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Human Rights For Homosexuals
The Irish Times - Wednesday, July 15, 1998

Sir, - I was saddened by the unkind and unenlightened letter from Mr Rory O'Hanlon (July 3rd). I don't wish to get involved in a debate with Mr O'Hanlon about which philosopher or expert said what. But I did want to say that I could not find even a hint of the compassion of Christ in his long negative epistle.

Since I entered the seminary 28 years ago to begin my priestly studies, I have become increasingly appalled at how many in the Church, bishops, priests and laity, have become like the Pharisees of Christ's day - putting Canon Law and man-made teachings before the teachings of Christ. Of them, the normally gentle Jesus was scathing: "They lay heavy burdens on men's shoulders but they will not move a finger to lift them".

St Paul and all the other human authors in the Bible let their prejudices, including their homophobia, show in their literary style. But the Divine Christ had little to say on sexuality in general and absolutely nothing to say about homosexuality! All Jesus begged from us continually was love, mercy and compassion. And I love the way Jesus could physically and emotionally express His love for both Mary of Magdala with whom He practised embracing and John (the disciple He loved) with whom He lay at the Last Supper.

After nearly half a century of being oppressed by catechisms and canon laws, I have now achieved "the freedom of the sons (and daughters) of God" and now I simply ask myself: "What would Jesus do in these circumstances?" and then I go and do it. Jesus would give His blessing to gay people and therefore I too must minister to them and ask God to bless them.

On the eve of the millennium, I apologise to the Irish gay, lesbian and transgender community for the way my Church and my priestly caste has hurt and rejected them down the years. I also apologise to them for the part that Church and priesthood had in the creation of the O'Hanlon mindset. And above all else I want them to know that the real God - the God of compassion loves, accepts and blesses them and their love. –

Yours, etc.,

Bishop Pat Buckley,
Co Antrim.