DUBLIN – Organizers of a rival event to this week’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin have taken issue with what they charge is a “watered-down” version of Church teaching on offer at the Vatican-sponsored summit that endorses homosexuality, adding that bishops have been too “sheepish” about speaking out.
“The Church has become, and when I say ‘the Church’ I mean bishops, has become almost embarrassed to preach the Gospel and to preach the Christian message on family and marriage,” Anthony Murphy, founder and editor of the “Catholic Voice” newspaper and founder of the “Lumen Fidei Institute,” told Crux in an interview.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “These men, or are they mice, encounter a world, certainly the western world, which is turning against God’s plan for family and marriage, and instead of countering that with an authenticity, they water down the truth and they give a message which is politically correct.”
“It’s this kind of secularization of the bishops’ conferences which I think is the greatest enemy of the Church,” Murphy said.
The Church he said, needs “fearless prophetic voices.” However, “the bishops have almost become the sheep, and they are moving along together like sheep. None of them dare says what they think for fear of being chastised by a brother bishop.”
Referring to the decision to invite Jesuit Father James Martin to speak on the Church’s welcome to the LGBT community, Murphy said Martin’s presence undermines God’s plan for the family based on marriage between a man and a woman and represents a “watered-down” approach to the truth.
Murphy also called the invitation “a sign of the corruption in the Church,” arguing that Martin “has no place on a platform promoting the family.”
“A lot of what Father Martin says is very ambiguous. He’s a very clever man, he’s a very gifted speaker, [but] he revels in ambiguity and sowing confusion at a time when the laity in particular, and families, don’t need these clerical politics. We need clear teaching so that we can go out and we’re equipped to give a counter-cultural message to the world,” he said.
Murphy was among the organizers of the rival event, titled the “Conference of Catholic Families,” sponsored by Ireland’s Lumen Fidei Institute and featuring critics of Pope Francis’s 2016 document on the family Amoris Laetitia.
Apart from Murphy, speakers at the rival conference include Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy, a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission; Robert Royal, founder and president of the Faith and Reason Institute; and John Smeaton, director of Britain’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).
American Cardinal Raymond Burke and Kazakhstani Bishop Athanasius Schneider, both patrons of the Lumen Fidei Institute, have sent video messages that will be played during the event.
Speakers were largely critical of the agenda for the World Meeting, arguing that the biggest threat against the family today is the push for gay marriage. After Murphy’s opening remarks, attendees were shown a video created by John Lacken, secretary for Lumen Fidei, portraying images and phrases critical of Church leaders viewed as belonging to more progressive camps.
The first slide shown displayed the face of Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn plastered over a rainbow flag with a bottle of poison, which was followed by similarly critical images of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and former Irish President Mary McAleese, who has been outspoken in her push to change Church teaching on homosexuality.
In his opening comments, Murphy said the goal of the conference is not to divide, but “it’s about proclaiming the truth of Christ.”
He took issue with the fact that neither the legalization of gay marriage nor abortion in Ireland are on the official agenda for the larger World Meeting happening next door. Instead, “we have a priest from America who comes not to build bridges, but to cause confusion,” he said, referring to Martin.
Murphy also addressed the sexual abuse scandals that have erupted in the run-up to the event.
Calling the decision of American Cardinals Sean O’Malley and Donald Wuerl to pull out from the World Meeting a “sign from the Holy Spirit,” Murphy argued the abuse crisis is linked to the presence of active homosexual clergy in the priesthood.
Given all the child safety procedures and guidelines implemented in recent years, Murphy said “there is no safer place for children” than the Church. Seminaries, on the other hand, in many places he called “cesspits for homosexuality.”
“It’s scandalous and it’s amazing that we have a dearth of vocations in the West when we have this stuff going on…we have to stand up and say enough is enough,” he said, calling for an independent audit of seminaries, because “follow the money and you will find the scandal, the secrecy.”
Murphy also took issue with Francis’s recent decision to change the Church’s position on the death penalty in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, declaring that it is “inadmissible” in every circumstance.
“This is impossible. He can’t change that teaching,” Murphy said, adding that he thinks this change “will be corrected” in the future.
“We have to remember that popes as well can make mistakes. Pope Francis tells us that he’s human like the rest of us…no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes,” he said.
Murphy said the turnout for the rival conference, which is expected to reach at least 450 participants, is proof that Catholics “are responsive” to the message they want to convey.
“This has been a long time in coming, the family breakdown,” he said, “and it will take a long time to fix, but we can only fix it if we return to the idea of the Catholic family as the bedrock of society.”