By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Dissident Catholic bishop Fr. Pat Buckley, who marries people who’ve obtained divorces, has admitted that he is gay, but said that the revelation had not caused him a "crisis of faith or vocation."
Bishop Buckley, who is 47, said it had taken a lot of soul-searching and, eventually, a pilgrimage to Lourdes to find the courage to admit his homosexuality.
He runs his own ministry from Larne, Co. Antrim, and Carlingford, Co. Louth, and is an official registrar of marriages. Many hundreds of people have been married by him who the Catholic church would not normally agree to marry.
He had "come out," he said, to be honest with his followers, to help his pastoral work with the marginalized, and to help his mother have a greater knowledge of his personality.
Asked if he was celibate, Buckley said he was at the moment, but had not always been. He said he believed homosexuality was partly genetic, and partly the result of life influences.
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In an interview with a British Sunday newspaper, Buckley said that he had been aware of "certain leanings" since the age of 13 or 14, after being sexually abused as a child.
Asked whether he considered himself abnormal, Buckley told the BBC: "Absolutely not. I see myself as different in a whole lot of ways. I also see myself as very human, and over the years I have tried to be human and compassionate as a priest to people who were different and in all types of tight corners.
"Today, perhaps I find myself needing a bit of understanding and compassion."
He said an above-average number of people had come to his services on Sunday after the revelations, for which he was grateful. He had also received many messages of support and only two abusive phone calls.
Buckley also alleged that he was propositioned frequently while in seminary training.
"I think some recent surveys in Ireland have shown that some 40 percent of priests are gay, and that would be borne out by my own experience in the priesthood over the last 23 years and seven in the seminary."
He felt that his homosexuality had its roots in his early childhood experiences, but in other people it might be a genetic predisposition, he said.
"I think there are people born with the predisposition, which comes from genetic origins, and obviously that is strengthened by any early experiences," he said.
Asked whether his revelation would lead to an even deeper chasm between him and the Catholic hierarchy, Buckley said that it was time for the church to move from "the first millennium into the third."