THE GAY CHURCH

*** SORRY FOR THE LENGTH OF THIS ARTICLE – BUT IT IS A VERY GOOD READ
Thousands of priests are closeted, and the Vatican’s failure to reckon with their sexuality has created a crisis for Catholicism.
By Andrew Sullivan 21.01/19 INTELLIGENCER

We have no reliable figures on just how many priests in the Catholic Church are gay. The Vatican has conducted many studies on its own clergy but never on this subject. In the United States, however, where there are 37,000 priests, no independent study has found fewer than 15 percent to be gay, and some have found as many as 60 percent. The consensus in my own research over the past few months converged on around 30 to 40 percent among parish priests and considerably more than that — as many as 60 percent or higher — among religious orders like the Franciscans or the Jesuits.
This fact hangs in the air as a giant, unsustainable paradox. A church that, since 2005, bans priests with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” and officially teaches that gay men are “objectively disordered” and inherently disposed toward “intrinsic moral evil” is actually composed, in ways very few other institutions are, of gay men.
The massive cognitive dissonance this requires is becoming harder to sustain. The collapse of the closet in public and private life in the past three decades has made the disproportionate homosexuality of the Catholic priesthood much less easy to hide, ignore, or deny. This cultural and moral shift has not only changed the consciousness of most American Catholics (67 percent of whom support civil marriage for gay couples) and gay priests (many of whom are close to quitting) but also broken the silence that long shrouded the subject.
Five years ago, Pope Francis made his watershed “Who am I to judge?” remark after being asked about a flawed gay priest. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” Francis went on. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.” In the final draft of the 2014 Synod on the Family, Francis included explicit mention of the “gifts and qualities” of homosexuals, asking, “Are we capable of welcoming [them]?” These sentiments won 62 percent of the votes of the synod bishops — just shy of what was necessary to pass, but still evidence of a sharp shift in tone in official Catholic teaching.
They also triggered near panic on the Catholic right. Alarmed by the possibility that divorced and remarried people might be welcomed as well as gays, traditionalists launched a fierce rearguard campaign against the new papacy, with a focus on what some called a “Lavender Mafia” running the church, and broke new ground in connecting this directly to the horrifying revelations of sex abuse that came to light in 2002. In increasingly direct ways, they have argued that the root of the scandal was not abuse of power, or pedophilia, or clericalism, or the distortive psychological effects of celibacy and institutional homophobia, but gayness itself.
“There is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root,” the American cardinal Raymond Burke declared in August. Bishop Robert Morlino of Wisconsin agreed. “It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation,” he wrote. “If you’ll permit me, what the church needs now is more hatred” of homosexual sexual behavior, “a sin so grave that it cries out to heaven for vengeance.” Michael Hichborn, head of the fringe-right Lepanto Institute, called for a “complete and thorough removal of all homosexual clergymen from the church … It is going to be difficult and will likely result in a very serious priest shortage, but it’s definitely worth the effort.”
The unseemly fall this past summer of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the most powerful American cardinals of his time, provided a cause célèbre for this faction. It emerged that McCarrick had abused at least two children and then sexually harassed generations of adult seminarians with impunity. Here, it seemed, was a pedophile and an abusive gay man, at the very apex of the church, known to be sexually active with seminarians, protected by his peers, and tolerated for decades by many in the hierarchy, including the last three popes.
McCarrick gave the right an opening. New online media organizations — led by Breitbart-style websites such as LifeSite News and Church Militant — now routinely pounce on any incidents involving gay priests and have an influential audience in the Vatican. A wealthy group of conservative Catholics, the Better Church Governance, has even launched an investigation into the orthodoxy, conduct, and, it’s clear, sexual orientation of each of the 124 cardinals who will elect the next pope.
At the center of this struggle, of course, are gay priests, bishops, and cardinals themselves. They are caught in a whiplash of relative toleration embodied by Francis and hostility exemplified by his conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The 2005 ban on gay priests and seminarians is still in force and, in fact, was affirmed by Francis in 2016. As a result, almost all gay priests are closeted, for fear of being targeted or terminated, which makes them uniquely barred from entering the discussion. They listen as they are talked about and scapegoated — often in deeply offensive ways and always as if they were not one of the church’s key ramparts. “Things have actually gotten worse since Francis became pope,” one priest told me. “They are equating all gay priests with sexual abuse. There’s a witch hunt.”
Hospital chapels, like those in airports, can be strange places. Rarely anyone’s refuge for very long, they can feel as transient and empty as they are antiseptic. But on a recent Sunday at noon, in a sprawling hospital on the edges of a midwestern city, the congregation spilled out down the hallways for Mass. They were clearly not strangers to one another as they nodded and chatted before the service began; there were old and young, black and white and brown, families and couples and a sprinkling of those who’d come alone. The Mass itself was unremarkable apart from a striking homily when the priest talked of the joys of having nothing as the Christmas gifting season loomed. It’s a lesson he said he’d learned from serving the sick, the traumatized, the hungry, and the homeless after a natural disaster overseas.
He told of a moment when he was returning from a field hospital along an unlit path in the early hours of the morning, surrounded by intense suffering on top of brutal poverty, yet he was buoyed by the faith and tenacity of the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick. He stopped and looked up into the starlit sky, he said, and felt not despair but hope.
“Always a good message from that one,” said the man next to me as Mass ended. I nodded: “Big crowd for a hospital.” “Oh yeah,” the man replied. “Always. They come from all over. He’s a rock star, this priest.” I said nothing. Father Mike, as I’ll call him, had texted me earlier to review the ground rules: “Per hospital and my request you are not to interview anyone or identify yourself as doing a story, journalist, etc.” The full story of this man’s life and service has to stay anonymous — as with almost every other priest I spoke with. Not even his most devoted congregants know he’s gay.
But as a former registered nurse and skilled manager, he’s a natural priest. In the few minutes I took to meet him in my hotel lobby, he’d already learned from the receptionist that she was no longer celebrating Christmas after a recent near-death experience in a car crash. At one point as we spoke the next day in the hospital, he was greeted by a woman who asked for an on-the-spot confession and he shooed me aside; later I met an anguished gay man from an ultra-Catholic family he was counseling; and for a few hours on Sunday morning, he was with the wife and teenage sons of a dying man. Father Mike was the bandage on all of those open wounds. He has witnessed a couple hundred deaths in his career. One night, he told me, he sat with three patients at the hour of their deaths in quick succession.
Becoming a priest wasn’t an easy decision. Mike came from a troubled family, and his abusive parents converted to Catholicism when he was entering his teens. He agreed to go to Sunday Mass because they promised him brunch at his favorite spot afterward, until, at the age of 15, he formally became a Catholic himself. At 17, he was sent to visit a priest for a one-on-one counseling retreat. “The very first night I was there, he very aggressively tried to get me in bed with him,” Mike told me. “I was absolutely terrified.” A year later, when his parents threw him out of the house, he went to live with a youth minister. “For two months I was there, and it was just constant fighting off advances and innuendo.” He reported the youth minister, even testified against him in court. But his own priest backed the minister, and, despite testimony from three other boys, the abuser was acquitted. “At that time, people actually believed priests,” Mike sighed.
Despite all this, in the mid-1990s he entered seminary after graduating from college. He found himself constantly subjected to psychological evaluations and denied the usual summer assignments. Fearing his teenage testimony against an abuser was blocking his ordination, he quit to become a critical-care nurse. But he still felt called to the church and eventually tried seminary again. He was ordained three years later.
I told him most people would find this story bizarre, masochistic even.
Why join a church that doesn’t want you — indeed, one that abused you? He stumbled for a while before finally blurting out, “Well, at the heart of it, it’s about … it’s about Jesus, and it’s about … I mean, I believe in God.” His voice was raised, suddenly intense. “I’d found some people in campus ministry, when I was in college, who were really authentic. They loved each other, and they loved God; they loved ‘the least of these.’ They weren’t perfect, but the overarching message was that Jesus is here, Jesus is in the Eucharist, and Jesus is in the faces of the poorest of the poor and those who are most marginalized.” They told him he was obviously called to be a priest, and his time as a nurse deepened this conviction within him. “As I was serving my patients, most of whom died, I prayed with them when they wanted me to, I brought Communion to them when I could, and it was through them that I felt called to serve.”
It is in that context of nurse to patient, pastor to flock, that today he manages his conflicts as a gay priest. “Every time I walk into that hospital, no matter how I’m feeling or what I’m going through or the new Pennsylvania grand-jury report on sex abuse, it all changes,” he said. “When you sit at the edge of the bed with someone whose transplant has failed, it becomes a heart-to-heart. Sometimes I think we forget that, in the church, it’s about that particular person and their humanity, their hopes and their fears, and their desire to love and be loved.”
Most of the gay priests I spoke with have never experienced abuse in the church. Many had already come to terms with their sexual orientation before they entered the priesthood, but some wrestled with it in the seminary, and others later in life. “There is no typical experience,” Father Joe, as I’ll call him, told me. “At first I wondered if I were a fraud, because I thought, Well, am I just trying to escape into a life in which I don’t have to deal with my sexuality? But I had people in charge of me who challenged me to ask myself if this were authentic, and I felt that this was the life and work that God was calling me to. It’s an ongoing discernment.” Then there was a moment of grace. “I was working in a hospital at the height of the AIDS crisis. A nun said to me, ‘What do you want to tell these people? They’re active homosexuals, drug users.’ I said, ‘I would talk about God’s mercy and be with them as they are.’ It helped me understand how God could use me even though the church didn’t accept me.”
Another, call him Father Andrew, described his choice of vocation as “convenient and existential”: “I was 18 and sexually aware but extremely depressed, and my father cornered me one day in the kitchen and made me come out. I went to a psychologist, who told me, ‘You’re not going to change. You need to accept yourself.’ ” Andrew’s father was not happy about this recommendation and ended the therapy. In college, Andrew sought out more treatment, and then, suddenly, his father died. It threw him. “I kept thinking about life and death. I had started praying again and attending Mass. I was driving in the desert from Phoenix to Tucson and saw these dust devils, and I suddenly heard in my head, ‘Oh, be a priest. You won’t need to deal with sex; you can be respected.’ And then my brother died — a car crash.” By his junior year, Andrew was in the seminary.
It was there that Andrew had his first adult sexual experience. “I was 28 years old. I came out as bisexual. I lost weight, I built muscle, I got noticed more by other seminarians, and I wanted to see what it was like being an adult,” he said. “It was difficult. I wasn’t attracted to kissing. I had one experience and couldn’t ejaculate.” He then threw himself into his work until, at 40, he faced a burnout. He took a leave of absence, spent six months in prayer and therapy, and when he returned, he sent an explanatory email to his fellow priests: “As one who has long suffered doubts about himself, I dedicate myself to bringing the love of God … to everyone who, like me, sometimes questions their worth and value because of voices contrary to God’s voice.”
The breakthrough came suddenly. “I said to my therapist, ‘I think I’m a good priest,’ and he said, ‘I bet you are.’ And I burst out crying.” Andrew’s voice cracked. “Being lumped in with pedophiles — it has a way of taking a toll on you.” The scapegoating has wounded many of the priests I spoke with. It has become a double stigma: targeted by the hierarchy for being gay and by the general public for being pedophiles. Many of the people I spoke to, Catholics and non-Catholics, about the subject of gay priests rolled their eyes and asked about the abuse of children. The news environment is saturated with stories about sex abuse — and rightly so — yet there are hardly any public examples of the overwhelming number of gay priests who would never dream of preying upon the powerless.
I sometimes ask myself, ‘When was the last time someone touched me?’ And I know that’s not normal. I’ll get a professional massage from time to time. My lapses these days are watching porn in my bedroom.
Many good gay priests, of course, fail from time to time, breaking celibacy in consensual adult affairs or trysts. They are not saints. But this is true of straight priests as well. These men are still sexual beings, flesh and blood. In these crises, they tend to do one of two things: either fall so deeply in love that they cannot sustain a life without physical intimacy and so leave the church or, more often, recalibrate, confess, and recommit to the celibate life. “The best priests are those who have missed the mark on occasion, the ones who know what it’s like to be a real human,” Father Andrew said. “It’s a holy struggle. I’ve never seen celibacy as a gift; it has always been a discipline.”
Father Joe spoke poignantly of falling in love. “I had a brief, sexually intimate relationship 16 years ago. It was my last relationship. He didn’t want to be with someone who couldn’t be fully out as a partner, and he wanted to get married. I asked if we could have a friendship that was also sexual, and he said no.” The pain still flickers. “Today I have a close friendship with him, and we’re not sexually intimate. But when he does have a boyfriend, I feel like, ‘Well, who’s there for me?’ ” At this point, Joe relies on close friends for emotional support. “I sometimes ask myself, ‘When was the last time someone touched me?’ And I know that’s not normal. I’ll get a professional massage from time to time. My lapses these days are watching porn in my bedroom.”
“There is an extreme reluctance to acknowledge that priests live celibacy well but not perfectly,” a priest I’ll call Father Leo explained. “But how do you come to a positive understanding of your sexuality when the church won’t say you even have a sexual orientation, just ‘same-sex attraction’ or ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’? How do you live a healthy sexuality in a context where your sexuality is stigmatized?” After the 2005 ban on gay priests, Father Mike became attracted to conversion therapy and underwent a year and a half of trying to be cured of being gay. It was only later that he came to see how “none of it was true; it was all a lie.”

