I am a gay priest, but I question being part of a church that blames homosexuality for child abuse
I am a gay man. I am also a priest posted to a vibrant and welcoming community of faith. I also spent many years in a priest-training college, at the heart of the institutional Catholic Church.
For what I am about to write, I have asked to remain anonymous, through fear of being “called in” and reprimanded.
Growing up gay was as much a part of me as being human. I grew up with the knowledge of it, gradually going through several phases of shame due to bullying versus acceptance—before embracing it and even enjoying it as I do today.
I was always private, and still am, and am only out to certain family and friends—but happy this way.
When I was a young man, thinking seriously about becoming a priest, I was afraid of being rejected because I was gay. The official teaching of the Catholic Church states that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered. However, I never raised my head to challenge this, and just accepted it, like everyone does. Later down the line, church guidelines would state that men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be admitted for training as a priest.
Thankfully, when I applied to the priesthood, and was honest about my sexuality, I was treated with respect and was accepted. A priest involved in the selection process joked that if the church got rid of all the gay priests, there’d just be one old cardinal left with a typewriter.
And so now, as a priest of almost 10 years’ experience, I no longer have to give lip-service (not that I ever have in practice) to these repugnant teachings, such as homosexuality being intrinsically disordered, and that good young men should be turned away from the priesthood simply for being gay.
That’s why when I received a copy of an open letter to the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, written by priest David Marsden, I wanted to speak up.
Marsden wrote his open letter after being dismissed from his post at Oscott College, a priest-training college in Birmingham. He was dismissed for disagreeing with the principal over a student who he claims was openly gay. Marsden wanted the student kicked out. The principal, who is clearly a man of substance, outright refused.
Marsden has also made some very disturbing links between predatory priests and homosexuality, referencing Theodore McCarrick, an American prelate, who resigned in July from being a Cardinal after many allegations of predatory behaviour were made against him.
I quote from Marsden’s letter: “I hope and pray that the action of the Holy Spirit is now beginning to purify the hierarchy by exposing the evil committed by homosexual clergy around the world. I feel it is my duty to now inform you and faithful Catholics that the homosexual collective within the hierarchy which enabled [ex-Cardinal] McCarrick to function in an unobstructed manner is still alive and well today in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.”
And so we have here a sickening example of linking gay priests—of which there are many—to predatory behaviour. This is not only factually wrong, but smacks of blatant homophobia.
No one can pretend that recent scandals in the church involving sexual misconduct, abuse, and cover-ups have not had a damaging effect on the image of the Catholic Church. It is a PR disaster, and no one seems to be able to deal with the crisis effectively. Pope Francis is at least trying, and can be commended for his merciful and common-sense approach. However, he has many enemies who see him as a liberal, and long for a return to the right-wing days of German pope Benedict XVI.
All of this has led me to batten down the hatches in my own little world. I have questioned on numerous occasions if I even want to be a fully paid-up member of the church, the priesthood. And yet, I carry on. I keep going. Why? Because my faith, and the precious faith of my parishioners young and old, who find comfort and hope in the life and words of Jesus, is not the property of the institutional church. It is not dependent on petty politics and vile open letters.
The author of this article is a gay Roman Catholic priest working in a British parish who has asked to not to be named due to fear of repercussions.