The Dilemma of Pope Francis: The 2018 World Meeting of Families

By now everyone — especially Catholics — should know that the 2018 World Meeting of Families, sponsored by the Vatican Congregation of Marriage and Family Life, will gather in Dublin, Ireland this August.

In recent months, stories about the gathering have multiplied. Videos have been made about the scheduled participants. Organizers have been interviewed. The program’s title has been explained that “Gospel of the Family, Joy for the World,” is inspired by Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.1

What is less obvious is that this meeting presents a serious problem for Pope Francis and the Church.

Why? Because the themes of the interviews and stories are clear: This meeting is a “full court press” attempt to pressure Pope Francis into welcoming the LGBT into the Church as a legitimate type of family.

The most blatant example is the recent statement of Katherine Zappone, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, who has a dual American and Irish citizenship, and was educated at the Catholic University of America. She was legally married to her lesbian partner, Anne Louise Gilligan, until Gilligan’s death last year.2

Not only is Zappone a prominent advocate for homosexual rights in Ireland and the U.S., but she recently took it upon herself to actually demand how the Catholic Church should present its own World Meeting of Families: “There should be a welcome for all,” she said. “And never again should public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families be tolerated.” Zappone continued her “intolerance” manifesto to say that she hopes that the world meeting will “not be used as a platform for remarks which exclude, isolate, or hurt any family.” “The eyes of the world will be on Dublin,” she continued. “The World Meeting of Families is a unique opportunity to confront such inequality, discrimination, and hate. It can provide global leadership on inclusion.”

She concluded, “Pope Francis has given hope to many.”3

Well, we shall see.

Few events could be more significant today than a world-wide gathering of families “that would help to strengthen the bonds between families, and bear witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society.” This was John Paul II’s goal for the First World Meeting of Families in 1994.4

However, the message of St John Paul II, made 24 years ago about marriage and the family, has been completely overrun in our times by the enthusiasm, even inside the Church, for furthering gay rights.

Welcoming” the LGBT movement to the meeting
Today, a number of the Church hierarchy are openly expressing a “welcoming” attitude to the presence of the LGBT movement at the 2018 World Meeting of Families.5 In fact, as one reads the list of Cardinals, bishops, and others slated to speak at this meeting, half (9 out of 18) of the speakers are recognizable as those who have publicly expressed their support for “welcoming” the LGBT into the Church as family.6

Moreover, there is a clear political goal to the 2018 World Meeting of Families by the LGBT, and their religious and civil supporters. “Promotional materials meant to prepare Catholics for the gathering, suggest that the event is making a special outreach to LGBT people and their families at a time of rapid social transformation in Ireland.”7 Among the most disturbing changes is the country’s approval of same sex marriage. And this May, Irish voters will consider whether or not to approve of abortion.8

But let’s be quite clear about the goal of the LGBT, and their Church, and Irish supporters. It is not to get Pope Francis to explicitly approve of homosexual activity. They know he will not do this. They just want him to remain silent about the evil of homosexual acts, and not object to the inclusion of LGBT into the Church as a type of legitimate family.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, one of the organizers of the World Meeting of Families, has already made it clear that the event should revitalize family life, and will not exclude anyone. He recently stated that: “This encounter… is to promote the Christian concept of marriage, and the Catholic concept of marriage, and will focus on that. All people are invited, we don’t exclude anybody.” 9 So, as it stands now, LGBT couples are invited and “welcomed” as family.

Thus, if Pope Francis remains silent, the LGBT, along with their Church and Irish state supporters, will have their victory. The old Latin phrase still holds: “Qui tacet consentire videtur” (He who is silent seems to consent). The whole world will conclude that gay couples are now a welcomed, and accepted part of Catholic family life in the Church, and that their marital/civil union “bonds” should be “strengthened.”