The preponderance of gay men in the priesthood is, in fact, nothing new in the history of the church. For well over a millennium, it was commonplace, and though there were occasional denunciations of it, these were usually followed by papal inaction or indifference. For example, as the late historian John Boswell demonstrated in his groundbreaking, controversial book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, a fourth-century Christian writer, John Chrysostom, attacked the leaders of the church for being too accepting of same-sex love and even sex: “Those very people who have been nourished by godly doctrine, who instruct others in what they ought and ought not to do … these do not consort with prostitutes as fearlessly as they do with young men … None is ashamed, no one blushes … the chaste seem to be the odd ones, and the disapproving the ones in error.” There was considerable Christian concern about sex in general — following the teaching of saints Paul and Augustine — but no consensus that homosexuality, if kept to intense mutual love and celibate friendship, was specifically problematic.
Even Saint Augustine had one particularly intense love affair with another young man. “For I felt that my soul and his were one soul in two bodies,” he wrote, “and therefore life was a horror to me, since I did not want to live as a half; and yet I was also afraid to die lest he, whom I had loved so much, would completely die.” This was not merely a spiritual friendship, Augustine confessed. “I contaminated the spring of friendship with the dirt of lust and darkened its brightness with the blackness of desire.” Some have speculated that Augustine’s starkly Manichaean divide between the spirit and the body is rooted in his disgust at his own homosexual tendencies. The historical record, however, reveals that for all Augustine’s influence, the practice of intense homoerotic friendship among the clergy was common over the following centuries, especially in monasteries. (As was the case in convents as well. The gifts that lesbians have brought to the church are just as extraordinary, but because the priesthood is exclusively male and women are kept from positions of real power, lesbian nuns are, for better or worse, not caught up in this specific crisis.)
The masterpiece on the subject of “spiritual friendship” was, in fact, written by a gay man, Saint Aelred, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Rievaulx in England in the mid-1160s. He had had sexual relationships with men in his younger years, but, vowing chastity as a monk, he sublimated these desires into an idea of intense celibate love for another man. He took as a model the relationship between Jesus and the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” John, describing it at one point even as a “marriage.” Aelred saw Jesus’ intimacy with John — at the Last Supper, as they reclined, John famously rested his head on Jesus’ chest — as a model for attaching to another person of the same sex, “to whom you can be united in the intimate embrace of the most sacred love … with whom you can rest, just the two of you, in the sleep of peace away from the noise of the world, in the embrace of love, in the kiss of unity.”
By the 12th century, priests and monks were writing love poems to one another in what Boswell describes as an “outburst of Christian gay literature still without parallel in the Western world.” But perhaps in response to this broad acceptance of gay spirituality, some began to campaign for a crackdown. Around 1051, Saint Peter Damian published a treatise, The Book of Gomorrah, whose rhetoric is strikingly similar to the online denunciations of our time: “absolutely no other vice can be reasonably compared with this one … [it] is in fact the death of the body, the destruction of the soul … it removes truth utterly from the mind.” He accused the church of being run by a gay cabal who covered for each other and gave one another absolution for their sins. The pope at the time, Leo IX, nonetheless refused to ban gay clergy and argued that the problem was those who had sex “as a long-standing practice or with many men.” An occasional lapse could be forgiven, if confessed. Francis and Leo IX would agree across the centuries.
Damian was a leading reformer of the church in his day, far beyond the gay-priest issue, and a synod in 1059 responded to all of his many proposals — except the one against gay clergy. Pope Alexander II even asked Damian for his only manuscript of The Book of Gomorrah in order to copy it. Instead, Alexander locked it up! When confronted with this, according to Damian, the pope “laughs and tries to placate me with the unctuous humor of urbanity.” In 1102, in a similar moment, the Council of London decided to promulgate a decree against the newly defined sin of “sodomy” — only to have the publication stopped by the archbishop of Canterbury, who remarked that “this sin has hitherto been so public that hardly anyone is embarrassed by it.”
The tide turned decisively in the 13th century with the theological genius Thomas Aquinas denouncing homosexual acts as “against nature.” All sex — heterosexual and homosexual — was to be reserved only for married couples open to procreation, and any other sexual activity was a grave sin. Homosexuals, in the new theology, were part of nature — many had noticed homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom, particularly among hares and hyenas — but they were also somehow contrary to nature. Aquinas never resolved this paradox. Neither has the church.
As the taboo deepened in the succeeding centuries, there is little reason to believe that gay priests disappeared, but most went more fully underground. Still, same-sex love remained a profound part of Catholic Christianity. The friendship that grew between Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Francis Xavier, for example, created the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, in the 16th century. Ignatius sent Francis to evangelize Asia, and their long separation was a source of suffering for both. Francis once replied to a letter from Ignatius, “Among many other holy words and consolations of your letter, I read the concluding ones, ‘Entirely yours, without power or possibility of ever forgetting you, Ignatio.’ I read them with tears, and with tears now write them … You tell me how greatly you desire to see me before this life closes. God knows the profound impression that those words of great love made on my soul.” They never saw each other again.
The greatest Catholic theologian of the 19th century, Cardinal John Henry Newman, devoted his personal life to another man, Ambrose St. John. This does not mean the two had a sexual relationship (although they might have), but it does suggest that deep same-sex love was still alive in the highest echelons of the Catholic priesthood, even at the apex of Victorian repression and even in someone about to be celebrated as a saint. When St. John died, Newman wrote, “I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone’s sorrow greater, than mine.”
Newman famously converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism and was part of the reformist and aesthetic Oxford Movement, which was strongly influenced by homosexual men. He insisted — “as my last, my imperative will” — that he be buried in the same spot as St. John. On the gravestone, the words the two agreed on: “Out of shadows and phantasms into Truth.”
The greatest Catholic poet of the 19th century, the Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, was gay; one of the deepest theologian-priests of the last century, Henri Nouwen, was as well. Both suffered bouts of deep depression. Again, there’s no evidence that either broke his vow of celibacy, but both fell in love, both struggled with loneliness, and both produced work of enormous beauty and spirituality. Nouwen’s greatest was a reflection on the parable of the Prodigal Son. One of Hopkins’s most famous poems, “Pied Beauty,” is a paean to “All things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) / … He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change. / Praise him.”
But why is the priesthood so gay? It is worth noting that the connection between homosexuality and spirituality is by no means restricted to Catholicism. Some evolutionary psychologists have found an ancient link between gay men and tribal shamanism. Carl Jung identified the archetypal gifts of the homosexual: “a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men”; a talent for teaching, aesthetics, and tradition (“to be conservative in the best sense and cherish the values of the past”); “a wealth of religious feelings, which help to bring the ecclesia spiritualis into reality; and a spiritual receptivity which makes him responsive to revelation.”
Among gay priests themselves, I heard a variety of explanations. Some described to me how their sense of displacement as boys and teens made them more sensitive to the needs of other marginalized people: “You were an outsider, and you can help other outsiders and welcome them in.” Another simply said, “We understand suffering.” Another spoke of the appeal of belonging to a religious community.
Others explained that they were drawn to the ritual of the church. “Catholicism was different, and I was different … I had a strong sense of mystical experience,” one told me. Catholicism is a faith centered on the Mass, where the body and the soul and the senses are as important as the mind. The Mass is, in some ways, a performance. And I’m not sure how to say this without indulging in stereotypes, but there is something about the liturgy, ritual, music, and drama that attracts a certain kind of gay man. These types — also found in the arts and scholarship — are sticklers for detail, ruthless about rules, and attuned to tradition and beauty. In many ways, the old, elaborate High Mass, with its incense and processions, color-coded vestments, liturgical complexity, musical precision, choirs, organs, and sheer drama, is obviously, in part, a creation of the gay priesthood. Their sexuality was sublimated in a way that became integral and essential to Catholic worship.
Then there is the common experience of a gay boy or teen, brought up in the church, who turns to God in struggling with the question of his difference and displacement from the normal. He is forced to ponder deeper questions than most of his peers, acquires powerful skills of observation, and develops a precocious spirituality that never fully leaves him. This resonates for myself as a Catholic boy and teen. The first person I ever came out to was God, in a silent prayer on my way to Communion. I was an altar boy, knew well how to swing a brass thurible full of incense, could debate the nuances of transubstantiation by the age of 11, and considered the priesthood as a vocation (I concluded I wasn’t good enough a person). Like many solitary gay Catholic boys, I saw in Jesus a model — single, sensitive, outside a family, marginalized and persecuted but ultimately vindicated and forever alive.
