Bishop Pat Buckley with Susan Elliot and Jeanette McGeown after their wedding ceremony at which he officiated: ‘I’ve been battling against the Catholic church for 25 years’
Bishop Pat Buckley is to marry his Filipino boyfriend next week, becoming the first Catholic cleric in the world to enter a civil partnership and continue practising as a priest.
Buckley said he was deeply in love with chef Eduardo Yango (32) and saw no contradiction between their partnership and his faith. The priest, who is originally from Tullamore, Co Offaly, now conducts an independent ministry in Co Antrim.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Tribune, Buckley (57) said his marriage in Larne would infuriate the Catholic hierarchy. “There is no conflict between my love for Eduardo and my faith. Both are equally important to me.
“But this is groundbreaking territory. Other priests have married women or entered civil partnerships with men. But they’d all left the church beforehand – none continued with their ministry.
“Eduardo and I have the courage to nail our colours to the mast and hopefully we will encourage thousands of others to do the same. I’ve been battling against the Catholic church as an institution for 25 years. I’m old and wise enough not to lose sleep worrying over what the hierarchy thinks.”
Buckley met Yango three years ago when the Filipino, who has worked on cruise ships, was visiting Ireland. “It wasn’t a wild, love-at-first-sight thing. It’s a meeting of soulmates and companionship. It’s rooted in deeper things than physical attraction alone,” he said.
The couple will marry at a civil ceremony in Larne on Monday week. Buckley said that, apart from two witnesses, the wedding would be private, but the newlyweds would throw a party later.
“We will have family, friends and members of my congregation around for a night of Filipino celebration. Eduardo will cook a Filipino meal and we will enjoy some liquor of course.”
Buckley said his family were “100%” behind him, but Eduardo’s family didn’t know about their partnership. “The Philippines is where Ireland was decades ago – homosexuality is seen as virtually requiring execution,” Buckley said.
While Buckley spoke exclusively to the Sunday Tribune, other media have been referred to Max Clifford, who is handling publicity surrounding the nuptials. Ordained in Waterford, Buckley first clashed with the hierarchy while based on Belfast’s Falls Road when he challenged the late Cardinal Cathal Daly to “live with the poor as would Christ”.
Further clashes with Daly, after Buckley was transferred to Larne, led to the priest’s suspension, but he refused to leave the oratory from where he still conducts his ministry to “the disaffected and alienated”, saying mass twice a week. He was ordained bishop in 1998 by independent Catholic bishop Michael Cox.
When asked how his marriage would be viewed in loyalist Larne, Buckley said: “Larne is 83% Protestant, and has a fair share of Free Presbyterians. But I’ve lived here 25 years and served on the council, so I suppose I’ve become part of the furniture.
“The Iris Robinson story shows that too many people in the North pretend to be something they’re not and lead hidden lives. If what Eduardo and I are doing moves the North a little bit further towards respecting tolerance and diversity, it will be a step in the right direction.”