Should the Church convert the LGBT of Ireland, or vice versa?
When the Second Vatican Council addressed the sanctity of Marriage and the family in no. 48 of Gaudium et Spes, it pointed out that “marriage was established by the Creator” and is held together by a “sacred bond” through which the family becomes holy (Gen. 2:24). Marriage and the family are sacred. Therefore, the intention of the 2018 World Meeting of Families should be to help families throughout the world to rediscover and “strengthen” this sanctity which was intended for both marriage, and families, from the very “beginning” (Mt. 19:8).

The Church has protected and promoted this divine plan throughout her history. Marriage was universally and naturally understood to be a sacred bond between a man and a woman. The union of man and woman and child reflects the unity of the Trinity, and the cooperation between God and human beings (man and woman) to create new life. Homosexual unions are an affront to this unity, and to the possibility of bringing forth new life, and, therefore, are a rebellion against God.

In August, this rebellion against God will have a prominent platform in Ireland, formerly the most Catholic of nations.

By the same token, this also represents a great opportunity for the Church, and for Pope Francis, to bear witness to the true nature of marriage and family, and to proclaim the truth in Ireland, a country which tragically has taken the lead in “social change” with laws that favor abortion rights, homosexual marriage, and stifling the teaching authority of the Church.

While we can pray that Pope Francis takes up the challenge to proclaim the truth, a great danger lies ahead in the form of the controversial papal document, Amoris Laetitia, which has already caused a great deal of dissension and confusion in the Church. The danger is that the proponents of gay rights at this World Meeting of Families will use the popular themes of this puzzling document to either silence Francis, or mute his message. Those popular themes stress absolute respect for every individual’s moral choice (especially if the person is coming from a place of hardship) rather than promoting the teaching of the Church on the absolute, and unchanging, moral law. This theme is a product of the preceding Synods on the Family which took place in Rome in 2014 and 2015, and appears in paragraph 291 of Amoris Laetitia as:

The Church must accompany, with attention and care, the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port, or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way, or who are in the midst of a storm.

So, there is a grave danger that some members of the Church hierarchy, involved in the Irish event, will try to say that the principles of Amoris Laetitia are in harmony with the LGBT movement. It is even possible that the event is being positioned to acclimate and condition the Catholic Church to accept this new “rapid social transformation in Ireland.”

Sound farfetched? Just look at the early promotional materials of the 2018 World Meeting of Families:

One multimedia program is entitled, “Amoris: Let’s Talk Family! Let’s Be Family!” It states: “While the Church upholds the ideal of marriage as a permanent commitment between a man and a woman, other unions exist which provide mutual support to the couple. Pope Francis encourages us never to exclude, but to accompany these couples also, with love, care, and support.”10 The implication is clear that even if they don’t represent the “ideal” of marriage and family, nevertheless couples of the LGBT movement are a type of marriage and family and, therefore, deserve “support” in “strengthening their bond” as a family by the Church.

The materials explain that couples of the LGBT movement have been invited to the 2018 World Meeting of Families primarily to “celebrate the joy” of being a “family” within the Church. It is primarily an announcement that LGBT couples are already a part of our Church family, and must be accorded all the rights and privileges that goes with this newly discovered relationship. (This does not appear to be an opinion to be considered for discussion at the 2018 World Meeting of Families, but rather a fait accompli.)

Nothing in the materials suggests that the Church hierarchy is seeking “to enlighten those who have lost their way” as Amoris Laetitia suggests. Nothing in these cheery publicity documents even gives a hint of the clear truth, taught from the beginning of the Church, that sodomy and homosexual actions are gravely sinful. But what an opportunity (so far not taken) for the Church to make a loving but firm outreach to the LGBT movement — and to activists like the Catholic-raised Katherine Zappone — to help them understand that their actions could condemn them to an eternity separated from God. The World Meeting of Families could be that proverbial “line in the sand” which clearly proclaims that, of course, homosexual persons are loved by God and the Church, but they must repent of their sins (as every one of us must repent) in order to be “accompanied” into full participation in the life of the Church.

Instead, it’s clear that the organizers are neutral, if not openly supportive, of the moral choices made by practicing homosexuals.

