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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 15:29 GMT
Viewpoint: Gay priest on gay guidelines
Father Bernard Lynch is an openly gay Roman Catholic priest who works with HIV/Aids sufferers in London. He spoke to the BBC news website about his own experience of being gay within the Church, and the impact the new Vatican guidelines will have.

Of course I have had a hard time being gay within the Roman Catholic Church. But the big religious orders - the Dominicans, the Franciscans - have long protected their members against Rome, and mine - African Missions - has stood up for me.

Consecration of a priest
Inevitably it will stop some people from joining the priesthood - people for whom sexual integrity is important. And at the same time, it will unfortunately attract people who are not mature enough to accept themselves

I've been active in the issue of homosexuality and the Church for 30 years. We always thought things would get worse before they got better - and things have got worse. These guidelines represent an extraordinarily regressive step.

In encouraging people to distance themselves from their homosexuality - to reject it - you are encouraging dishonesty within the self. If you do not accept yourself as you are made by God then in what sense are you being true to yourself or the Church you serve?

It will result in great psychological dissidence which is not just destructive to the individual - but also, ultimately, to the Church.

Inevitably it will stop some people from joining the priesthood - people for whom sexual integrity is important. And at the same time, it will unfortunately attract people who are not mature enough to accept themselves.

At one level it's a straightforward matter of social justice. But it's also about serving society. What message are we sending - particularly to young gay people? We are saying that they are not equally loved.

The Pope is seen as a great moral authority - his influence stretches even to those who do not believe. So when this kind of statement is made, it does affect the bullying in schools, the queer bashing in the streets. What I find utterly sickening is the fact that this document has been drawn up in response to the paedophilia scandal in the US. It's outrageous to tie the two together - there is no link.

And you can't say if you don't like us - leave. Over the centuries the Church has scapegoated many people - Jews, women. The people within any organisation have a moral duty to challenge what they believe to be unjust.

But these are difficult times. There has been a shift towards a more fundamentalist dialectic. In an age of uncertainty, in an era of relativism, the Church has tried to pull up the drawbridge, to tell the world it has the truth. But the rights and wrongs aren't always right and wrong. The Church has to change - it has to humanise. At the moment, I don't see that happening.



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