But there are other reasons for gay men to seek the priesthood that are far from healthy. The first is celibacy. If you were a young gay Catholic in centuries past, one way to avoid social ostracism, or constant questions about why you lacked an interest in girls or women, was to become a priest. (One priest also told me the most powerful force behind vocations to the priesthood had long been mothers, who, intuiting that a son was “not the marrying kind,” would encourage him to enter the church to save their family’s social standing.) This pattern, though much less severe than in the past, endures. A profound lack of self-esteem, fueled in part by the church’s homophobia, also led to some seeking the priesthood as a means to repress or somehow cure themselves.
“Before we’re even teenagers, we realize that this whole thing is an abomination,” said a priest I’ll call Father John. “And so we reach out to the teaching of the church and effectively say, ‘Fill me with what you are saying and I will become you. I will become a magisterial personality.’ ” By magisterial, he meant embodying the Magisterium, the formal teaching of the church. “In other words, ‘I’ve given up being me.’ And I have a feeling that’s why you meet so many of these guys who are really frighteningly gray and impersonal. At some stage, they’ve agreed in their lives not to be themselves.” I have seen this in many priests; unable to be themselves, they become personae, symbols, and ultimately caricatures or even embodied masks.
Often, this unconscious struggle breaks down. It is simply too difficult not to be oneself. Some cope through absurd flamboyance and high camp; others sink into depression. Alcoholism and addiction take over. “Oh my God,” Father Andrew told me, “when I came back to the church in 2010, I couldn’t get over how grossly obese these priests had become. They had been such athletes when they were young.” Another priest told me, “I buried it so deeply. And then I had a meltdown. It was one of those moments of wanting something to happen with a friend. One evening, when I left his place, I realized I really wanted to have a relationship with this guy. Then it came flowing out of me. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to be me.”
Other gay priests, more self-aware and cynical, find there is a career to be made in all of this falseness. From the 13th century onward, it’s easy to see how secretly gay men found in the church, and the church alone, a source of status and power. Marginalized outside, within they could become advisers to monarchs, forgive others’ sins, earn a stable living, enjoy huge privileges, and be treated instantly with respect. Everything was suppressed, no questions were asked in seminaries, and psychological counseling was absent (and even now is rare). Scarred, scared men became priests, and certain distinct patterns emerged.
One, as we have come to learn, was sexual acting out and abuse. To conflate sexual abuse with the gay priesthood, as many now reflexively do, is a grotesque libel on the vast majority who have never contemplated such crimes and are indeed appalled by them. It is classic scapegoating. At the same time, to decouple the sexual-abuse crisis entirely from the question of gay priests is a willful avoidance of an ugly truth. Pedophilia is a separate category outside the question of sexual orientation. But some abuse of male teens and young adults, as well as abuse of other priests, is clearly related to homosexuality gone horribly astray — and around a quarter of the reported cases involve 15- to 17-year-old victims.
The scale of it in the late 20th century was extraordinary — but, in retrospect, predictable. If you do not deal honestly with your sexuality, it will deal with you. If you construct an institution staffed by repressed and self-hating men and build it on secrecy and complete obedience to superiors, you have practically created a machine for dysfunction and predation. And the hideous truth is we will never know the extent of the abuse in centuries past or what is still going on, especially throughout places in the world (like Africa and Latin America) where robust scrutiny of the church is still sometimes taboo.
Another pattern was externalized homophobia: What you hate in yourself but cannot face, you police and punish in others. It remains a fact that many of the most homophobic bishops and cardinals have been — and are — gay. Take the most powerful American cardinal of the 20th century, Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, who died in 1967. He had an active gay sex life for years while being one of the most rigid upholders of orthodoxy. Monsignor Tony Anatrella, an advocate for conversion therapy consulted by the Vatican, was recently suspended for sexual abuse of other men. One of Europe’s senior cardinals, Keith O’Brien of Scotland, described homosexuality as a “moral degradation” and marriage equality as “madness.” Sure enough, he was eventually forced to resign and leave the country after being accused of abusive sexual relationships with four other priests.
Anti-gay archconservative Cardinal George Pell was recently found guilty of sexual abuse of boys in Australia. The founder of the once hugely influential hard-right, anti-gay cult the Legion of Christ, Marcial Maciel, was found to have sexually abused countless men, women, and children. The leader of Church Militant, which is obsessed with gay priests, is a self-described “ex-gay.” This is a good rule: Those in the hierarchy obsessed with the homosexual question often turn out to be gay; those who are calmer tend to be straight.
Benedict XVI has described himself as a bookish boy, averse to sports.
His soft speech is strikingly effeminate; he was seen constantly in the company of his rather dashing private secretary, Georg Gänswein; and he bedecked himself in vestments of such extravagance they included ermine and custom red slippers. He was also the theologian who demonstrated a manic desire to police the slightest deviation from orthodoxy, who described gay people as “objectively disordered” and inclined toward an “intrinsic moral evil,” and who, after he banned gay priests, called them “one of the miseries of the church.” Even to suggest some kind of connection between all these aspects of someone who is also holy, celibate, and sensitive is to be accused of a disgusting insinuation. But this is because so many in the hierarchy still cannot see homosexuality as being about love and identity rather than acts and lust. As we uncover layer upon layer of dysfunction at the very top of the church, it may be time to point out how naked these bejeweled emperors can appear.
And this, of course, has added another layer of complexity to the story of gay priests: Generations matter. Those in their 70s and 80s grew up in a different universe, where the closet was automatic and the notion of even discussing gay priests was scandalous. One priest described that generation to me as “so closeted they might as well be in Narnia.” They may not even be aware they’re gay. But their reaction to the modern reexamination of homosexual love, and the consideration of sex as distinct from procreation, was panicked retrenchment. Those in their 50s or 60s or younger, by contrast, are generally much more self-aware, and their Catholic peers and families much more accepting. This generational difference is the source of much of the conflict within the church’s highest gay ranks.
At the beginning of the church’s third millennium, the sex-abuse crisis exploded into public consciousness. Suddenly the entire system of secrecy, clerical self-protection, cover-ups, and scandal was brutally exposed. For most gay priests, this was a huge relief. They were as appalled as anyone. But they knew, too, that the system now being dismantled had concealed not only the crimes and abuses of bad priests but also the sins and consensual adult sex of good ones. They had secrets too.
Remember: Celibacy is not an easy task. It is impossible for most human beings to avoid falling in love or physically expressing their sexual being at some point in their lives. In practice, these failures have often been confronted and confessed; as long as the priests are honest and recommit to celibacy, they are allowed to go forward. Some of the gay priests I spoke with acknowledged lapses but insisted that, in consultation with their spiritual directors and superiors, they chose celibacy when the choice became impossible to ignore or avoid. The goal, they explained, was to be free of any particular attachment so they could devote their entire selves to the church as a whole.
Gay priests were as appalled as anyone by the sex-abuse crisis. But they knew, too, that the system now being dismantled had concealed not only the crimes and abuses of bad priests. They had secrets too.
But most had some kind of past incident or failing that could be used against them if made public, even if it were only their identity as a gay man. And so a poisonous kind of omertà took hold, the priesthood acting as a forum of mutually assured destruction. Since many fellow priests know about each other’s sexuality and/or lapses, they all have the ability to blackmail one another. Mundane failings — like a brief affair — can become easily blurred with profound evils like child abuse. If you expose a child molester to his superior, for example, he might expose your own homosexuality and destroy your career.
This dynamic has made the clerical closet — not the fact of gay priests but the way that fact has been hidden — a core mechanism for tolerating and enabling abuse. On top of all this, the vow of obedience to superiors gives gay bishops and cardinals huge sway over their priestly flock. Some, of course, realized this power could be leveraged for sex and abused it.
New procedures for the protection of minors were put in place after 2002. But so much damage from the past has yet to be confronted. The McCarrick case in particular revealed that the pattern of concealment and toleration of abuse went to the very top of the church. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis all protected abusers or chose not to confront them. That some of the sex criminals were also responsible for directing vast sums of money to the Vatican — Maciel and McCarrick were legendary for their fund-raising — makes the toleration seem particularly cynical.
We still do not know why, exactly, the traditionalist Benedict XVI decided to be the first pope to resign the office, but some were quick to note that he had compiled an extensive dossier on sexual abuse in the church … and yet somehow felt unable to act. Was he simply overwhelmed by the task, taken aback by the scale of it, and fearful that the entire church could collapse? Francis, in one of his first press conferences as pope, struck out on a different course. He reiterated the distinction between sins and crimes and, while denouncing abuse, did not insist on sexual perfection in the priesthood, as long as failures were confessed, sins absolved, and the priest was committed to a future of celibacy. Then he went further in allowing for good gay priests in the church: “The problem is not having this tendency, no; we must be brothers and sisters to one another.” The problem, he said, was if gays were to form some kind of faction or lobby within the church — but this, he explained, applied to any lobby: “a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons.”
