Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day, a story of Catholic LGBT love from Ireland!
The Irish press was all abuzz recently with the news that two gay Irish men, one of whom is a Catholic priest tied the knot in County Clare, exercising their right to marry thanks to a national referendum in 2015.
Rev. Bernard Lynch and Billy Desmond were married in front of 120 friends and family members in a ceremony at a hotel in the Irish town of Spanish Point. The booklet for the ceremony was titled: ““Our Right to Love is our Right to Justice – Billy and Bernard.”
The two had already had a civil union over 10 years ago. According to The Irish Sun, Lynch was the world’s first Catholic priest to have a civil partnership. The couple has been together for 23 years.
Adding to the festivity of this marriage, the couple met with Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain, the president’s official residence in the week following the ceremony. According to Ireland’s Herald newspaper, the couple received a personal invitation from Higgins. Lynch described the meeting:
“President Higgins could not have been more welcoming. He put his arms around us when we first met. . . . It was the most powerful homecoming Billy and I have ever had in our lives. President Higgins couldn’t have been more gracious and hospitable. . . . We have been brought in from the cold into the hearth of the nation by a man of such heart.”
In the 1990s, Lynch had been among the first delegation to meet with a president of Ireland (at the time, Mary Robinson) at the Aras an Uachtarain.
While living in New York City in the 1980s, Lynch was a pioneer in Catholic outreach to the LGBT community, particularly to the segment of the population living with HIV/AIDS.
The Irish Times explained Lynch’s clerical status:
“Fr Lynch came out as a gay priest in the 1980s and is no longer allowed to practice on behalf of the Catholic Church, but he said he continues to consider himself an ordained Catholic priest.”
In a separate Times article, Lynch explained how coming out as a gay priest was received three decades ago:
“Fr Lynch first came out as a gay man in 1986 when he was ministering in New York City. In a press interview at the time, he said: ‘If I did lie, if I did pretend, I’d have a job. I could even have a lover on the side . . . I didn’t come out publicly until 1986. As soon as I went public, I lost my job.’ “
In a radio interview, Lynch criticized church teaching and practice in regard to LGBT people, saying that he felt the church had God’s message “very wrong”:
“He said the Catholic Church ‘does terrible damage and it is part of the destruction of gay people’s lives and how that can be Godly? How can that be Christ’s message? Who would choose to be gay? It is God given and our choice is to embrace it.’ “
He added that he hoped the wedding ceremony would help future generations of lesbian and gay people:
“Describing last Friday’s wedding as ‘wonderful,’ Fr Lynch said he hopes that the witness that Billy and himself have given through their marriage tells young people that ‘it is okay to be gay. You are part of God’s design, no matter what your Church or religion says. You are normal and what you are called to do is to love and find a person to love.’ “
One participant at the wedding ceremony told a newspaper, “The love in the room was palpable. It was a beautiful ceremony.” And another participant commented, “The love between the two was magic and oozed spirituality.”
It’s very true that all love is magical and spiritual. That’s what we celebrate today. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, February 14, 2017