So, we must ask: What does this Church-sanctioned event in Ireland say about the present confusion among the hierarchy of the Church? We already know one of the explicit goals of the LGBT movement is to abolish all laws forbidding “sodomy” in human society.11 Of course, they would like to portray their goal purely as a matter of human rights and acceptance, but the fact is, their practices are the antithesis of the Church teaching on marriage, and human sexuality, and Divine Revelation itself.

But the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia has made Church teaching far more difficult. Recall Pope Francis’ famous phrase: “Who am I to judge.”12 The line has a magnanimous ring to it, but it doesn’t offer much guidance for navigating the moral confusion of our times.

In fact, Pope Francis would do well to consider a warning issued by his predecessor, John Paul II, at the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. The warning got little media attention at the time, and even little notice among Catholics. John Paul II stated that the world was entering a new, and historic era that would be dangerous to the faith:

We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society, or wide circles of the Christian community, realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church; of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. 13

Today, hindsight helps us to appreciate his prophecy.

But most Catholics still do not comprehend the powerful forces at work today. The anti-Church, and the anti-Gospel, are on the march, and the 2018 World Meeting of Families is a dramatic example of that.

However, the meeting will be a great success if Pope Francis takes the challenge, and publicly proclaims the sanctity of man-woman matrimony. It would be an act of great love and charity to share with LGBT members that homosexual actions are anathema to God, and an insult to His design for the human family. It’s time for the Church to state clearly, and strongly, that human beings can never be truly happy in this life if their actions are bringing them closer and closer to the loss of eternal life.

On the other hand, if the August meeting passes into history as a great triumph for homosexual rights, it leaves behind the message that the Church is willing to please the world by showing how progressive it has become, and that the Church has no intention of publicly correcting the grievous act of sodomy. If this happens, woe to the Church leaders who bring this about! An uncritical “welcoming” of the LGBT movement logically implies a rejection of the infallibility of both the Old and New Testament of Sacred Scripture, especially the Divine Revelation condemning “unnatural sexual relations” or “sodomy” in Genesis 18, Romans 1, 1 Cor.6:9, and Jude 1:7.

Which will it be? Will this formerly great Catholic nation of Ireland become associated with a great revival of Catholic Christianity, or will it go down in history as a triumph of anti-Church, and anti-Gospel, forces within the Church?

If it’s the second, then I think it’s pretty clear that the Catholic Church is entering what John Paul II called “the final confrontation,” and it is likely we are witnessing the beginning of the End Times.

The dilemma of Pope Francis
How can Pope Francis avoid this trap? He can’t very well ignore the LGBT participants, because that would appear uncharitable. If he acknowledges their presence with a positive attitude, he has furthered confusion in the Church.

Here is what we must hope and pray for: that the Pope will, first, welcome the LGBT participants to the World Meeting of Families by telling them how much Our Lord and His Church loves each of them. But, then he must also inform them, prayerfully and firmly, that they must renounce a life based on sodomy, which grievously offends and dishonors both God, and their partners, and brings down the “wrath of God” upon themselves (Rom 1: 18-26). This message would take a great deal of courage on the Pope’s part. Statistics reveal that 29 nations have already approved of gay marriage, and more nations are likely to be following suit.14

Clearly, the Pope will need the grace of God to withstand this historic assault. While many LGBT members may renounce their lives, and return to the Church, the movement itself is determined to conquer the Church. Consider what happened at the World Meeting of Families two years ago. The LGBT movement was invited if it agreed to abide by the “no lobbying” policy.15 However, at the event, during a scheduled talk by a celibate homosexual person,  gay couples from the “Equally Blessed” community publicly protested the Church’s insistence that “celibacy is the only option.”16 By ignoring the rules set by the Church at that 2015 meeting, the movement set a precedent that will be difficult to resist in 2018.

Ominously, this year Church organizers have even strengthened the language of acceptance. In 2015, they simply permitted the LGBT community to come to the world meeting under certain conditions. In 2018, it is being stressed that they are a “welcomed” presence at the World Meeting of Families.

