Challenge Archbishop Pell on Youth Suicide
(Sunday 23rd May, 1999)
Pentecost Sunday, 1999
Michael Kelly speaks with the media on Pentecost Sunday
60 people donned their
sashes at the opening hymn and were generally ignored (unlike previous
occasions) by celebrant, Archbishop George Pell, except for the refusal of
communion. At this time standing sash wearers formed an impressive site of
striking rainbow colour amongst the kneeling communicants.
After Mass leaving
parishioners were meet by an army of TV cameras and media reporters.
His Grace, regaled in
brilliant pinkish red vestments, talked with those he had just confirmed. He
told the media that homosexuality was more of a health hazard than smoking.
Gay Catholics today placed a memorial wreath
outside the gates of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne in honour of Lesbian and
Gay youth who have suffered abuse or attempted suicide because of homophobia in
church schools. The wreath was laid after members attended mass where they
presented themselves once again for Communion wearing a rainbow sash.
Spokesperson for the Rainbow Sash movement Michael Kelly said the church was
defying modern science and psychology in not embracing the diversity of sexual
identity amongst its students and teachers.
"The Catholic Church is responsible for the education of 25% of all Australian
youth. It is unacceptable that a quarter of all school age youth are being
placed at risk because they are denied safe sex education and information that
may prevent them from suicide."
"15,000 students are at risk in Melbourne alone" said Michael Kelly.
Kelly says that research in Australia and overseas shows that :
30% of all youth suicides are Gay related.
Gay and lesbian youth attempt suicide three to five times more often than other
62% of Gay identified youth reported experiencing some form of physical abuse.
90% of Gay identified youth reported experiencing some form of verbal abuse.
"Archbishop Pell has a moral and arguably a legal responsibility to begin a
dialogue that may end up saving the lives of young people."
"The church's negative attitude to homosexuality is a shocking burden for young
people to bear. It also fuels prejudice and abuse -- and it is being supported
with public money."
Mr Kelly pointed to the recent initiative of the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission's to target gay and lesbian youth in rural areas, as an
example of an open and progressive attitude.
"Kelly said that while many parents might not choose to have a gay or lesbian
son or daughter, every parent would want accurate information presented to their
kids that may stop them contracting HIV-Aids or committing suicide."
Rainbow Sash said they would continue to attempt to engage Archbishop Pell into
dialogue over the issue of gay and lesbian people in the church, with particular
emphasis on the youth suicide issue.
"The church prevents accurate and balanced information being given to students.
It's a form of censorship that cannot be justified on any grounds, particularly
when it leads to kids being placed at risk."