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The wild Catholic career of the Rev. Bernard Lynch

The wild Catholic career of the Rev. Bernard Lynch

Peter Stanford of The Independent profiles the Rev. Bernard Lynch, whose career is the Roman Catholic Church as a whistleblower, advocate for LGBT people, and, as it turns out, married gay man, would be dismissed as implausible were it proposed as fiction.

In the 1980s, in New York, he was one of the first priests to support those dying from Aids-related illnesses. It was a ministry that earned him awards from secular authorities – including New York’s mayor – but hostility from the Vatican, which was then describing the Aids pandemic as the “natural result of unnatural acts”. It would have preferred he kept well away.

The tension between Lynch and his superiors ended up involving the FBI – called in by the local cardinal to investigate him – and a trial on trumped-up charges in 1989. “It was soul murder,” Lynch recalls, “and it will follow me to my grave.” The judge dismissed the charges out of hand in what became a cause célèbre for progressively minded Catholics at the time, later the subject of a best-selling book and several TV documentaries.

To escape the furore, Lynch came to live in England in 1992. Today, his ministry includes counselling gay priests who are in the closet in a Church that describes homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered”. Yet he claims that as many as 50 per cent of Catholic clergy are gay. It is an example of how this 64-year-old has continued to point things out that discomfort his ecclesiastical superiors. … Yet somehow, he has always managed to stay within the fold of his Catholic religious order. Until now.

He is about to publish a very intimate memoir, If it Wasn’t Love: Sex, Death and God, in which he will go public for the first time on his own 14-year gay marriage. With impeccable timing, the book’s appearance coincides with the Catholic Church in Britain mobilising in opposition to the Coalition Government’s proposals to legalise gay marriage. The clash, he insists, is accidental. He then adds, almost in a celebratory tone, “but there is a God”.

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