Via Integra

Fr Mark's progressive Anglo-Catholic take on European Christianity

  • This is my collection of material about the current state of the churches in Europe. I am interested in looking at how they are dealing with the pressing issues of our time: the issues of gay people and women in ministry/ leadership are particularly pressing at the moment, as is the area of declining church attendance.

    I would like to see how Europe's traditional religious institutions are coping with the new Europe currently being forged, in which public opinion and ethical attitudes are becoming inceasingly pan-European, and are evidently presenting a series of strong challenges for the churches.

Ireland – the gay issue

Posted by Fr Mark on August 11, 2009

100px-Coat_of_arms_of_Ireland_svgAn Irish Roman Catholic priest conducts same-sex blessings



From Sligo Post, 15.07.09

“40 per cent of priests are gay”

Jul 15th, 2009


Meghan Volang

IN an interview with Ocean FM presenter Paul Scanlon a controversial priest said that 30 to 40 per cent priests are “not only gay but actively gay.”
Bishop Pat Buckley was banished from the diocese by Cardinal Cahill Daly in 1986 and has since maintained his own independent ministry from Larne.
He has performed a lot of weddings in Sligo and spends time in the county.
He was ordained a catholic priest in 1976 in Waterford and ordained a Bishop by Independent Catholic Bishop Michael Cox on 19 may 1998.
In the interview conducted by Ocean presenter Paul Scanlon, he said that in relation to the Christian Brothers’ scandal, God was knocking the church back to its four walls.
“The church needs many changes. There should be married priests and women priests, then we would have a much less abusive church and a more healthy life.”
He also said that married priests would have a better understanding of the needs and problems of married life and would relate with their parishioners much better. Women, he said would also be a great influence to the church.
Bishop Pat stated that there were at least 30 to 40 per cent gay and actively gay priests.
Fr Pat recalled vividly the time when one of the curates of Dublin Archdiocese suddenly dropped dead in a gay sauna in Dublin, and two other priests were there to give him his last rights.
“I knew of another priest who frequented a gay society and the next day, would admonish homosexuality.”
Bishop Pat, himself admitted in 1999 that he was openly gay and said that he experienced a 93 per cent acceptance versus a much smaller number of rejection when he came ‘out of the closet’.
“I thought I would experience a 50/50 per cent acceptance/rejection and was surprised when people supported me. It’s important to be open with people.”
Bishop Pat is also highly popular with celebrities who seek him out to do weddings and is actively involved in the gay and lesbian community in both Ireland and Britain. He conducts same-sex blessings and mixed wedding celebrations also.
Bishop Pat has written several books including Being Irish, the Border, A sexual life, a spiritual life and many others.




From Bishop Pat Buckley’s own website:


Gay & Lesbian Community

Bishop Pat has a long established ministry to the gay and lesbian community. He believes that homosexuality is not sinful in the context of love. Sex is only sinful when it is about use or abuse.

Bishop Pat counsels the gay and lesbian community and holds church services and seminars for them. He also blesses gay and lesbian unions.

For further details please contact the Larne office

Gay & Lesbian Spirituality/Mortality

Bishop Pat Buckley 2002
  1. Most people are spiritual and need a spirituality of some kind.
  2. There is a huge difference between being “religious” and being “spiritual
  3. Some aspects of religion are good. Other aspects are either bad or evil.
  4. God is God and no one or no institution owns or has a monopoly on God.
  5. God is not the Church and the Church is not God.
  6. God is not the clergy and the clergy are not God.
  7. Sometimes the Church and the clergy speak God’s Word. At other times they deny and contradict God’s Word and intentions.
  8. The Bible and other Scriptures are not to be interpreted literally. They need to be interpreted. A golden shaft of God’s truth permeates the Bible but the Bible also contains the ignorances, prejudices and styles of fallible men. As someone has wisely said: “The Bible is the Word of God in the words of men”.
  9. The Bible does not address, much less condemn, the phenomenon of two same sex people living a life of committed love together. Men and women hadn’t gotten around this notion 2000 / 5000 years ago. The Bible condemns things like the sodomising of a defeated military enemy, male temple prostitution and straight men having sex together.
  10. The Gospel of St John says that wherever there is love there is God. This means that God is both present and revealed in same sex love.
  11. The body is as good as the soul. It is created by God. We Christians believe in the resurrection of the body as well as the soul. So the body must be good if its fit to exist in eternity for ever.
  12. Sex is good. It is God’s gift. It even allows men and women to share in God’s role as Creator. That’s why we pro-create.
  13. Sex is only wrong, immoral and sinful if it hurts someone or if it is used to use or abuse.
  14. A sexually active life (in love) is as pleasing in God’s sight as celibacy / virginity.
  15. The sexually active life is for the majority. Only a minority are called and gifted to virginity.
  16. Jesus may very well have had an active sex life – either straight or gay All we Christians believe is that he didn’t, as God’s Son, sin. So if Jesus used his sexual powers He used them in love.
  17. HIV and AIDS is a human illness like any other. It is not God’s wrath. What kind of God would wage biological warfare on His children ?
  18. Gay and lesbian people will be as welcome in Heaven as all others.
  19. As spiritual people gay and lesbian people are invited to have faith and to pray and worship as they see fit.
  20. Homophobia is an evil. It is both immoral and sinful.
  21. Gay and lesbian people should develop and distribute their own spirituality, theology and worship


THE MAKING OF AN HONEST MAN – Bishop Pat Buckley 2002

I deliberately came out as a gay man on the front page of the Irish edition of the News of the World with the sensational heading: “WHY I WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW I’M GAY”. Inside I told my whole story in word and in picture over a four page spread. From the public I expected equal shares of acceptance and rejection.