Francis’s shift in tone outraged conservatives in the Vatican. (It also, perhaps, worried some powerful sex abusers, who recognized the role of the clerical closet in keeping everything quiet.) And when Francis sought the advice of McCarrick, a moderate liberal, those who knew about McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians erupted with anger. In one of the most dramatic acts of dissent in the history of the modern church, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States, released a letter in August claiming that McCarrick’s abuse had been known to both Benedict XVI and the Vatican since 2000; furthermore, Francis knew of McCarrick’s abuse since 2013 and was now part of a cover-up. Conservative commentators, like ex-Catholic Rod Dreher and the New York Times’ Ross Douthat, spoke of a potential new “schism,” with Dreher using slurs like “Lavender Mafia” to describe the threat he saw to established doctrine.
Viganò went further. He called on the pope to resign: “We must tear down the conspiracy of silence with which bishops and priests have protected themselves at the expense of their faithful, a conspiracy of silence that in the eyes of the world risks making the church look like a sect, a conspiracy of silence not so dissimilar from the one that prevails in the Mafia.” Viganò also named some of the more liberal cardinals who were protégés of McCarrick. “No one at the Vatican was fooled for one moment,” James Alison, a gay priest and theologian well sourced in church politics, told me. “This was about as close to a public outing as anybody except a journalist from outside the Catholic circle would attempt.” Alison believes this may have hurt Viganò’s case. “It frightened even some of Viganò’s more conservative allies into realizing that they could be outed as well if this came to a major intra-closet war.” So they pulled back. (The lull may be temporary. A book due out in February, In the Closet of the Vatican, by the French journalist Frédéric Martel, is said to contain extraordinary evidence of gay hypocrisy in the Vatican for several decades.)
But Viganò’s testimony on the key question — that an actively abusive homosexual cardinal was knowingly tolerated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI and consulted by Francis — had the ring of truth. Tellingly, when confronted with the accusation, Francis made no attempt to deny the charges, refused to release any documents that could disprove Viganò’s claims, and instead called for “silence” and prayer.
In September, Francis appeared to lose his equanimity. He equated Viganò’s letter with the work of the Devil: “In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people.” He convened a global summit of cardinals to take place in Rome in February to discuss the entire question of sexual abuse in the church. It may well become a moment of reckoning for his papacy — and those of his two predecessors. It may force some kind of decision about the role of gay priests, clerical celibacy, and homosexuality across the church. It is clear to everyone that the current apparatus of secrecy, hypocrisy, abuse, and homophobia needs to end if the church’s moral authority has any chance of being restored. But how?
One possible option is the preference of the Catholic right: for all those implicated in the McCarrick cover-up to resign, including, one presumes, Francis (and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI?); for a massive investigation to be launched into how gay priests, bishops, and cardinals came to be so common and powerful; and for strict enforcement of the 2005 ban on priests. But purging the priesthood of “homosexual tendencies” would require removing up to a third of the clergy in the U.S. and dismissing scores of bishops and cardinals, including many who have maintained celibacy, preached orthodoxy, and lived exemplary lives. Countless lay Catholics would watch their priests be outed and fired by the church. How would they react?
The mass firings would brand the church as baldly homophobic and easily lead to mass resignations and a further decline in vocations. So be it, the traditionalists say. They want a much smaller, purer church. But few potential popes would want to be the one who precipitated the implosion. More to the point: It could make the problem worse. The church would lose all those priests who are adjusted enough to be honest about their orientation and keep all of those who are the most deeply damaged, closeted, and self-loathing. The potential for sexual abuse could increase.
A second option would be a fudge, a rerun of 2005, when the church said all gay priests should be fired and no gay men be admitted to the seminary … and then did nothing much about it. This would be, in some ways, the worst choice. It was precisely the simultaneous retention and anathematization of closeted gay priests that, over the decades, helped fuel the abuse and its cover-up.
A third option would simply encourage an end to the clerical closet, which is to say, ask all priests to obey one of the Ten Commandments: not to lie about themselves. It would require gay priests to identify as such to their superiors and parishioners and, in clearing the air, make a renewed public vow of celibacy. (Whether celibacy is healthy for the church is its own question, one oddly distinct from the current crisis; a relaxation of the rules wouldn’t in itself resolve the church’s position on homosexuality, and an embrace of homosexuality is compatible with a celibate priesthood.) Encouraging an end to the closet would underline the distinction the church formally makes between homosexual identity and homosexual acts. It would deter disturbed closet cases from entering the priesthood and provide priestly role models for gay Catholics who find themselves called to celibacy. Those gay priests who refused to be fully transparent could leave. Cardinals and bishops and directors of seminaries could insist on frank discourse on the matter. Double lives would become far less common. If a priest is committed to celibacy and doing a good job, why is his public gayness a problem?
The only obstacle standing in the way of this path is the homophobia formally embedded into church doctrine in 1986 by the future Benedict XVI. The church now explicitly teaches that gay people are “objectively disordered” because their very being leads them to an intrinsic moral evil. This “evil” is the orientation to have sex that cannot lead to procreation — the same reason the church opposes birth control for straight couples. The difference, of course, is that birth control is a choice, while gayness isn’t.
A better analogy would perhaps be the infertile, who also, simply because of the way they are, cannot have procreative sex. But the church does not call them “objectively disordered.” It eagerly marries them, as well as elderly straight couples. In fact, the church embraces every other minority, person with a disability, and individual persecuted or marginalized by society because of some involuntary characteristic. No other group of human beings is described by the church as “objectively disordered.”
At some point you realize that this is, in the end, the bottom line. There is a deep and un-Christian cruelty at the heart of the church’s teaching, a bigotry profoundly at odds with the church’s own commitment to seeing every person as worthy of respect, deserving of protection, and made in the image of God. It’s based on a lie — a lie that the hierarchy knows is untrue, and a lie proven untrue by science and history and the church’s own experience. “The hierarchy is tying itself in knots in public over something it has already conceded in private,” Father Leo explained to me. The task, it seems to me, is not to rid the church of homosexuality, which is an integral part of the human mystery, but of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and dysfunction. Impossible? I admit to, at times, a crushing fatalism. But I also believe, as a Catholic, that nothing is impossible with God.
On a Sunday morning in late 2017, at the conservative parish of St. Bernadette in Milwaukee, Father Gregory Greiten was extremely nervous. The next day, the National Catholic Reporter would be publishing an article he wrote in which he would come out as gay. No one in his congregation knew in advance, and now he was about to say Mass. He wanted to tell his own parish first.
Father Greg — yes, this is his real name — had gone to a high-school seminary, where some same-sex teen experimentation had gone on, and he’d been exposed as one of the culprits and outed to his family. “I totally had a meltdown the day my parents were called in,” he told me. “I was crying my eyes out … The scars that were left — they gave me PTSD for years.” He suppressed his sexuality and pursued what he saw as his calling to be a priest but suffered a breakdown over his gayness when he was 24. In time, he recovered and focused on his ministry, but after 25 years of celibate priesthood, he finally decided he couldn’t lie about himself anymore and retain his integrity. He found his way in 2017 to a retreat for gay priests run by New Ways Ministry, a gay-friendly Catholic group. “To come to a place where you could be so open and so honest — it was so liberating to be around people who just want to talk and be honest and follow their own path of authenticity.” It boosted his confidence.
He was worried about his pension and health insurance, but “I thought, Well, if you want to take the priesthood from me, take it … I’m not masquerading as a straight man to help the church ignore the matter anymore. I drank that poison most of the years of my life. If you need me to lie about who I am, then the priesthood is a sham.”
As we spoke, there was no anger in his voice, just a midwestern folksiness. He told me that the toll of the closet was immense on many around him, including suicides that had been hushed up. He was aware that it was relatively easy for him to come out; he knew his own record of celibacy was unblemished since he was 24. Others were more compromised and could be more easily targeted. If he wasn’t going to take the lead, who else would?
That Sunday morning, when he stood up to deliver his homily, he felt his mouth dry up. The church was packed, and as he started to tell his story, the silence was close to unbearable. He soldiered on. No response. Eventually, a woman stood up in the pews and he braced himself. “God bless you, Father! God bless you!” she yelled. And then, all at once, the congregation rose and applauded. At the end of the homily, another standing ovation.
He hasn’t looked back since. The archbishop of Milwaukee offered a public statement, regretting that Father Greg had come out but pledging to treat him with “understanding and compassion.” Greg told me he has had no personal interaction with the archbishop since he told him he’d be coming out. He did get a kind voice-mail on his birthday, though.
“This year has been one of the best years of my life,” Greg said. “I feel much closer to Jesus. Someone asked me if I had regrets and I said to him, ‘Do you know what freedom is? Because if you do, you wouldn’t have asked the question.’ All that energy that went into creating a false self … the banter … all that pretending is done. I wish other priests could have some of that freedom.” Then he offered something unexpected: “I want to say something about my mom. My mom has done for me what the church has never done — which is to love and respect me for who I am and who God has created me to be.” Maybe at some point, Mother Church will do the same.

