Over a billion people - a sixth of the world's population - are Catholic. As we run up to the most religious time of the year, we ask closet priests to ageing Popes: gluttons for Papal punishment, Quest and the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement's RC Caucus to 'fess up to OutUK's own ex-altar boy Adrian Gillan.
OutUK: Are you surprised some LGBTs - and not just the militant humanists - seem at best bemused that queers should wish to be Catholic?

Mark Dowd, Quest: Humanists and secular types come to this with an agenda and it is not surprising that they leap on this predicament with glee. Quest's view is that there is no need to choose between being a practising Catholic and a fully self-accepting LGBT person.

Mike Egan, LGCM RC Caucus: I'm not at all surprised because I hear it quite often. In fact this tends not to come from "militant LGBT humanists" as several of these are ex Catholic themselves, and so it wouldn't amaze them to think that anyone can "wish to be Catholic" - it runs far deeper than that.

OutUK: How do you "square the seeming circle" of Catholicism and Papal Dicta and being gay?
Mark: Church teaching in this area is relatively recent in terms of official documentation. It certainly does not enjoy the status of being rendered "infallible" - very few teachings on dogma and morals do. The Church - qua "family of God on earth" - is in a painful, soul searching phase of trying to understand and come to terms with an openness which frightens and challenges it. We are part of that process.
Mike: After much thought and prayer, I cannot in conscience agree with the official teaching of the Church on homosexuality. Apart from the Creed spoken at every Mass, very little Church teaching is definitive - think of the changes in the teaching on slavery or lending money, for example - and a Catholic is expected to follow his or her conscience in cases of genuine disagreement with teaching.

OutUK: What are the main reasons given by the Vatican & Co for condemning homosexuality?
Mark: Any sexual expression that cannot claim to have the potential to "the openness of new life" is considered flawed and against nature. The key 1986 Vatican document also takes a dim view about the sheer abstract business of being attracted to members of the same sex and describes the orientation itself as "objectively disordered," since it has a tendency to lead to acts which are intrinsically wrong.
Mike: These come in two categories, namely Bible stories like Sodom and Gomorrah, and arguments concerning "natural law" whereby sex is only "supposed" to be between a man and a woman and anything else is contrary to nature and thus to God's intentions for us.

OutUK: What would be your responses?
Mark: Sex is more than about procreative potential. In fact, the Vatican isn't even consistent on this - it approves of sex between men and women after menopause and sexual activity between infertile (married) couples. Love, commitment and fidelity are appropriate aspects of sexual expression and straight persons don't have a monopoly on these.
Mike: The Bible stories prove nothing about homosexuality as their writers had no concept of same sex orientation as an intrinsic aspect of a person's life - if you read Sodom and Gomorrah with an open mind it's obviously primarily about abuse of hospitality, not sexuality. And the natural law argument is philosophically weak - it may be unnatural for many men to have sex with another man, but it's entirely natural for me!

OutUK: Has the Vatican's intransigence ever made you doubt your faiths?
Mark: No. My commitment to the Catholic faith is unwavering. I would be opting out if I didn't carry on the discussion as an active member of the Church.
Mike: Never. It has made me take some distance from the hierarchy and the officialdom of the Church, but that is relatively unimportant.

OutUK: Are you yourselves bemused that the UK mainstream media focus mainly on the C of E?
Mark: The tensions and arguments are more in evidence in the C of E. Greater openness is not just healthy but also noisy - and therefore better for the media in terms of something to report.
Mike: It's probably because the C of E gives a journalist a better chance of a public disagreement. A Catholic bishop will not disagree with the official teaching in public, whatever his personal opinion - at least, not at the moment.

OutUK: Do you think Catholic priests should be celibate, regardless of their sexuality?
Mark: Celibacy only finally became compulsory for priests in 1139. Several of the first Apostles and disciples were married. Celibacy is a great gift - think of Gandhi - but a gift of grace cannot be imposed by human law.
Mike: Celibacy is a beautiful gift for some people, but there is no reason to suppose that the gift of celibacy and the vocation to the priesthood always coincide. Indeed it is very obvious that they do not. There are some wonderful priests - and not just in the Anglican traditions - who are not celibate.



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