Julian Punch signing copies of his book, Gay with God: The Life and Times of a Turbulent Priest. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL
Julian Punch signing copies of his book, Gay with God: The Life and Times of a Turbulent Priest. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL

The gay former priest 'living in shadow of the church'


COMMENTS by Roman Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous and Dean of the Anglican St David's Cathedral Reverend Richard Humphrey that Yes campaigners for marriage equality are engaged in disrespectful and sometimes hateful speech in the postal vote debate intrigue me.

As a gay man I have lived my whole life in the shadow of a church where men climb into a pulpit or speak from an remote privileged position, pontificating that men and women like me who are gay, are 'unnatural, immoral and decadent'.

This hurtful moralising is always about a divine right to make such claims but this has suddenly become translated to be about free speech or religious freedom and they say they are victims when we dare to call this disrespect for what it is.

When this moral impugning is rejected by us as persecution of a minority group through fear or ignorance, it suddenly becomes disrespectful and hateful of them.

Churches are emptying and becoming non-viable in the ending of Christendom and the loss of power as the church state gives way to secular humanitarianism. One would expect church leaders would listen humbly to people.

They have lost power through their own reliance on power and control rather than Christ-like love. This is indicated by their inability to direct the secular right to marry out of love and be part of family and clan to one exclusive group of people, which excludes us.

Australian Christians support same-sex nuptials and don't want marriage equality to include extra discrimination clauses, according to a Galaxy poll that questioned 1000 people, of which 54 per cent support marriage equality. In a poll commissioned by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Christian millennials opposed the right of civil celebrants to refuse services at 56 per cent, while with 31 per cent in support.

Of those who attended church monthly or several times a year, 63 per cent supported gay marriage, 78 per cent who attended once a year or less supported the move, while 81 per cent of those who said they were Christian but never went to church were behind the change.

The survey found 61 per cent of Christians were unhappy with conservative religious groups representing the views of all Christians, including 55 per cent of regular churchgoers, while 17 per cent said they were happy.

As church leaders continue to presume they alone have the right to decide what was true and what rules we should live by, they find themselves no longer listened to. We live in a pluralist society.

When new knowledge and decency conflict with outdated customary religious beliefs the issue will be debated and religious anathemas and dictates will no longer cut it.

Those whose lives in the past would have been ruined are now reclaimed by calling out the truth that all people, not just the select few, are created equal in dignity and respect from birth, and by announcing a new spirituality that will replace the old.

The self-loathing demanded by church leaders is a price the minority will no longer pay. The rapid decline in affiliation which is emptying churches and cathedrals is the normal consequence of a new determination not to bow our heads in supplication.

A new humility is demanded of the church leaders to come down from on high and celebrate life and love.

The pastoral letters flying to the ends of the Roman Catholic Empire in Australia demanding that the consciences of Catholic sheep require a No vote are being politely but disobediently placed in church and school rubbish bins and not delivered with any gusto from pulpits.

The bishops are not only driving the faithful out of the churches but threatening the viability of Catholic and Christian schools.

The code of religious instruction demanding lifelong celibacy and conversion (aversion) therapy is a blasphemy with awful consequences. It is dividing families in that parents can expect the lives of their straight (normal) children will be respected but the lives and relationships of their gay children will not be.

In Catholic schools teachers, parents and young people are involved in a culture of imposed bigotry and persecution for the LGBTI subculture. It is also found to give comfort to insecure bullies.

So do I feel any pity for Archbishop Porteous and Reverend Humphrey in them being called to account for their opposition to the Yes campaign?

The answer is No. My mind is fixed on calling them to account for the pain and damage to the current generations, especially young and older LGBTI people.


Former Catholic priest Julian Punch, author of Gay with God, is a community development worker and social activist.