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Bishop Walsh Saddened by Hurt to Gays

The Irish Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2010 by Gordon Deegan

BISHOP Willie Walsh of Killaloe said last night he has been saddened by the deep hurt caused by the church to homosexuals.

Bishop Walsh was speaking at a civic reception in Ennis held in his honour by Clare County Council celebrating his contribution to Clare life in his 16 years as bishop. He stands down as Bishop of Killaloe at the end of next month following retirement on age grounds.

His successor Fr Kieran O’Reilly will be ordained bishop of the diocese at the end of August.

Following formal proceedings last night and when asked his views on the Oireachtas passing the Civil Partnership Bill, Bishop Walsh said: “I’ve always been hesitant about asking civil authorities to support a particular teaching of our church. I do place great emphasis on marriage, I have worked in that area all my life and I place great emphasis on marriage and family life.”

He added: “It is deeply, deeply important and we would be endangering that at our peril. I know and respect many people who are gay. We should always treat them with the deep respect to which every human being is entitled.

“While I do worry about the apparent breakdown of family life, I equally respect the laws of this country. I have always done so and always will do so. I respect people who are of homosexual orientation and I would be always conscious of the fact that very often we in the church have hurt them and hurt them deeply and I am saddened by that and saddened by the lack of respect for any human being. So that is really all I would like to say on that.”

Earlier at the civic reception, Bishop Walsh said: “I leave the post of bishop with a strong sense of gratitude [for being] given the opportunity to be in that position during the years when some of it was extremely difficult and involved a lot of suffering.”

He went on: “But it was in some ways a privilege to share pain and listen to pain of other people. That was very difficult, but I also regarded it as a privilege to be involved in helping people, in particular those who have been abused, to help them on the road towards healing.”

The local over-70s Forever Young choir – of which the bishop is a member – sang the Tipperary anthem Sliabh na mBan to the 75-year-old who is to remain living in Ennis after he steps down at the end of August.

Paying tribute to Dr Walsh, the mayor of Clare, Cllr Christy Curtin (Ind), said: “Bishop Willie is a man of exceptional character, and he has contributed greatly to both community life and the Roman Catholic faith in the Diocese of Killaloe.”

Cllr Curtin said that as Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Walsh “ministered to his flock with compassion and related with ease to the hopes and fears of ordinary people in the diocese and other communities he served. His compassion and progressive thinking on theology, ethics and social issues sets him apart.”