'soul murder' | 

Gay Irish priest says Pope Benedict’s homophobic teachings had ‘devastating consequences’

‘He labelled us disordered in our nature and evil in our love’

The body of former Pope Benedict XVI lies in St Peter's Basilica ahead of the funeral. Photo: Reuters© via REUTERS

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A gay Irish priest has spoken out about the late Pope Benedict XVI and the “devastating consequences of his teachings”.

Bernárd Lynch published a letter via We Are Church Ireland in which he said Benedict had a “hostility” to LGBTQ+ people and “most significantly to those living and dying with HIV/AIDS”.

Pope Benedict XVI was head of the Catholic Church from April 19, 2005 until he became the first pope to resign in 600 years, on February 28, 2013.

Benedict died on Saturday, December 31, aged 95.

Ahead of his burial yesterday, Fr Lynch, who is known for his work with the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV/AIDS, said Benedict, at the height of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, “forced our communities out of Catholic Church property all over the world”.

“He labelled us disordered in our nature and evil in our love,” Lynch said of a letter Benedict wrote in October 1986 when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger.

That letter was “misleadingly titled” The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, and was published with the blessing of then-pope John Paul II, Lynch said.

He said the letter led to people with HIV being “blamed by the church for their disease” and as a result “many ‘good Catholics’ took their own lives”.

Lynch said such actions had wider impacts on those advocating for legal work and housing protection for people living with HIV/AIDS who were told their efforts “would be met with violence”, he said.

Lynch said it ultimately led to violent attacks and also came as justification for Christian families that were rejecting their “dying gay sons”.

The church’s strict policy against condoms “caused untold numbers of deaths and vast needless suffering” too, he said.

“After what I can only call the soul murder of so many sisters and brothers, I pray Benedict rests in the arms of our loving and forgiving God.”

In the letter, he also condemned Benedict for “his irresponsible way of dealing with the sexual abuse crisis ravaging the church”, among other issues.

Lynch has previously spoken out against Benedict who, as pope, visited the UK in September 2010

Lynch joined a number speakers at a protest at Hyde Park Corner, in London, against the state funding of the trip, as well as Benedict’s teachings on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

Fr. Bernárd Lynch was born in Ennis, Co Clare in 1947 and was ordained a priest in 1971. He went on to dedicate his life to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in New York and London.

He rose to prominence during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and worked with communities directly affected by the crisis.

Lynch, who is now 75, also successfully campaigned for the introduction of non-discriminatory legislation in New York following the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic.

Lynch became the first Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership in 2006. He later married his long-term boyfriend Billy Desmond in 2017 following Ireland's vote to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015.


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