Homosexuals need the pastoral care of the Church
The tragic death by suicide of Alan Turing was recently mentioned on this site. He was a genius of a man. I doubt if the coroner of the day came to a verdict of ‘Death by reason of Sexual Identity’. A recent case of suicide that I am acquainted with was a young gay man taking an overdose of medication as a result of a previous physical attack, gay-bashing. Neither in this recent case or other similar cases will a verdict be pronounced in court: ‘Death by reason of Sexual Identity’.
In a recent article in the Irish Times, colomist Kay Sheehy writes of the appalling suicide and attempted suicide rate among gay men in Ireland (Irish Times August 3rd.2013). Research that I conducted some years ago – as yet incomplete – showed that in a national survey in which I interviewed 76 gay men , aged from 18 to 80 years of age, 35% contemplated suicide with no subsequent action while 21% attempted suicide, It also showed that in the sample (76 men), the incidence of depression was high: 62%.
There is need for pastoral care for homosexual men and women within our church communities. As far as I am aware, the late Bishop Michael Murphy (Cork & Ross) was the only Bishop in Ireland to appoint one of his priests to have pastoral responsibility in this area. The late Bishop assured the gay men that he met with that in the event of their not succeeding to find a safe secure meeting place for meetings, discussions and yes, liturgy, he assured then that he would make a diocesean /parish premises for them.
Such a pastoral ministry is needed within the Church in Ireland now. The faith/sacramental life of gay men requires on-going pastoral care. I believe that to match church teaching with the reality of people’s lives requires an understanding of complex truth, knowledge of human development and a sound theology that is not abstract nor isolated from understanding human beings in real life faith living. I believe that it could result in many of us, gay/non-gay, bisexual, transgendered, meeting the real Christ of our lives, meeting ‘Jesus Again For The First Time’, to use the title of Marcus J. Borgs’ book (Harper One, 1995, USA).
I have blessed civil unions between male couples and this may put me outside the pale for many. They have been faith-filled happy occasions. In most cases, parents – and indeed grandparents -have been present with other family members and friends, always respecting those family and friends who choose not to attend. I have no gay agenda in contributing this to our web page, however I do have a real concern for our brothers and sisters in faith, our brothers and sisters in baptism, ordained and laity who because of their sexual identity suffer, depression, alienation and suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide itself. To all of them, may we say, “you belong, we welcome you.”
A prayer I always use for those in love: “May your thoughts be gentle, your touch be gentle and the night always be a comfort to you both.” Amen.