What better way to increase the confusion in the Church than this? Many Catholics, not to mention other Christians, the media (and even history itself), will have good reason to believe that the Church is developing a fundamental change in its teaching on human sexuality. The implication will be that the Church plans to sanction the breakdown of man-woman marriage, and sexual license, because it must keep pace with secular society.17

That’s why it is imperative to understand the importance of Ireland. Blessed with the fullness of the Catholic faith, Ireland’s approval of homosexual marriage, abortion, and completely secular values, insults God more deeply than the actions of any other nation. It is the equivalent of a Father being rejected by his favorite daughter.

Let us begin to pray with great intensity that Pope Francis will take a firm and public stand if — and when — he comes to the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin. He must emphasize that the punishment for corrupting the Christian family does not just occur here in this life. This is the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church as proclaimed by first century St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, when he said:

Make no mistake, my brothers: those who corrupt families will not enter the kingdom of God. If those who do these things in accordance with the flesh have died, how much worse will it be if one who corrupts, through evil doctrine, the faith of God for which Jesus Christ was crucified. Such a person, because he is defiled, will depart into the unquenchable fire, as will anyone who listens to him.18

To proclaim this truth in 21st century Ireland, with a hostile world watching and waiting to tear him to pieces, will require great courage from the Pope. But he can take heart from the words of his predecessor, St. John Paul II: “Be not afraid!”

  7.; Michael J. O’ Laughlin, “Global meeting of Catholic Families in Dublin to include outreach to L. G. B. T. people,” America, Oct. 20, 2017.
  18. St. Ignatius of Antioch, found in Liturgy of the Hours (New York: Catholic Bk. Pub. Co., 1976), Vo. III, Second Week of Ordinary Time, Office of Readings, Monday, p.85.
Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap About Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap

Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap, was ordained in Aug. 26, 1972. He is currently in the process of developing the Julia Greeley shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in metro Denver. He is spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity in Denver, as well as being one of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States. He was director of prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, from 1999 to 2010; a chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice, Seton House, and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women in Denver from 1989 to 2008; and in 1997, he was sent by Mother Teresa to instruct Missionaries of Charity in Madagascar and South Africa on the subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist . His articles have been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Faith, Soul Magazine, Pastoral Life, and The Priest. He has also made two series for Mother Angelica's EWTN: "Crucial Questions," "Catholic Answers," and "What Did Vatican II Really Teach?"


  1. Avatar Mary Stermer says:

    I can only say as a mother, or better, imagining the Great Love of God, our Father, Creator, Savior… We have small imaginations of what God can do or will do, or how very much He Loves us, and due to His Mercy and Justice, wishes us to be with Him. How very sinful of me to portray as right what His Judgements would be, or predict any kind of future, except the one I live in hope for, namely to spend my eternity worshipping God, Father, Son, and Holy Breath!

    • Thank goodness we have the Bible and the teachings of Christ. Anyone who follows the Lord knows how much He loves us. They also know how many times The Lord mentions sin, the devil and hell. It would be foolish to presume that the Lord wants us to do anything we wish to do, especially if in complete opposition to His teachings. Eternity will be decided by our actions here on earth. One can never judge where a persons soul may end up, but they can certainly judge that which is against God. To support those who live in mortal sin makes one complicit in that sin. Not hard to judge that.

  2. Dcn W Pat Cunningham Dcn W Pat Cunningham says:

    This is an important article. I have known for many decades, and shared with others, the fact that these related movements and connected political parties have one goal. Their members may not all know it, but the goal is the destruction of the Catholic Church. They realize that if Rome falls, all the other religious (who haven’t capitulated already) will be easy pickings. Prayer, fasting and continual preaching can make a difference.

  3. Avatar Robert L Greene says:

    Well Francis,….this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.

