On St. Valentine’s Day: A Romantic Story of Gay Love Fulfilled

Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day, a story of Catholic LGBT love from Ireland!

The Irish press was all abuzz recently with the news that two gay Irish men, one of whom is a Catholic priest tied the knot in County Clare, exercising their right to marry thanks to a national referendum in 2015.

Rev. Bernard Lynch and Billy Desmond at their wedding in Ireland

Rev. Bernard Lynch and Billy Desmond were married in front of 120 friends and family members in a ceremony at a hotel in the Irish town of Spanish Point.  The booklet for the ceremony was titled:  ““Our Right to Love is our Right to Justice – Billy and Bernard.”

The two had already had a civil union over 10 years ago. According to The Irish Sun, Lynch was the world’s first Catholic priest to have a civil partnership.  The couple has been together for 23 years.

Adding to the festivity of this marriage,  the couple met with Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain, the president’s official residence in the week following the ceremony.  According to Ireland’s Herald newspaper, the couple received a personal invitation from Higgins.  Lynch described the meeting:

Lynch, President Michael Higgins, and Desmond

“President Higgins could not have been more welcoming. He put his arms around us when we first met. . . . It was the most powerful homecoming Billy and I have ever had in our lives. President Higgins couldn’t have been more gracious and hospitable. . . . We have been brought in from the cold into the hearth of the nation by a man of such heart.”

In the 1990s,  Lynch had been among the first delegation to meet with a president of Ireland (at the time, Mary Robinson) at the Aras an Uachtarain.

While living in New York City in the 1980s, Lynch was a pioneer in Catholic outreach to the LGBT community, particularly to the segment of the population living with HIV/AIDS.

The Irish Times explained Lynch’s clerical status:

“Fr Lynch came out as a gay priest in the 1980s and is no longer allowed to practice on behalf of the Catholic Church, but he said he continues to consider himself an ordained Catholic priest.”

 

In a separate Times article, Lynch explained how coming out as a gay priest was received three decades ago:

“Fr Lynch first came out as a gay man in 1986 when he was ministering in New York City. In a press interview at the time, he said: ‘If I did lie, if I did pretend, I’d have a job. I could even have a lover on the side . . . I didn’t come out publicly until 1986. As soon as I went public, I lost my job.’ “

In a radio interview, Lynch criticized church teaching and practice in regard to LGBT people, saying that he felt the church had God’s message “very wrong”:

“He said the Catholic Church ‘does terrible damage and it is part of the destruction of gay people’s lives and how that can be Godly? How can that be Christ’s message? Who would choose to be gay? It is God given and our choice is to embrace it.’ “

He added that he hoped the wedding ceremony would help future generations of lesbian and gay people:

“Describing last Friday’s wedding as ‘wonderful,’ Fr Lynch said he hopes that the witness that Billy and himself have given through their marriage tells young people that ‘it is okay to be gay. You are part of God’s design, no matter what your Church or religion says. You are normal and what you are called to do is to love and find a person to love.’ “

One participant at the wedding ceremony told a newspaper, “The love in the room was palpable. It was a beautiful ceremony.” And another participant commented, “The love between the two was magic and oozed spirituality.”

It’s very true that all love is magical and spiritual.  That’s what we celebrate today.  Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, February 14, 2017

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British Catholic Leaders Support Marriage Equality Legislation

The Times of London, England, has published a letter to the editor today from 27 prominent British Catholics expressing support for the United Kingdom’s proposed legislation to legalize same-gender marriage.  (It is not possible to link to the text on the Times’ website because a subscription is required to access letters to the editor.)

The 27 signatories include James Alison (theologian & priest), Tina Beattie (theologian), Mary Grey (theologian), Bernard Lynch (priest), Martin Pendergast (Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality).

The text of the letter reads:

“Sir,  Not all Catholics share their hierarchy’s stated views against proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples. Nevertheless, the submission by the Catholic Bishops of England & Wales  to the Government’s equal civil marriage consultation indicates a growing understanding about legislating for same-sex unions, compared with its 2003 position, when it firmly opposed civil partnerships.

“It seems  to us, as Catholic laity, theologians and clergy, important to uphold some key pastoral care principles used by the Catholic Church in England & Wales. Its 1979 guidelines stated that the Church has a serious responsibility to work towards the elimination of any injustices perpetrated on homosexuals by society.

“In 1997 Cardinal Hume wrote that love between two persons, whether of the same sex, or of a different sex, is to be treasured and respected. This respect demands that such loving relationships be afforded social recognition according to social justice principles. He proposed three criteria for considering issues of social policy: are there reasonable grounds for judging that the institution of marriage and the family could, and would be undermined by a change in law? Would society’s rejection of a proposed change be more harmful to the common good than the acceptance of such a change? Does a person’s sexual orientation or activity constitute, in specific circumstances, a sufficient reason for treating that person in any way differently from other citizens? We suggest that it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

The full list of signers:

James Alison, Theologian & priest
Ruby Almeida, Chair of Quest (LGBT Catholics)
Tina Beattie, Theologian  
Mike Castelli, Educationalist
Mark Dowd, Journalist
Michael Egan, Chair, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement
Maria ExallChair, Trade Unions Congress LGBT Committee
John Falcone, Theologian
Eileen Fitzpatrick, Educationalist
Kieran Fitszimons, Priest
Mary Grey, Theologian
Kevin Kelly, Theologian & priest
Ted Le Riche, Retired educationalist
Bernard Lynch, Priest
Gerard Loughlin, Theologian
Francis McDonagh, Lay-person
Patrick McLoughlin, Priest
Anthony Maggs, Priest
Lorraine Milford, Lay-person
Frank Nally, Priest                                                                                                                                                                                                       Martin Pendergast, Chair, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality                                                                                         Sophie Stanes, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                       Joe Stanley, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                                   Valerie Stroud, Chair, Catholics for a Changing Church                                                                                                                                Terry Weldon, Editor, Queering the Church                                                                                                                                            Matias Wibowo, Lay-person                                                                                                                                                                           Deborah Woodman, Clinical Psychologist

Congratulations and many thanks for this thoughtful piece.  Let’s hope and pray that Catholic leaders in other countries, particularly the United States, will speak out as clearly and forthrightly.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry