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Church should accept gay people as they are

“We are the way we are, and usually for very good reasons.” I used these words during the Requiem Mass for my beloved wife, Margaret. I was reflecting on how Maggie was with people. She never was negative with others, always positive. I had come to realise, in those few days between her sudden death and her funeral, that Maggie had in fact taught me by her own example how life is to be lived.

I tried to assemble the lesson of life, the wisdom of Maggie into a short four -line statement, which said that, “Margaret always accepted people and was kind to them; Margaret always accepted people and supported them; Margaret always accepted people and was honest with them; Margaret always accepted people and challenged them when she needed to.”

Acceptance of one another is always the starting point. Without it nothing can flourish. Nothing can go well. I need to know that you consider me to be a person of worth, and that dealing with me is something worth your while. When that is established, then the four gifts of life that come into play to characterise our relationship will be kindness, practical and moral support, honesty and facing the truth, even when it is difficult, and being challenged when a wrong or unwise path is being pursued.

There is nothing negative in this way of being, in this way of interacting with one another. It promotes human flourishing and it grapples with human issues and problems.

I want to use this wisdom to try and say something good and helpful on the issue of homosexuality and the church, but before I do, I want to reflect on that great parable of Jesus, the story of the ‘Prodigal Son’.

Jesus tells a story of how two sons try to live their lives. Very differently, as it turns out. One is all obedience and duty, seriousness and repressed life. The other is wilful and wild and party loving and foolish, a lover of fun and good times, who discovers painfully that he has, perhaps, loved too well. Both sons want life. They want to be happy and to find love and fulfilment. That is our human nature. They take different paths, and one is clearly dicing with danger, and an easy target for finger-pointing. The other staid young gentleman is a model of seeming virtue, which he quickly betrays when his vicious tongue is unleashed against his foolish sibling.

An old moral theology would have stepped in by this time and logged and detailed every wrong step that the wild one takes and given it its appropriate value in the mortal sin categories. The older brother of course would have been let off, praised even for his quiet life with scarcely a venial peccadillo to tarnish his unblemished reputation.

God watches all this with an aching and a loving heart for his two boys, so Jesus depicts in his story. Let them grow together, as he says in another tale. Let them find their way. At the end of this story the wild one does indeed find his way home to his father, and we are left wondering whether the older boy can find his way our of his muddled and resentful face and savour for the first time the glorious taste of freedom.

The church behaves very much like the elder son when it looks at the lives of gay people. It does not approve. It gives out negative vibes. And yet it begins well, by being able to say that a homosexual orientation is not in itself a sin. People are the way they are, even when we do not understand all the reasons why this is so. But if it is so, then we better learn how to respect that and to accept that.

If we were then to follow the ‘Maggie’ way, we would be kind, be supportive, be honest and challenge as appropriate. One issue of honesty is to say that we do not fully understand this phenomenon, which in our lifetime has changed from being a criminal offence to being a freely chosen life style. It would be very helpful to say honestly, “I do not fully understand but I respect you and your search for love in life.”

And if we started from the basis of human dignity of each person, we would not then write or speak in any way that insulted or offended others, even as we may disagree in our views or our limited understandings of human life.

The natural law starting point is contentious anyway. The laws of nature are not the same as the natural law. Natural Law is our human reading of our nature from the evidence we see, and that includes the evidence of homosexual orientation. We read and interpret differently. We see life differently. We can try and show one another our visions and our readings, but we cannot persuade if people are not persuaded.

Let the starting point of human dignity be our starting point. If we treat one another with due honour and respect, there is every chance that we will discuss and argue well. We may live in different ways, and we all struggle to find our way through life, and we are the way we are for good reasons usually.

Let us help one another to find our way to the father who loves us all.

Brian Fahy, an English man of Irish parentage, was a religious and priest who married, but has been recently widowed.


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  1. Was God dozing when he created gays? Either way we have a problem: with God if he was; or with those who don’t accept gays if he wasn’t.

    Funny old world.