Five days later I had a very big wedding in the West of Ireland attended by 200 Catholic guests. I was very nervous. This would be the first public Mass I would say as a known gay priest. I thought I might experience strong rejection and I was afraid.

As I waited, fully vested, for the bride to arrive a huge elderly man with a large red face walked right up to me. “I’m the bride’s grandfather he declared. “Oh God”, I thought, “this is it, brace yourself”. He put out a huge hand, hard and swollen from decades of farming, squeezed my hand, looked me straight in the eyes and said: “It’s nice to meet an honest man”. He went into take his place in church and left me standing with big silver tears of gratitude rolling down my flushed cheeks. It was then I realised that I had made myself “an honest man”. Since that time 97% of the response I have received has been positive. Only 3% has been “rejection” and it has always emanated from macho, mindless, ignorant and possibly sexually insecure homophobes.

What prompted me to “come out” in my mid 40s having kept my dark secret for so long ? There were two reasons.

First of all I was doing more and more work with minority communities within the Church – divorced people, mixed marriage couples, priests with sexual partners and the gay community. I was always very good with these people and my views and actions were always compassionate, liberal and radical. But when it came to the gay community especially I felt that I was not been 100% honest and that I should be nailing my colours to the mast by saying: “Look, I really understand you, I’m gay too”. So I had a great need to go the whole hog and be totally open and honest. I had also completed five or six years of therapy and counselling and had come to terms with my sexuality and had integrated it into my personal and indeed priestly life. So it was time to be honest and I was ready.

Secondly and sadly, a special friend of mine, whom I loved very dearly, had started going around the tabloid newspapers in Ireland telling reporters and editors that I was gay and offering to sell me down the river. I had always said that I would never allow myself to be blackmailed in anyway. So, I took the bull by the horns, talked to my News of the World editor (I do a weekly column for the paper) and told my own story. The night before the story appeared I spent the night alone in a Dublin hotel with a journalistic “body guard” in the next room. I never slept. It was one of the loneliest nights of my life.

The article appeared. Other articles followed. Television and radio interviews ensued. And I discovered that like everything else it was a nine day wonder ! But at the end of it all I was a honest man and I was free from a secret that had been a huge burden for me for 30 years.

I was very concerned about my mother and how she might react. She was nearly 70. So the week before I came out I brought her to her favourite place – Lourdes in France. I brought her out for lunch one day and spilled the beans to her. She was neither surprised, shocked or annoyed. Our mothers know us better than we know ourselves. After lunch she quite happily went off to get her weekly hair do.

My mother is a bit nervous travelling. So we had a family room in the Lourdes hotel that I shared with her. That night we were in bed with the lights out and she said: “Pat are you asleep”. I answered: “No”. “I’m just lying here thinking about our chat today”, she said, “and I thought I could never love you more than I did. But tonight I do”. That night I slept like a log even if my pillow was slightly damp.

As I have said I did have some trouble and some rejection. On Christmas Eve a couple of years ago a local lout in the town of Larne where I live called me names in the street as I went about my Christmas shopping. He was an ex convict, a big guy – a steroidal body builder type and was a bouncer at a pub door. I crossed the street and eyeballed him. I said: “I will not take abuse from anyone on the streets of my own town and I will especially not take it from a monkey like you”. He smacked me one and sent me crashing against the pub menu board. I sent for the police. His mates said he never touched me. Everyone in the street who witnessed the assault evaporated. There was no conviction but he got a caution. Nowadays he drops his head when we meet.

I had a similar experience in a Belfast hotel on the previous Christmas. An 18 year old drunken lout gave me a lot of verbal abuse. The hotel manager refused to put him out! I sent for the police. He was made apologise to me and then the police took him home to his mammy and daddy and told him what he had done.

On another occasion I got an obscene telephone call from a sixth former at a posh Catholic boy’s grammar school. He was trying to impress his mates at lunch time. The stupid fool did not withhold his number. That evening the police called at his upper middle class home. He was duly embarrassed and reprimanded. I received an apology.

I will always stand up against homophobic abuse. I will do this on my own behalf but especially on behalf of all the gay people who have suffered in the past and who still suffer but who are not in a position to stand up for themselves.

Thankfully we live in more intelligent and tolerant times. Please God in the future the gay community will be even more integrated, in fact fully integrated into society at large. It will be good to see gay unions being fully and legally recognised. It will be good to see gay couples fostering and adopting children.

I also hope that more Catholic priests and bishops will come out. At least 40% of Catholic clergy are gay and actively gay. As an “insider” I can stand over that figure. And I also hope that a Church in which so many of the clergy are gay will stop condemning the gay lifestyle and just recognise the gay orientation and gay love as a gift of God’s wonderful diversity. What would Jesus say to gay people if He returned ? He would simply say to gay people what He says to straight people: “Love one another as I have loved you”.

I am not a gay priest or a gay man. I am a man and a priest who happens to be gay. There’s more to all of us than just our sexual orientation, even though our sexuality is at the heart of who we are.

In ways I wish I had come out years ago. But then, I wasn’t ready. But today I feel I am living an open and an honest life. The Jesus mentioned above said: “The truth will set you free”.

I am free !


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