78 thoughts on “THE GAY CHURCH

  1. Thank you for this Pat, a very thoughtful and balanced article by a highly intelligent and perceptive commentator. I have to say though that there probably is no answer. It is a problem entirely of the Church’s own making, and every which way you lose. I suspect that homosexuality is not of itself the problem, but rather the most conspicuous and damaging manifestation of the cognitive dissonance which is at the heart and root of the clergy. The Church is in crisis because of a clerical establishment no longer fit for purpose. But the Church is bigger than the clergy, and the kingdom of God bigger than the Church. The old order changes: is that such a bad thing? Even Andrew Sullivan could not resist finding priests who are still “heroes”. We don’t need saints or knights in shining armour, just men and women of integrity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Catholic teacher 24th Jan 2019 — 3:13 am

    Pat, the problem with a lot of the clergy, that feature repeatedly on your blog, is not that some of them might be “gay”.
    It is their nastiness towards their people, their corruption, lack of care, unfairness, their injustices, their exploitation of others, their making of distinctions between persons, their lack of compassion, their living of double lives, their lusts and excesses, their hurtfulness to parishioners, their coldness and callousness even when people are grieving and upset, their sense of entitlement, lack of humility, grasping ambition and vainglory.
    In summation, their failure to be Christlike, one could go on. Those are the issues!!!
    It is not their sexuality that is at issue but their utter failure to show us the Face of Christ!!
    Having said that, there are many, many priests who do just that – show us Christ – without drama and without being noticed.
    The ones who arise often on your blog, for all the wrong reasons, make the lives of the true priests very difficult and cause them many sorrows.

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    1. MournemanMichael 24th Jan 2019 — 10:37 am

      C. Teacher: You nicely highlight the failings of many RC clerics: an absence of caring humanity.
      Some of those failings may well arise from character limitations derived from personal nature or social conditioning. But one is obliged to wonder to what extent the mandatory requirement of celibacy creates an environment leading to an excess of those negative and damaging human characteristics you highlight. I say this not simplistically to focus on the absence of sex, but the consequential damaging effects of the duplicitous lifestyle of many RC clergy.
      MMM

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    2. So well summed up 3.13. The good priest’s are left to rot due to
      The inability and actions of the corrupt gay cabal clergy circle who are only there for financial, power and dictatorship.

