MAYNOOTH, Ireland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Irish bishops caved to pressure to provide marriage services to same-sex couples in exchange for millions of Euros in government funding.
The Times reported Wednesday that the Catholic Church's marriage services organization, ACCORD Catholic Marriage Care Service, signed a new agreement with the Irish government's Child and Family Agency, Tusla, that requires them to provide marriage preparation and counseling to same-sex couples in exchange for €1.4 million.
A Tusla spokeswoman told The Times that ACCORD "has assured Tusla they will provide counseling services regardless of sexual orientation and comply with the agreement." She added that they will be monitoring ACCORD's service providers "to ensure they comply with the terms of their service level agreement," further threatening to end the contract and withdraw funding if any discrimination is found.
Earlier in the year, Tusla threatened to yank all public funding from ACCORD unless it accepts same-sex couples for services.
In 2016, ACCORD received almost €1.6 million, nearly a quarter of all government funding for marriage and family services. In 2014, ACCORD saw its government funding slashed by about half, and the Church had to guarantee €400,000 of ACCORD's debt to the Bank of Ireland.
"It is wrong for public monies to be channeled at organizations who fail to serve all sections of our society," Sinn Fein Sen. Fintan Warfield said, asking, "Why would the state identify an organization and task them with resolving relationship difficulties when that organisation fails to embrace the diverse realities of family life in Ireland, including LGBT relationships?"
Gay rights groups also praised Tusla's policy change. New Ways Ministry, a pro-gay group that claims to be Catholic, was among them. Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, wrote, "I am confident that plenty of the heterosexual couples who seek service from ACCORD are not living up to the church's [sic] teaching in all areas, including with regard to sexuality, yet they are not being denied service."
Church Militant reached out to Bp. Denis Nulty of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, president of ACCORD, but he has not responded as of press time. Bishop Denis Brennan of the diocese of Ferns is also listed as a member. ACCORD also provides sexuality education programs to schools and fertility and infertility education and counseling.
Retrouvaille Ireland, a marriage program that "is Catholic in origin," also receives Tusla funding. They claim their program works with sacramental marriages and "the emphasis is on a new technique of communication between a husband and wife."
Church Militant contacted ACCORD but received no response.