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Sex and gay children in Catholic families

  • 29 October 2014

Over the last few weeks the Australian couple featured in this interview have become unlikely international media celebrities. The very forthright speech they gave at the recent Vatican Synod on the Family was reported widely around the globe in both secular and Catholic media.

Ron and Mavis Pirola were among 14 married couples chosen from around the world to attend the Synod to provide input on contemporary family life. There were also a number of lay experts invited to the meeting. But these lay Catholics were far outnumbered by ordained clergy – cardinals, bishops and priests – and only the clergy had voting rights.

The Pirolas spoke to the gathering frankly about their sex life and the importance of sex in marriage, and they made a plea for a welcoming attitude towards homosexuals in the Church.

While this sentiment of openness and welcome towards homosexuals made it into the interim report halfway through the two week meeting, it was opposed by many of the Church fathers attending, including Cardinal George Pell. It was voted down and omitted from the final communiqué of the Synod. 

But for the first time, at least since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the meeting was transparent and debate and the voting about such contentious issues was made public.

Throughout their lives Ron and Mavis Pirola have been committed and very active Catholics. They’ve been married for 55 years and have four children and eight grandchildren.

Mavis is a former secondary school teacher, and Ron is a prominent gastroenterologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW and Notre Dame University in Sydney. He gained a doctorate in medicine at the University of NSW, and did post-doctoral training in London and New York.

His research into pancreatic disease and hepatology spans three decades, and he was co-founder at the University of NSW of the highly successful Pancreatic Research Group. He has authored a medical text book, several book chapters and over 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

The Pirolas have been awarded Papal and Australian Honours (Knight and Dame of the Order of St Gregory and the Medal of the Order of Australia) for their advocacy for the family, and introducing family movements and programs into Australia.

They are founding members of the Pontifical Council for the Family and served on this important international body from 1983 till 2009. They currently chair the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council.

This interview is in two