  4. Avatar Delena Rhodes says:

    Every human being is created by God and should be accepted and loved; but not their sins. It is in my opinion that homosexuals are born with a handicap just as if they were born deaf, blind, mental retarded, etc. All human beings have to live by and follow the laws of God. Jesus said, “if you love me, you will obey me.” Therefore, sins of sodomy and homosexual actions cannot be accepted or condoned. If God’s church accepts the sins of sodomy and homosexual actions, then the Church is calling God a lier because He did destroy Sodom & Gomorrah for such activity. God doesn’t change.

    • @Delaena
      Scientific research has shown that homosexuals are NOT “born with a handicap just as if they were born deaf, blind, mental retarded, etc.” but in a large percentage of cases stems from either childhood father deprivation or early seduction/molestation by an older male. The homosexual orientation, which itself of course is not sinful, only the behavior is, can be successfully overcome through treatment, as Dr Joseph Nicolosi, founder of NARTH (National Association for the Treatment of Homosexuality) has proven

  5. Avatar Michael P. Mc Crory says:

    A million thanks to you Father Regis. I am sending your article to warn all my family members in Belfast, Ireland of what a moral disaster is heading their way. Hopefully by doing so I can prevent them from participating in the sure end of the Great Patrick’s holy Ireland. What a weak clergy there. Lets pray up a storm as Father Regis says. Pope Francis has an opportunity to come out of this the hero we thought he once was OR a goat, God forbid.

  6. Avatar Lucy Julka says:

    The state of the Church is so disturbing today, it’s difficult to follow all the players! Thank you, Father Scanlon, for your powerful and well researched article that helps the rest of us understand what’s at stake in our Church, as well as the difficult path Pope Francis must follow. This is appalling news about the Meeting of Families. Please, Father Scanlon, follow up with more insightful articles on this meeting as it approaches, and let us pray for the pope, who clearly must show courage here.

  7. I do not think that the Pope will get another chance (have a better bully pulpit) in his life time to proclaim the truth about the evil of “sodomy” to a world whose nations are rapidly approving of homosexual marriage (“29 nations” so far). The LGBT is “in your face” about this matter (2 men kissing on TV in the Olympics). This combined effort by certain members of the Catholic hierarchy, Irish nation, and the media to set up the Pope so that his silence can be “spun” as an acceptance of “sodomy” can only be prevented if the Pope plainly points out at the August meeting that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered” and the homosexual act of “sodomy” is “intrinsically evil.”
    Many will not like it and accept it but the Pope will have let them know the truth – – which is his duty. As Pope he must: “proclaim the Word of God; be persistent; whether convenient or inconvenient” (2 Tim. 4:2)

  8. Bishops who are still loyal to the Catholic Faith on purity need to conduct their own “full court press” upon the Pope to warn him that the Irish nation and the LGBT are teaming up to hijack the Catholic Church from the People of God over the issue of human sexuality The National Conference of Catholic Bishops could discuss at their June meeting how they can support the Pope in preparation for the August World Meeting of Families in Ireland on the Catholic Teaching that the homosexual act is contrary to the Catholic Faith and no one who is does this action should receive Holy Communion without repenting and confessing this sin of impurity. They also should support Pope Francis by openly and publicly condemning in their own dioceses that “homosexual marriage” is not from God.

    • The Pope doesn’t seem to care much what Bishops who are loyal to the Catholic Faith think about these issues. He has shown that by refusing to clearly address his first move, making adultery acceptable and profaning the Eucharist.

  9. Avatar Joan Bloyd says:

    I heard that the Pope’s English is not good. And English is commonly spoken in Ireland. This article should be published in Spanish or Italian so the Pope can read it.

  10. To go contrary to Gods word is a sin. It does not matter your status in life or the office you hold.The day will come when each one of us will have to answer to God for all our decisions. To often the worldly affairs of man try to change the word of God. Those who do have already condemned themselves. History has shown us that it is not easy to follow God, but if we are obedient to our Lord then we have a share with Him. Fr. Regis your article is very truthful and direct. I pray that you continue to be that voice that needs to be heard. Our society may reject your honesty but they also rejected Jesus as well. God Bless you and stay faithful to our Lord as you always have.

