Vatican's World Meeting of Families Removes Images of Same-Sex Couples from Resource Booklet

Attempts to Deny Reality Hurt Families and Church, says DignityUSA

January 30, 2018. DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in our church and society, responded with dismay to reports in The Irish Times that images of same-sex couples have been removed from resource materials aimed at helping people prepare for the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families being held in Dublin in August. The organization calls this move “a tragic denial of reality that increases the sense of unwelcome for LGBTQI people and our families in our church.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, who, along with her spouse and their two adopted children, were among twenty-two people representing LGBTQI families at the Vatican’s 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, said the removal of five photos of gay families from the booklets represented an alarming and sad setback.

“Those in Ireland who have been preparing for this important international gathering of Catholics have worked hard to send a message that same-sex couples, LGBTQI people, and our families would be just as welcome as everyone else at the World Meeting of Families,” said Duddy-Burke. “It was exciting to see images that reflected our families in the early materials. Having them deliberately deleted and replaced with photos deemed more ‘acceptable’ is really hurtful. It feels like the welcome mat has been rolled up and put away—at least for us.  It’s hard to imagine Jesus being this unwelcoming.”

Duddy-Burke said the visibility of LGBTQI individuals and families had a far-reaching impact at the 2015 World Meeting of Families. “We had all kinds of people coming up to us throughout the meeting. There were parents of gay kids, aunts of transgender people, siblings, cousins, and grandparents of LGBTQI folks, even people who were staying with same-sex couples while they were attending WMF. Dozens of people came to sessions we held at night, after the official program ended. They were folks from all over the world. All of these people needed to talk about what they were hearing from the speakers, who mostly spoke very harshly against same-sex relationship and denied that people could be transgender or intersex. These are people who love their faith, and their family members, and were working hard to embrace both. What they heard was troubling to them.”

Duddy-Burke continued: “The reality is that LGBTQI people and family members who love and support them are part of our Church. We believe as deeply in the Gospel as any other member of the Church. We love the sacraments and strive to live in accordance with the traditions of our faith. We see the World Meeting of Families as an opportunity to enter into dialogue with Church leaders, so they can better understand the realities of our lives—both our joys and the challenges we face. Apparently, some do not want to dialogue with us, and that is deeply troubling.”

Duddy-Burke noted that Bishop Leahy of Limerick and Archbishop Martin of Dublin have both indicated they wanted the World Meeting of Families to be open to all families, including same-sex couples and their children. “We appreciated the words of welcome from these leaders, and from others involved in planning the Dublin gathering,” she stated. “However, it seems that the goodwill of the local hosts has been overshadowed by doctrinal orthodoxy in a way that threatens to increase the alienation felt by so many. That sense of exclusion is hurtful to individual families and to the Catholic Church at large.”

DignityUSA calls on Archbishop Martin and other Irish Catholic leaders to stand up for all of God’s families, and make every effort to restore the photos of same-sex couples to the conference’s resource materials. 

DignityUSA obtained copies of the images in an earlier version of preparatory books that have been replaced in newly released versions.


DignityUSA is the organization of U.S. Catholics committed to justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in our church and society. It is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and the Equally Blessed Coalition.