By Michael O'Loughlin
Originally published on Advocate.com February 11 2014 3:07 PM ET
The highest-ranking Catholic bishop in Ireland is denouncing those who use church teaching and scripture to discriminate against LGBT people.
Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said on national public service broadcaster RTÉ's This Week that he lamented a culture of homophobia in Ireland.
"Anyone who grew up in Ireland would have told jokes that were pointed at the gay community ... it is part of the culture we grew up in, but we have to grow out of it," he said.
While restating the Roman Catholic Church's position that marriage should be exclusive to heterosexual couples in advance of an upcoming referendum of marriage equality in Ireland, he said that same-sex couples should not be prohibited from celebrating their unions in other ways.
Martin said that bigotry toward LGBT people is an insult to God.
"Anybody who doesn't show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that, they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people," he said.
The 68-year-old Martin condemned physical abuse of LGBT people.
"We all belong to one another and there is no way we can build up a society in which people are excluded or insulted. We have to learn a new way in Ireland to live with our differences and for all of us to live with respect for one another," he said.
Still, Martin did not budge on the church's opposition to same-sex marriage, but said that he doesn't believe opponents should be labeled as homophobic.
"Just because a person isn't in favor of gay marriage doesn't mean that one is homophobic, let's be very clear on that," he said.
He said that people on both sides of the issue "have to be careful about the way we speak and the language we use."
Ireland is preparing to hold a referendum on marriage equality in 2015. The Catholic Church in Ireland is reeling from revelations of a systematic cover-up of child sexual abuse, an issue Martin addressed in an essay in America magazine titled "A Post-Catholic Ireland?"