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    3. Catholic teacher
      Your post very neatly complements the above article and affirms some of its conclusions.
      There is a far deeper spiritual and moral malaise in the institutional Church than sexual deviancy (though, as Sullivan persuasively argues, sexual deviancy is undoubtedly related to it), and its allure to the priesthood, entirely unspiritual, is irresistible to certain gay (and some straight) personalities. Its priestly expression coincides exactly with how you describe too many priests, these (and past) days: nasty, corrupt, uncaring, unjust, exploitative, privileged, entitled, and so lamentably on.
      The model of discipleship on which Jesus insisted is not the model of priesthood the Church has generally experinced over the centuries; this appeals not to any spiritual longing, but to a worldly mindset emboding the negatve personal qualities listed above, and much else besides. This, quintessentially, is clericalism. And it is as far removed, conceptually and practically, from Jesus’ teaching on discipleship as the institutional Church’s traditional doctrine on the death penalty was from Christ’s command to love of enemy.
      Roman Catholic priests need to unlearn priesthood, if the institutional circumstance of clericalism (and the overwhelming temtation to pluck its fruits) is to be countered. This would involve the model of ministry evident in the early Church: most priests should be in paid employment, and rent or own their homes. This would free them from financial dependency on their dioceses, and free their consciences to challenge, if necessary, episcopal directives. It is entirely notional that a priest can have ‘the smell of the sheep’ about him, unless he lives as one of them.
      Unfortunately for the wider Church, such essential reforms will never be enacted without consistent public pressure, principally from the media, but also from lay Catholics. Historically, a corrupt clergy is a self-contented and lazy clergy, and moral regeneration has always been resisted by them, sometimes to the point even of attempted murder.
      If the wider Church is, at long last, hopeful of seeing the white smoke of institutional transformation emerge from February’s crucial meeting in Rome of the heads of bishops’ conferences, it is almost certainly destined to be bitterly disappointed, yet again, by a gathering of old men, set in their traditional ways, who not only lack the desire to tackle the moral and spiritual gravity at the heart of Church life, but who are in denial that it even exists.
      With Pope Francis’ publicly disclosed belief that the current criticism of bishops (both for their handling of reports of child-sexual abuse by priests and their personal involvement in this criminality) is satanically inspired, a sense of victimhood will oppress this gathering, and put it on a defensive footing, much as it did their predecessors during the Counter-Reformation. A historical, and seminal, oppurtunity for moral regeneration (for collective rejuvenation and recovery) was lost then through an unentitled sense of victimhood, and it will, predictably, be lost in February’s meeting in Rome.

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      1. One of the best comments ever.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. MournemanMichael 24th Jan 2019 — 1:07 pm

        Wide ranging, apposite, and prescient comment Magna.
        At your best, and ‘towering’ in comparison to some of the inanities of your detractors.
        MMM

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      3. 12:38;
        Great comment Magna.

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      4. I read an article just like this almost word for word in an American journal last week. Funny that. Plagiarism is a terrible thing. I must track down the article again.

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      5. It is credited to Intelligencier at top

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    4. Catholic teacher – how is St. Patrick’s PS Belfast. Are you sure you are Catholic?

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  3. I’d say that lovely curate in Enniskillen might enjoy this post

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    1. Standard of comments was high today until the one at 7.19 am.

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  4. I simply assume that the majority of priests I meet or know are gay. That’s my default position. I am rarely wrong !
    In my own life, many decades ago I decided that celibacy was an intolerable and impossible imposition on my priesthood, undertaken in part coercively and unknowingly, and so I did not after some consideration feel that it was something I was necessarily bound to. That did not mean that I threw it completely overboard, and was always careful to have a respect for my sexuality and the dignity of others, certainly physically. But, in terms of emotional and affective involvement, I made sure that I had very deep and intense relationships with other men, and eventually with a partner, so that I could live a life that was reasonably happy, stable, emotionally grounded and at the same time a life of ministry. For me it has worked.
    Through all of this, I simply allowed whatever current agendas in the Church about homosexuals and who we are and what we get up to, to slip off my back. I simply didn’t listen. Why should I, when most of the awful stuff coming out of the mouths of those who condemned me and other gay priests, was most likely transferred self-hatred and loathing on the part of the those who spouted hatred and negativism about gays ?
    I have refused to listen to and to be affected by negative voices within the Church about my sexuality. For me, it is a matter between me and God, and between me and those I love.
    So, Benedict, Francis, bishops, right wing militant traditionalist groups – butt out ! What you think and what you say is irrelevant to me. I will make my own decisions about how I live my life and live my priesthood. You have shown yourselves in so many way unworthy of being believed or listened to. Say what you want, it will have no effect on me. I am here to stay. And so are thousands more gay priests, who keep the Church running. Get used to it. Get over it.

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    1. You have obviously thought deeply about it, followed your conscience and arrived at an authentic place for you.

      How do you feel about the situation in Maynooth and priests cruising toilets, truck stops and saunas?

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      1. I’m 9:09. It sounds to me, from what little I know, that a situation as is said to exist in Maynooth, where seminarians are taken advantage of, is evidently wrong, and should be sorted out. Coercive, abusive behaviour is not something that fits with my world view. As to the cruising types, well, I can understand that such behaviour is a bit dysfunctional and probably not the healthiest way to live out an affective and sexual life.

        Perhaps more important is the issue of hypocrisy. I’m well aware that the accusation can be levelled at the likes of me, continuing in a life and a Church where my life choice is technically in breach of the Church’s teaching. But, I don’t condemn others and I certainly don’t do the KO’B type of thing, being anti-gay in order to cover my own tracks. I generally take a hands off approach when it comes to sexuality and morality, believing that we invest too much energy in worrying about who is doing what with whom. I think God is pretty relaxed about all this stuff too. I’m much more worried about greed, abuse of power, injustice, inequality, what we are doing to the world etc. etc.

        Oh, the traddies of the Church will have a field day with that, and will be spewing all kinds of rigorous right wing venom because it doesn’t fit with their black and white world ! Do I care ?

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      2. I am very impressed with your thinking. To me it is authentic and balanced.

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      3. … and don’t forget internet dating sites, Bp Pat, and rent boys as well as the meadow at Lourdes, backstreet bookshops, cinemas, and peep shows the dirtbags frequent.

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      4. 10.03: Pat, your response to 9.09 is completely disingenuous. All you want is a repeat narrative of your “peeping tom” approach. The post at 9.09 deserves a more mature, intelligent response than what you gave. You can probably guess his answer to your sexual nosiness. You’ve covered all that before. The priest makes a very real, honest and worthwhile contribution about human sexuality, relationships, our need for intimacy, the struggle to accept our true identity and live priesthood at the same time with its own inherent contradictions in the 21st century. Many priests accept their gay identity quietly, others preferring “drama”. There is a huge challenge in the Church re: its understanding and acceptance of different expressions of human sexuality. Many priests probably came to a realisation of their true sexuality years into their ministry and struggle to accept and integrate it into their lives. With the crazy celibacy expectations and the accompanying guilt and the almost unreachable idealism, many end up badly damaged, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. There are priests who are exemplary in their living of celibacy, ministry, spirituality and dedicated service. Pat, let’s have deep discussions that go beyond what happens on the side of the A1!! Please.

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    2. Rationalisation, much! Nasty tone. When you make your own laws, you are your own god. Funny how your “conscience” always agrees with what you want to do.

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      1. 10:13 do therefore give us a considered and intelligent view of what you think, rather than just spluttering indignation and formulaic outrage. Please !

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    3. Your life is a lie, you took a vow of celibacy, you preach before people who believe you living a chaste life but your not.
      Are you from the diocese of cloyne ?

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      1. I agree 12.38pm. This character is indeed living a lie whilst trying to dress it all up very nicely and neatly by psycho babble talk. He is kidding himself and quite clearly deluded in his warped thinking. Sounds like a hypocrite and probably is one.

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      2. @ 12.38
        Before you rush headlong to judge and condemn consider:

        a) the poster wanted to be a priest. To reach that point celibacy was not an optional obligation. It is no longer an absolute.

        b) It sounds as if the poster is living a chaste life. Chastity is accommodating your sexuality to your fundamental option.

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      3. so much venom and vitriol against a gay priest — from miserable anonymouses who get off on hate

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      4. people who say “vow of celibacy” are hypocrites

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  5. That Francis, Cardinal Spellman of New York led a “very active gay sex life” is stated as fact, yet I have never heard any evidence of this – just oft repeated conjecture. He had unpleasant cronies also gay such as J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn ( lawyer for Trump father and son ) who possibly covered for him. However, like the story of John Charles McQuaid and some indiscretion above a pub, mud has stuck. Having said that, I agree that the clergy are overwhelmingly gay, but the real problem is denial, transference, cover up and sheer nastiness – as well as the obvious fact that most of them are damaged goods and unfit for purpose.

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    1. “Soiled goods” may be a better description.

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  6. “… the priesthood is a sham.”
    Take KOB for example.

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    1. He must have had a good few faghags, Bp Pat.

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  7. So if gay priest above does his own thing
    What about all the married couples who also do their own thing…contraceptives etc.
    Whataboutthe teen pregnant…doing her own thing.
    So we should all live by our consciences and forget religion and it’s rules.? ?
    Interesting thoughts! !