  11. The essay includes this: “Clearly, the Pope will need the grace of God to withstand this historic assault.” This assault reminds me very much of the historic stand and fidelity of Blessed Pope Paul VI. The world cried out for contraception, the truth remained true; Paul VI stood true. The status of contraception in the world today? Acceptance and use of contraception within the Church today? The spirit of the world perseveres, and marches forward, hell-bent on victory over God.

    We must pray! Many within the Church are faltering; we must pray for the leaders in our Church. We know how this all will end.

  12. Avatar Kathleen Fleming says:

    Growing up, my first memories of a Pope are of “good Pope John” (St. John XXIII). The following faithful Popes provided a security and stability that I was unaware of ~ until a while after Pope Francis was elected. Initially, I was hopeful. Since the publication of Amoris Laetitia and the confusion that has brought to the Church, I have become very unsettled.
    As a mother and grandmother, I am reminded of the verse from Isaiah where the Good Shepherd “leads the ewes with care and gathers the lambs in His arms.” The Shepherds appear mostly absent & silent ~ what is a ewe to do?
    Would that all the Bishops – in the United States and around the world – stand up – clearly and courageously – for what the Church has always taught – with great compassion and true mercy.
    At Fatima, Blessed Mother urged the laity to pray earnestly and fervently for priests and bishops ~
    and this is OUR GREAT responsibility.

  13. Don’t hold your breath. This guy is nothing more than Hollywood Catholic!

  14. Thank you, Fr. Regis and for your courage to speak the Truth. The truth must be spoken, and faithful and unfaithful must be guided with the truth, based on the Gospel. Creating confusion and twisting the truth mislead many and lead people to eternal perdition. Pope Francis has masked mercy and goodness by telling faithful that God is so merciful and love everyone but not a mere teaching to them in repentance; then this is a true heresy and we are living in a true crisis of faith.

  15. Avatar Martha Dancy says:

    Trying to draw in people’a sins as OK or not sins will cause a schism in the church because Catholics who really believe in the teachings of the church on sexuality cannot in conscience accept homosexual actions or sexual relationships as OK. We must confess our sins or communion becomes a sacrilege when received by unrepentant sinners. I, myself, will have nothing to do with anything that goes against my conscience in these things and I will side over with the traditional believers. I am convinced that deviants in sexual practices want to destroy the church and divide it up. Well, the part of the church that changes doctrine or the faith is no longer Catholic and therefore I do not have to go along with it. It is the anti-church that the former popes mentioned before.The gays will end up with their own parishes and churches with liberals and deviants and the real Catholics will go to the parishes that stick to the truth. The church will be divided into factions because you can’t mix oil and water.

  16. Nah, the Pope just has to be a man. Speak the Truth. Do the right thing

  17. Avatar Giovanni Serafino says:

    I pray Pope Francis will meet the challenge . However, the Holy Father is not known for his clarity in theological controversy even when it a matter of divinely revealed truth and magisterial doctrine. It has been reported, that Sr. Lucia of Fatima speaking with a visiting bishop once said, “The final attack on the Church by daemonic forces would be on marriage and the family.” Orthodox Catholics will never accept a new definition of marriage and the family which embraces the sin of sodomy. It is precisely for this reason, that Pope Benedict XVI said the Church in the future will be smaller, but more fervent.

  18. Avatar bill bannon says:

    The world ( the liberal world via biblical criticism “progress”) eventually converted the two previous Popes on seeking abolishment of the death penalty (against their own catechism no less) with never a mention of Romans 13:4. Romans 1:26-27 is clearly against gay sexual acts of both genders. Will it too go unmentioned by nearly every high ranking prelate? Don’t bet your nest egg on the outcome. God will need a century or more to return masculinity to its vocation within the Church. When Bishops and professors are largely cowed into silence by fearing firing and loss of home or status, growth in the real Christ who had no home and who inspired Romans 1:26-27 is unlikely.