After 26 Year Fast, Gay Abuse Survivor Told by Pope Francis to “Take Communion”
Pope Francis has told a gay survivor of clergy sexual abuse to “take Communion” after the survivor had refrained from doing so for 26 years, in part because of his sexual orientation.
Pope Francis made his invitation to Chris Speight during a meeting with eight survivors who were abused at a U.K. junior seminary run by the Comboni Missionaries. The Tablet reported:
“The former students of the junior seminary have provided extensive evidence about the sexual and spiritual abuse that took place in Mirfield [the seminary], and have also spoken about the devastating long-term toll it has had on their lives. One of the group, Chris Speight, handed a letter about his life story to the Pope explaining that he is a divorced gay man who was previously married to a woman. Various priests, he said, had told him that he could not receive communion because he was divorced and because he was gay. As a result, for 26 years he didn’t go to Church.
“‘The last two words that Pope Francis said to me as he shook my hand was “take communion”,’ Mr Speight said with tears in his eyes.”
The pope was “visibly shaken and upset” during the ninety minute meeting at the Vatican, and twice asked for forgiveness on behalf of himself and the church, according to a spokesperson of the Comboni Survivors Group, Bede Mullen. The Tablet explained the meaning of the meeting in these terms, which was held at the Apostolic Palace usually reserved for meetings with heads of state:
“[The survivors’] meeting with Francis is a landmark moment for the group in their years-long struggle to have their suffering recognised by the Comboni Order who have continually refused to meet with the survivors or officially acknowledge that abuse took place. The 13 June meeting is the first one between this Pope and a group of UK and Irish abuse victims.
“Mr Mullen added that the Pope said he would personally ring the leader of the Comboni order instructing them to meet the group and that any meeting should take place without lawyers present.”
Present at the meeting were two English bishops, Bishop Marcus Stock of Leeds and Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, a central figure in the V
atican’s response to clergy sexual abuse, “played a crucial role in brokering the meeting with Francis,” The Tablet reported. Both Nichols and Scicluna have strongly positive records on LGBTQ issues.
LGBTQ people worldwide know well that receiving Communion is not always a given. Here in the U.S., some new diocesan policies prohibit transgender people from receiving Communion. Some priests erroneously claim LGBTQ people’s identities preclude them from doing so, as in the case of Chris Speight.
With his suggestion to Speight, Pope Francis explicitly repudiates such prohibitions. Francis’ previous comments indicate that he has never denied Communion to anyone. For any Catholic told their sexual and/or gender identity is a barrier to the Eucharist,listen to the pope now and take Communion if you wish to do so.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, June 15, 2022
I have tears in my eyes, too.
These are comforting words. I hope the recent negative outbursts from bishops will be retracted.
It warmed my heart to learn of Pope Francis who invite Me. Speight to receive the Eucharist once again. I was angry to think that a priest would deny a “separated Catholic” of communion, especially one that should never have been encouraged (by societal standards of the time) to marry someone of the opposite sex, when he was gay. It reveals the prejudice that existed and still exists among certain clergy. I’m grateful for the Holy Father’s stance and his pastoral intuition. I also think that it’s time for LGBTQ+ members of the Roman Catholic clergy to self identify as such, and have a voice among the clergy and the laity.