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14th May 2001


Gay Catholics today called on priests and bishops who are homosexual to openly admit and embrace their orientation.

"The priestly culture of secrecy, double-standards and religious repression must end", said Michael Kelly, spokesperson for the Rainbow Sash Movement. "It is time for honesty, integrity and a frank admission of what many Catholics have always known: that a large number of their priests are gay."

Mr Kelly was speaking in response to a public admission by Archbishop George Pell that a gay sub-culture exists within the clergy. Dr Pell made the admission in an interview on Channel 9's "Sunday" current affairs program yesterday morning. He was responding to questions about a group of Melbourne priests nick-named the "Spice Girls" by some other clergy. This group of priests, which some claim are close to the Archbishop, are said to be known for their love of elaborate liturgy, "dressing up", incense, conservative doctrine, and a "girlie" style - as is admitted even by Pell's supporters.

"The so-called 'Spice Girls' type of priest is well known in the church" said Mr Kelly. "Recent European and American studies have confirmed that such priests are often closeted homosexuals who have not integrated and accepted their sexuality. They are often anxious to condemn in others what they cannot face in themselves. This has led to a whole culture of sacred secrecy, private anguish, double-lives, public denial, fear and shame. Tragically, the priestly system tends to reward and favour those who play this game, while shunning those priests - whether gay or straight - who call for honesty and change."

Mr Kelly continued, "There have always been substantial numbers of gay men within the clergy - this fact is finally being admitted by some church leaders in the face of credible research. Most of them bear no resemblance to the "Spice Girls'. In fact, gay people have served the Church with skill, generosity, courage and commitment, often in profoundly oppressive situations. It is time the Church admitted and celebrated this fact, and honoured the many thousands of gay and lesbian people who continue to serve as priests, nuns, bishops, teachers, social workers, nurses, youth workers. The ugly claim that gay people are disordered and oriented towards evil, and that they should not be employed by the Church, must be exposed as the lie that it is." 

Dr. Pell, in discussing the gay subculture of the "Spice Girls", was keen to insist that he was referring to a very small section of the clergy. Mr Kelly says the evidence points in the opposite direction"The high camp sort of priest typified by the "Spice Girls" is increasing in numbers. Studies of seminaries in Europe and the United States repeatedly show that a very high proportion of seminarians are homosexual, and that many of them are conservative, closeted and devoted to priestly power and style. The Directors of some seminaries are speaking openly of their concern at this growing phenomenon."

 Mr Kelly concluded, "It is time for the Church to tell the truth. It is time to stop the charade. Gay priests can and do act as genuine pastors and leaders. This must be affirmed and gay clergy must be encouraged to openly admit their God-given sexuality without having to fear for their careers. Young gay people need to see in them role models and supporters, and the Catholic people as a whole must celebrate the gifts gay men and women have silently given the Church for so long.  Bishops must stop the farce of arguing for legal exemptions so that they can refuse to hire gay people - when so many of the clergy and the hierarchy are gay themselves.

"If Church leaders cannot find the honesty and moral courage to face these issues openly and directly, then repression and hypocrisy will produce their inevitable fruit, and future Catholic clergy will becoming increasingly mired in effete liturgy, clerical pretension and sexual dysfunction".

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