  2. It is to the credit of many of our gay fellow Church members that they have continued to be faithful to a Church which sends out so many contradictory messages about them on so many levels. I do not know how I, as a person imaged in God’s likeness, would react to being ‘assessed’ by my Church as living in a ‘disordered’ condition and unable to express my genuine, faithful and unconditional love for another person without that love being determined to be ‘intrinsically evil’. As a priest, I for one am grateful for the witness given by many, painful though it has been for a significant number of our brethren. I continue to pray for a greater inclusiveness in our parish communities that sends out a strong message of welcome to Catholics within the gay community.

  3. Thank you, Brian. A truly Christian statement by the spouse of a true Christian. A perceptive, and moving, commentary on ‘The Lost Boy’ (Prodigal Son). Apt for tomorrow’s liturgy (Fourth Sunday of Lent).

    Wilfrid Harrington, o.P.

  4. For a good woman. says:

    Your lovely wife was, is, a wise, compassionate and loving woman, Brian – bringing God’s love to this world. Still she seeks to do it through you.

    The ‘Church’ needs to stop doing what’s it’s done since Calvary – scapegoating, and learn what it means to love. Maybe when they know what loving really might be – they will be less likely to condemn it in any of its myriad manifestations. Love begets love.

    Mary Griffith: (Another wife, and mother of a child lost to suicide because of the fear and ignorance of those who speak in God’s name.)

    “Homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals are doomed to spend eternity in hell. If they wanted to change, they could be healed of their evil ways. If they would turn away from temptation, they could be normal again. If only they would try and try harder if it doesn’t work. These are all the things I said to my son Bobby when I found out he was gay. When he told me he was homosexual my world fell apart. I did everything I could to cure him of his sickness. Eight months ago my son jumped off a bridge and killed himself. I deeply regret my lack of knowledge about gay and lesbian people. I see that everything I was taught and told was bigotry and de-humanizing slander. If I had investigated beyond what I was told, if I had just listened to my son when he poured his heart out to me I would not be standing here today with you filled with regret. I believe that God was pleased with Bobby’s kind and loving spirit. In God’s eyes kindness and love are what it’s all about. I didn’t know that each time I echoed eternal damnation for gay people. Each time I referred to Bobby as sick and perverted and a danger to our children. His self esteem and sense of worth were being destroyed. And finally his spirit broke beyond repair. It was not God’s will that Bobby climbed over the side of a freeway overpass and jumped directly into the path of an eighteen-wheel truck which killed him instantly. Bobby’s death was the direct result of his parent’s ignorance and fear of the word gay. He wanted to be a writer. His hopes and dreams should not have been taken from him but they were.

    There are children, like Bobby, sitting in your congregations. Unknown to you they will be listening as you echo “amen”….. and that will soon silence their prayers.
    Their prayers to God for understanding and acceptance and for your love. But your hatred and fear and ignorance of the word gay, will silence those prayers. So, before you echo “amen” in your home, and place of worship.Think. Think, and remember…… a child is listening.”

    Suicide rates amongst gay teens are some of the highest in the world. That could be YOUR child, grandchild – son or daughter.


  5. Tony Butler says:

    ” This Is Who I Am” by poet Shane Koyczan.
    Ted.Com. March 9th.2013

  6. For a Good Woman comments that “Suicide rates among gay teens are amongst the highest in the world”. Is this a reference to suicide in Ireland? I dont have detailed statistics BUT
    As far as I know, the suicide rate among gay teens is higher than average in societies like California and Sweden where you could probably be prosecuted for critising a homosexual lifestyle.
    The suicide rate in Ireland has been on the increase for decades – among teenagers and everybody else. Is this due to the influence of the Catholic Church? The Church has been under relentless attack during the same decades and in 1994 the Fianna Fail government fell because of bogus allegations of a conspiracy between Cardinal Daly and the Attorney General to prevent the extradition of Fr Brendan Smyth.
    Blaming the Catholic Church for gay teenage suicide requires some kind of proof. Where is the proof? Would it be acceptable to blame Jews or Protestants on the basis of the kind of “evidence” presented here?

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