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    1. Actually, yes. We should all live according to our consciences, and make decisions for ourselves in conscience. Who said that a rules based system necessarily leads to a happy and productive life, where we can share love and joy ? For most people, it leads to quiet misery, imposed by those who tell us what to do, but so often do not live it themselves. I believe that in Ireland nowadays faithful Catholics make up their own mind. They listen to the Church, but it is only one voice speaking to them. They will not be dictated to by a discredited Church and its voices that has been shown to be thoroughly corrupt and rotten. They balance what they hear from the Church along with all sorts of other voices, including their conscience and God speaking to them. And then they make up their mind. Sounds a pretty healthy way of living to me, rather than the rules, fear, directives of a pile of men who are up to all sorts of nonsense themselves. So, in all those areas you mention – contraception, pregnancy and more, including sexuality, people will make up their own minds, and so they should.

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      1. God is not just “another voice” speaking to us. He is our Creator and there are certain things that He explicitly warns us about, that if we choose them, those things shall, to put it mildly, not end well.

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    2. 11:26
      About contraceptives 99% of Catholiv Christians have voted with their feet (not a Semitic euphemism in this instance).

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  8. Unbelievable arrogance from 9.09 and 10.49. The pulpit poove who thinks God will have no problem with his way of life, he presumes much don’t you? A life that he deems ok as long as he’s not like KOB or any other pulpit poove who cruises for sex – how twee and quaint. He doesn’t fit into these categories so he thinks everything is ok. He doesn’t dwell on sexual morality but calls others who fall in this regard as dysfunctional. What arrogance!! He wants patted on the head and told he is very human for being a gay priest. Has he the courage of his convictions though in coming out as gay to his Church – no he’s content on living a lie and his ministry is a sham pretending he leads a life of celibacy. He’s no better than the KOB’s and all other pooves who are destroying the Church. If you can’t come out then get out.

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    1. Oh, such vitriolic anger. You really must have deep unresolved issues about sex and sexuality, including your own. In my experience, the more vitriolic the outpouring the more unhealthy, unresolved, unhappy and lacking integration the voice and person. I think you need some help, friend.

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      1. Very true @11:55. This is the crisis within the priesthood. And why, oh why, are people always being asked to leave the community? This is the very opposite of Jesus’ ministry which was to restore even the most unlikely sinners to fellowship. Let go of all that anger and shame @11:47 as it’s killing you.

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      2. That’s always the answer isn’t it 11.55 when you don’t like what someone has to say by way of challenge or takes a different view. Just condemn them for having sexual issues of their own or have psychological issues. This is classic and gay people in particular use these arguments and rebuffs as a line of defence. I happen to agree with what 11.47 has said and it’s all too easy and simplistic to oppose it as anger or otherwise. You can’t defend the argument very well.

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      3. I think you would be better addressing the post rather than attack the poster. All too often on this blog people descend into nasty personal insults. There is always too many self appointed psychiatrists eager to diagnose people’s state of mind , that is wrong.

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      4. ….and I’m supposed to allow this man to get away with calling me and others like me “pooves’, without any challenge, am I ? What is good for the goose is good for the gander….. And at least I am not using derogatory, prejudicial and discriminatory language about him. But, it’s okay for him to be abusive, because his abuse is aimed at someone who is putting a different perspective about gays and priesthood, and who is gay himself, is it ? And this from someone who says that they want to uphold the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus Christ. You really do need to get your priorities right, I think.

        I still believe that much of what is thrown in my direction is simply born of fear and ignorance, and therefore I can forgive it to a certain extent. But, for people like me, we are expected on a daily basis to put up with all of this because your so called righteous crowd are able to quote a few verses of the bible and the catechism, and that presumably excuses all their prejudice and their hate. Maybe you should be directing your views in their direction, and asking them to exercise some of the Christian values they profess they stand for. Because I don’t see much evidence of it in their language and views.

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    2. 11:47
      Your northern super-ego takes longer to give way to an adult conscience than that of a southern person.

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  9. Fly on Th Wall 24th Jan 2019 — 1:35 pm

    Sore finger hi I have to break article down into chunks or never get any work done but. It’s happened again tho. Sir William D’testicles is not God. But he seems to be takin hover but

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  10. Deacon Kevin Connolly has been spotted in Panti Bar Dublin with Gorgeous. Pat is Kevin Connolly attempting to transfer to Dublin and leave Clogher again.

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    1. Fake News Report 24th Jan 2019 — 2:30 pm

      They are not friends Mr. Brendan Marshall you know that.

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  11. @1.37pm But you are misleading your congregation and people dear. Have you no shame or morals?

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  12. Priest at 9:09am and 10:49, etc,
    You, “Fr”, have the very arrogance and colossal pride of Lucifer himself.
    What right have you to “assume” that most priests are “gay”? And to warp them into your world view and deluded life of self-indulgence, by which you excuse yourself of the responsibilities God has placed on you and the solemn vows you took to Him?
    Your “gay” is a worldly construct and ideology. Typically, when challenged, you scream you are being “judged” and wrap yourself in your self pity blanket.
    The priests you meet you have absolutely NO RIGHT to attempt to impose upon them the “gay” agenda and ideology – even if some of them are sexually attracted to other males.
    1. They may not be attracted to other males.
    2. If they are sexually attracted to other males, they may, nevertheless, very well be utterly repulsed by the “gay” identity and all that goes with it.
    3. They may not define or describe themselves according to who or what causes blood to rush to their penises.
    There are many other reasons why you have no right to project yourself and your “values” onto them. What breathtaking arrogance!
    You have no right to smear them with your own highly questionable moral reasoning and “assume” that they also are indulging themselves at the world’s filthy and poisonous trough.
    You, very clearly, are entirely pleasing yourself. It’s “all about YOU” – the very antithesis of the Gospel of the Cross.
    God (or the construct of “God” you have created and tailored to suit you own desires and tastes) “agrees” with you about your “choices”.
    You are in for a very rude awakening.

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    1. Oh dear, another angry, self-loathing, hateful, vicious “Christian”. I’m so tired of listening to the rantings and ravings of these people, and their hateful vindictive attitudes, words and actions. Go read the Gospels and learn what it means to be a Christian, please…..

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      1. I would hazard a very good guess “Fr” at 9:09am and 3:30pm, that you are pretty “hateful” and “vindictive” yourself!
        Oh yessiree. You would need no teacher when it comes to the school of being “hateful” and “vindictive”, ain’t that right now “Fr”? 😉 Added to that could be downright nasty and vicious.
        Selfish, self-centred, self-serving narcissistic rats tend to be extremely vitriolic when challenged and contradicted, or otherwise reminded of Inconvenient Truths.
        Go and learn what it means to be a Christian yourself, “Fr”.
        And while you’re at it, get over yourself. You are only a homosexual after all. You don’t deserve a medal. Except if they are being given out as a reward for always putting yourself and your own whims, desires and appetites first.

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    2. Hello 2.52 pm. If there’s any hyperbole on here today it’s yours. Your post lacks a tranquil reflection on real life and imaginative way forward plotted by the one you condemn.

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      1. 🙄

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    3. 2.52 pm doth protest too much, methinks

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    4. Many in the pews are also backdoor Deirdres.

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  13. Reading what Catholic teacher said and then the comments of the priest at 9:09 who is living a double life, calls to mind a situation where there is a priest who does not reside in his parish but lives with his male “partner” outside the parish.
    This priest is well known to be actively gay and is on the scene.
    The issue for people is not so much his being homosexual but that the man is a nasty piece of work.
    He is spiteful and mean to many of the people in the parish he is supposed to be taking care of. He has “favourites” and some “fans” but the general consensus is that he is not a good priest.
    He serves himself entirely – not the parishioners. Everything has to suit his agenda, his needs, his wants. If it doesn’t suit him then it’s non negotiable.
    I repeat, it’s not his sexual proclivities that are the problem. It’s his manner, his lack of commitment to his vocation. He’s not a true priest. He’s fulfilling a role and he’s entirely suiting himself.
    It strikes me, reading the comments of that priest at 9:09, that a priest who can subvert even God to accommodate his whims and his own will, is quite capable of anything – of putting himself first in absolutely everything.

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    1. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that for the most part people of that parish could not really care about his sexuality, or whether he lives with someone ? What they care about is other aspect of his character – namely selfishness and the way he treats other people.

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      1. Yes, the issue there isn’t really sexuality but arrogance, a dysfunctional and very selfish personality, a huge ego, dictatorial style, contempt for people and narcissistic traits.
        That being said, people are wondering how he is permitted as a priest to live outside his parish and to carry on his lifestyle. The bishop apparently knows all about it and does nothing. Very odd.

