.” The entire event was hijacked by hostile attacks and mea culpas. Almost nothing of the Church’s message about Life, Marriage or Family got through to the general public. There were, however, several good talks at the pastoral theological congress that received no coverage at all.

Many people made comparisons to the 1979 Pope John Paul II visit when a million people flocked to hear Catholic teaching boldly proclaimed. This time, only 300,000 people turned up to see Pope Francis at the closing Mass… Actually, church attendance in Ireland has fallen about two thirds, so this does seem to accurately reflect the “New Ireland.” Openly gay Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar went on the offensive when he met Pope Francis saying that the Catholic Church needed to play a smaller role in Irish society… Certainly, gay “marriage” and abortion-on-demand seem to be hallmarks of modern Ireland as well as a dramatic decline in religious vocations and church attendance.

Faithful Catholics can only deplore the failure to proclaim the Gospel of Life and the Gospel of the Family by so many Church leaders from Ireland and the Vatican. The World Meeting of Families and papal visit were a unique opportunity that was badly flubbed. In this 50th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, Christ’s message about marriage and family seems an embarrassment or something to relegate to the margins for important Church leaders. Interestingly, as I walked among those actually attending the WMF, most exuded faithful Catholicism with notably large numbers of small children… Many exhibitors who bought stands were pro-life groups and conservative religious congregations, and crowds flocked to them and not to the UNHCR or eco-spirituality exhibits. Perhaps the out-of-touch clerics in charge could have taken a cue from the faithful who wanted Christ and not squish. We demand an apology as well.

(Photo credit: Papal Mass in Ireland; Daniel Ibanez / CNA)

  • Joseph Meaney

    Joseph Meaney is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

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