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Towards a church apology for gay prejudice

  • 03 March 2008
Some years ago I spent a year in Australia and presided at the Acceptance Mass from time to time. Acceptance is the Sydney gay Catholic caucus. Hence my interest in the 100Revs Statement of Apology to the gay community, the courageous initiative of Baptist pastor Mike Hercock and other Christian clergy. The Statement is carefully worded, and in line with Catholic teaching. It recognises that churches have not been places of welcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.

Indeed churches have often been profoundly unloving toward the GLBT community. Many Catholics and other Christians long for their churches to be places of welcome for all people and commit themselves to pursuing this goal.

The 100 Revs Statement adds that signatories are not taking a biblical position on gay and lesbian relationships. It is a pastoral document, rather than a teaching one. It brings together clergy who have very different views on the issue of gay relationships, who nonetheless recognise the value of a church apology to gay people.

For some years, I have been associated with the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic parish in the Castro district of San Francisco. Approximately three quarters of the parishioners are openly gay. One — Patrick Mulcahey — spoke to me about his return to the Catholic Church, at Most Holy Redeemer, some years ago. He described the experience as 'what any Catholic would feel after 20-odd years away'.

'It was the church itself, in all its majesty and mystery and ordinary goodness; in the sturdy beauty of a well-wrought liturgy ... for the first time since I was old enough to understand myself as a sexual being, it was a church that wasn't pushing me away.'

He suggested that any Catholic who'd been on a desert island for 20 years would have felt the same thing upon walking into a church where a decent priest was saying mass. But it was something he believed he could not have felt in any other church.

'People don't understand why gay men and lesbians migrate to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, cities all around the world that have flourishing gay ghettos,' he said. 'To be with 'others of our own kind?' To have wild sex and go to great parties?

'The truth is, mostly we come here to forget about being gay, to just drop that burden — to just be human. For us,