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      2. That is because narcissism is an INTRINSIC feature of homosexuality.

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    2. 3:05, there would be no need for anyone to live a double life, as you call it, if we adopted a rational approach to optional celibacy.

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      1. Doesn’t exactly excuse him from presently living a double life does it? We don’t have optional celibacy in case you haven’t noticed.

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    3. Did this priest in a former parish through a disabled man out of a parish property?

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      1. This is a guy with very serious issues. He is living a lifestyle that is completely at variance with his priestly vocation and it is an OPEN SECRET!
        The bishop knows all about it and does NOTHING!
        Everywhere he has been, he has caused deep hurt and upset to parishers. This is an individual on a real power/ego trip. He has attempted to “bar” singers and even undertakers from “his” Church.
        He is a deeply dysfunctional man and the religious congregation, to which he officially still belongs, want nothing to do with him and are glad to see the back of him.
        Whoever is responsible for allowing this man to be ordained has a lot to answer for because there were “issues” with this character before he was ordained, when he was in the novitiate.
        And now parishers have to deal with his high-handedness and contempt and arrogance.
        It is an open scandal and it will make the media yet. Just watch that space.
        He is a very troubled individual who causes trouble. He is not a fit person to be in ministry. And the bishop KNOWS ALL ABOUT IT!

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  14. @3:05pm – I think you and I are thinking of the exact same scenario and individual. It sprang immediately to mind, reading some of today’s comments – including the priest who is living a lie.

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    1. If you meditate on the scene of the woman taken in adultery, which character would you identify with, 3.53?

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  15. We are a Church on the ground but am sure we will arise from the smoke and ashes, please God.
    The Priesthood needs rationalized and new thinking brought about, when one stops and thinks it really is in bother brought about by power trip clergy.
    I’m happy in my ministry but need you’re prayers🙏.

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  16. I agree with the Catholic teacher.
    People are not particularly interested in the sexual lives of priests – unless they are predators and abusers.
    Some priests, it seems to me, can have mutually loving and enriching adult (age appropriate) relationships with men or women, which may or may not involve some sexual intimacy. Others are able to maintain the discipline of celibacy.
    I think the priests who cause problems and who are criticised are the ones who are dysfunctional in themselves, regardless of their sexual orientation.
    In short, even if celibacy was abolished and same sex relationships accepted by the Church, these problematic men would remain unsuitable for the ministry of the Church which is characterised by self-giving service – the total gift of oneself to God and His people.
    As has been said, the clergy who hurt people and alienate them are causing pain, not because they sleep with men (or women), but because they have a fundamental disposition to please themselves above all else. They are self-centred which is very opposite of what Jesus calls all Christians to be.
    Arrogance, abuse of power, entitlement, pride, contempt for people, narcissism – these are the really damning sins of some clerics.
    Now, it has to be said, that quite a few of clerics who have a strong tendency to hurt and upset people also happen to be “gay”!! Why is that I wonder? Genuine question!
    Dysfunctional, narcissistic, power hungry, contemptuous men (or women) are not fit to be Christian ministers. They cause havoc and ruin in Christian communities. That’s the real issue. Not what gender makes a penis erect. Well said too the person who observes that human beings are much more than their sexual orientations.
    As Christians, Catholics, clergy and laity, we are called to transcend ourselves. St Paul put it very graphically “to crucify the flesh with all its passions and desires”. Loving service of others is how we arrive at this. Putting others first.
    Laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
    Not constant pandering to our own wants. Not self-pity. Not self-preoccupation. Not self-preservation. Not self-love. Not self-centredness, self-importance and self-aggrandisement. Not self but other-centred.
    We are to die to ourselves, brothers and sisters. The minister the Christian community needs is a wholesome, integrated and healthy human being. Above all else, the priest must be compassionate.

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    1. I very much agree with your last two sentences, but I think we have to recognize that the priest as hero who gives himself “totally” to God and the Church is a dangerous fantasy responsible for many of our present troubles. JPII of disastrous memory was addicted to this notion, which blinded him to abusers such as Maciel. It is a hangover from an impossibly romanticized view of the Church as a perfect society, whose members battled every moment against sin, so that the smallest lapse could plunge them from a state of grace one second into destined to damnation the next. Vatican II asked us to become adults, and the institution, particularly since Humanae Vitae in 1968, almost immediately panicked and has attempted to thwart this healthy development.

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  17. @ 9:09am – you claim: “ ……I made sure that I had very deep and intense relationships with other men, and eventually with a partner, so that I could live a life that was reasonably happy, stable, emotionally grounded and at the same time a life of ministry ……”
    Just wondering, 9:09am, the other gay cleric referred to, the one not living in his parish and, like you, living with his “partner”, who seems to share your very subjective, dismissive and convenient (for yourself) interpretations of God and His Church’s teachings, he doesn’t seem very “stable” or “emotionally grounded” at all.
    He’s caused havoc in every parish that’s had the misfortune to have had him foisted upon them. Maybe he and you should get together, so that he could become more “stable” and “grounded” and less of a thoroughly nasty b*****d?
    It would be good for his “ministry”, no? He might begin by learning what ministry means.

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    1. Yes, I think “Fr” has been rumbled 😆

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    2. Piss off 7:28. Again, angry, vitriolic, bitter, twisted and. nasty. And you call yourself a Christian. More like a nasty “see you next Tuesday”…

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      1. @10:58: 😂😂😂

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      2. Piss off yourself 10:58pm, people are on to you. You’re a self-serving, nasty, bullying, lying, hypocritical creep. You are living a lie and making a mockery of everything and you will answer for it when you leave this earth.

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      3. That the best you can do, ya gobshite? You went very quiet because you were rumbled. You must think people are as stupid as you are! Where are yiz le nite? The Kremlin? Or is it The Maverick?

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      4. Always everybody else’s fault isn’t “Fr”?
        Look into the depths of the deep well of poison that is your own black heart, “Fr”.
        When it comes to “vitriolic”, you could give master classes.

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  18. Pat, the subject matter today is worthy of serious analysis, reflection and debate. Sadly, some commentators from all sides of differing opinion have made some very nasty and judgmental statements. The reality of gay clergy should not of itself be a surprise – priests are first and foremost human beings – and are therefore subject to natural human emotions as we all are. Lots of married men discover they are gay: lots of priests discover they are gay. In both groups we find those who remain faithful to their vows, there are those who secretly meet their needs, there are those who renege on their commitments and seek a new life with a new partner. Despite the “sanctity” of the original commitment through vows, can any one of us hastily condemn any person who has struggled with their sexual identity and made a decision in accordance with their new awareness? These decisions are not easy to make and it is all too easy to set the highest of ideals and expectations on people. I don’t condone abusive or deceitful behaviour nor do I condemn genuinely good people in any profession who struggle with their conscience in trying to live as truly good and human as possible while discovering their true identity. Yes, the Church sets high moral principles and ideals but fails to live up to them. Sadly, its teachings on sexuality and homosexuality in particular has impacted on many, many people in a deeply hurtful, confusing and wounding way. That’s unforgivable. That priests are human doesn’t excuse dishonest and irresponsible behaviour or reckless relationships. Celibacy, sexuality and priesthood produce some very dysfunctional people. I do not know the way forward for the Church but we must not overlook the presence of many exemplary priests who seem to have coped well and are inspiring despite the awful reality of a Church in crisis on many levels. This serious issue should not be an opportunity for horrendous, vitriolic or uncharitable/un-Christian judgments.

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    1. The real problem is not priests who are men with same sex attraction but those men who are in the priesthood for their own ends, who are dictators over people, who put their own comfort and convenience before all else, who are cold-hearted and nasty towards people, who are vindictive and vicious toward those who don’t kowtow to them. That’s were the real damage is being done. By these bastards. And quite a few of those bastards also happen to be actively “gay”.

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      1. There is a prime example of this as PP in Magherafelt.

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  19. What I see are some people trying to live lives of integrity and honesty in difficult and compromised situations. Like most people. And then, on the other hand, I see people who are just so hate filled at anything that does not accord with their own narrow and restricted view on how things should be. I know which I prefer…..

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  20. 11.11 pm So many contradictory posts from you today. Split personality disorder springs to mind.

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  21. The St Luke’s Instuite in Manchester needs exposing, it’s where all the applicants for English Seminaries are sent, the interrogation about sexual matters is intense and destructive, the end results are naturally out of proportion to the persons life let alone how normal people of any sexuality live in today’s world and ironically the priest in charge is as camp as chips!

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