Irish-Catholic Priest Martin Dolan Came Out During Mass — To His Fellow Catholics' Applause

Irish Catholics just witnessed perhaps the strangest, most unexpected coming out speech. During Mass last Saturday, Father Martin Dolan, an Irish-Catholic priest, came out as gay — in front of not only his parishioners, but also the altar of God. He received a standing ovation from his parishioners — and maybe a hat tip from the Big Man Upstairs.

Although he made the announcement from the pulpit, which undeniably indicates a bit of fanfare, parishioners at the Church of St. Nicholas of Myra in Dublin said Dolan's speech was plain and simple. "I'm gay myself," the priest reportedly told his congregation.

Liz O’Connor, a parishioner and community organizer, told the Irish Sun that the congregation was "very proud" of Dolan. "Because he has admitted that he is gay doesn’t change the person that he was before it," O'Connor added.

Dolan then urged his fellow Irish Catholics to support same-sex marriage, which will be up for debate in the heavily Catholic country in 2015. Irish citizens will be able to vote on a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage in May. According to The Irish Times, a bill allowing gay couples to adopt children is expected to be signed into law by the time the referendum voting comes around.

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In a recent poll commissioned by The Irish Times, 71 percent of Irish citizens said they are in favor of same-sex marriage. And in February 2014, a poll conducted by Irish public broadcaster RTÉ and The Sunday Business Post found similar results, with more than 75 percent of respondents agreeing with gay marriage. Just 20 percent of respondents said they would not support a referendum legalizing the practice. Other polls throughout the years have concluded that support for same-sex marriage has been gaining ground in the socially conservative country over time.

But Ireland is dominated by the Catholic Church, which has influenced the nation's laws policing sexuality for decades. For example, homosexuality was criminalized in Ireland until just 20 years, while adults couldn't purchase condoms without a prescription from a doctor until 1985. Abortion is also outlawed in the country, keeping in line with the Catholic Church's staunch dogma.

Although barred by the Catholic Church from accepting homosexuality, gay couples or same-sex marriage, many Irish Catholics believe now this the time to legalize gay marriage and rid Ireland from anti-gay stigma once and for all. Marriage Equality Ireland Co-Director Moninne Griffith said in a statement last December:

Irish people are incredibly fair and have an innate sense of justice which this referendum appeals to. Most people in Ireland have a gay or lesbian son or daughter, grandson, relative and friend. Denying their love through civil marriage makes no sense. Irish people are ready for marriage equality.

Now, the people of Ireland can add one more title to that list: a Catholic priest.

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