The president of Accord, the Irish Bishops’ marriage counselling agency, has said it will offer its services to same-sex couples in compliance with the law.
Bishop Denis Nulty said Accord has been supporting sacramental marriage for more than 50 years and “our counsellors accompany anyone who comes, with respect, compassion and sensitivity”.
He told the Irish Independent newspaper: “We can’t refuse people because there is the law of the land.”
The bishop’s comment follows Accord’s signing of a new service-level agreement (SLA) with Tusla, the state-run child and family agency. It requires the Catholic agency to comply with the Equal Status Act, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender, religion, race and age.
Earlier this year, state funding for Accord looked to be in jeopardy after it was found not to have complied with Tusla’s service-level agreement, which requires publicly funded bodies to offer services that are “free from discrimination and accessible to everyone”.
Tusla has pledged €408,000 (£365,000) for Accord’s marriage counselling courses in Dublin and a further €1,184,500 (£1,060,400) for its services across 55 centres nationwide.
Speaking to The Tablet, Bishop Nulty said: “What Accord is doing is opening its doors and turning no one away. People want to come to us, but they know what we are – a Catholic marriage care service. If they need relationship counselling, we will try our best to support them as we have always done. We have to include everybody and not discriminate – we have to try to reach out.”
Meanwhile, the head of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, who has told how he was abused by Fr Sean Fortune when he was 14 years old, said he will host a protest in Dublin to coincide with the papal Mass in Phoenix Park as a mark of solidarity with victims of clerical abuse.
He announced the protest after a comment made by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin appeared to suggest that Pope Francis might not have time to meet abuse survivors.
However, it is now believed that the Pope will meet some abuse survivors during his time in Ireland although it remains unclear who he will meet.
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said he will speak to Pope Francis when he meets the pontiff at Dublin Castle on 25 August about the families of same-sex couples and single-parent families.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Varadkar said: “I am really glad the Pope is visiting Ireland, the visit is very welcome.”
He said if the opportunity arose he wanted to express to the Pope the real concerns that Irish people have about the Church’s legacy in relation to mother and baby homes, Magdalene laundries, and sexual and physical abuse.
He also wished to express to Francis “our views in society and the government’s view that families come in all sorts of different forms and that includes families led by same-sex parents and one-parent families as well”.
At the Copenhagen Conference on Private and Family Life for LGBTI People on 2 March, the Irish Republic’s openly gay minister for children, Katherine Zappone, said the World Meeting of Families “is a unique opportunity to confront inequality, discrimination and hate. It can provide global leadership on inclusion.”