The dispute has its origins in a €45,000 donation made by the Society of St Saint Vincent de Paul to Amach LGBT Galway to help it establish a seemingly much needed resource centre in the city.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is a body with a long established reputation. It is the only Catholic charity we have donated to on the grounds that we feel it does essential work with people in situations of extreme stress and disadvantage. I would also be a regular patron of its bookshops, feeling that the money spent serves a double purpose: the acquisition of books I wish to read, and the clearing of books for somebody else impoverished and under financial strain from the crushing effect that being penniless brings. Camus was on the money when he maintained that it is a form of spiritual snobbery to think people can be happy without money. So it was heartening to see it reinforced that the organisation was truly charitable and not something that used funds it had access to only to advance religious proselytizing.
Amach, a body less well known that SVP, in its vision statement outlines its aims as being:
to reflect equally the diversity within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by encouraging positive participation from the community. We actively campaign to achieve a solid and safe support structure for the LGBT community in Galway.
A meeting of minds and a unity of purpose seemed the reasonable thing to do and so an SVP spokesman explaining that its attitude was to help in a non-judgmental way, made the donation to Amach:
purely on the basis of need in the Galway area, in the same way as all requests for support are assessed ... It does not signify any other motive.
Because it did not carry out a religious means test the SVP received a clatter over the head from the clerical crozier. Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway lashed out at the charitable act and called on the charity to examine its morals on the grounds that the donation was something that:
on moral grounds we can’t support ... Homosexual activity is in our eyes morally wrong behavior and we cannot put funds at the service of what we don’t believe is morally correct.Perhaps he had in mind the type of moral correctness as in the Tuam type morality which treated children born out of wedlock as "an inferior sub-species" because a religious opinion with the power to enforce it deemed the behaviour of the parents immoral.
In short this moral guardian is telling the LGBT community that:
if you don’t allow me to practice my religion on you I will try to discriminate against you and block assistance that you might need. Meanwhile, I will blame the marginalisation and disadvantage that you endure on your lack of morals which can be corrected by adhering to what is written in the book I study rather the in any books you might root around in.An Irish bishop calling the morals and reputation of anyone into question is laughable, given Mother Church's own track record in the facilitation, cover up of child abuse and the recycling of child abusers within its ranks. There were calls for Bishop Drennan to resign in the wake of the Murphy Report which he ignored.
The editor of the influential Irish Catholic newspaper, Gary O’Sullivan, also questioned Bishop Drennan’s logic in not resigning when the four other men who served as auxiliary bishops in the Dublin diocese during the period covered in the Murphy Report have offered their resignations.Ultimately. what we have here is Drennan demanding of the SVP that it discriminate against a disadvantaged community and go against its own ethos of helping an “excluded and marginalised group in need of support”, an action consistent with:
the SVP mission statement to support social justice initiatives. It is also a key element of the SVP Christian ethos to be non-judgmental when its assistance is sought.The good news is that the Society seems determined to tell the bishop to put his suggestion where his ring is.