On St. Valentine’s Day: A Romantic Story of Gay Love Fulfilled

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 at their wedding in Ireland

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:

Lynch, President Michael Higgins, and Desmond

“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

8 replies
  1. Edward Poliandro
    Edward Poliandro says:

    Thank you for this and for all you do for us and our Church , Francis. See you in April! Happy Valentines Day! Ed

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Wonderful story. Congratulations to them both. And, he should consider himself ordained and he should continue to function as a priest on his own. What can the church possibly do to him? This is how it starts. Just keep going forward.

  3. Fr Anthony
    Fr Anthony says:

    I remember Bernard Lynch giving powerful homilies at St Francis Xavier Church at Dignity Masses in the 80s. He stood up for real Catholic values at a very prejudicisl time that still exists in the Church. Ad multos annos.

  4. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:

    “Who would choose to be gay¿ It is God given and our choice is to embrace it.”

    I experienced my personal melt down in 1960. I was 23 years old and a sophomore in dental school. (I had become aware that I was gay at age 12 and in sixth grade.) In the 1960’s coming out to parents or friends was not an option. Yet I knew that I was in crises mode, and that I needed professional help. I told my mom that I had a severe social psychological issue and that I needed to see a professional counselor.

    I remember going to the initial appointment with a psychiatrists as if it were yesterday. Telling him that I was gay was the most difficult thing that I had ever done. After that initial evaluation, the psychiatrists suggested that I would best be served by consultation with his associate who was a psychologist. And so began a three year process of finding out who I was. My psychologist used a method called client centered therapy. It was all about what made Don tick. I had no idea of how fortunate I was to have found a progressive doctor like him in the 1960’s.

    I also remember well the last appointment that I had with Dr. Olivera. I said, “It seems that no matter how this comes out, if I see an attractive man its going to turn my head.” The doctor confirmed my observation. My response was, “If that’s the case then I’m going to be the best gay person that I can be,” and I walked out of the office. I’m sure that it was no coincidence that Dr. Olivera received his formation at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit university.

    I am now 80 years old, and as look back on my life, those three years of therapy turned out to be a pivotal experience in my life. It gave me the freedom to be myself. I gave myself the permission to come out within. Although, society at that time and my quest to experience a military career as a dentist in the US Navy required that I remain in the closet until the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Tuesday 20-October-2011.


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