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Media Release

Gay Catholics 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 youth.
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."