We’re up bright’n early here in Brighton by the sea!

Just 3 hours from London and less than £10 return thanks to the good old National Express.

And yet before leaving yesterday I had a bit of a battle in Soho where I went to mass and confession.

The church where I wanted to go was closed and so I ended up going to St. Patrick’s in Soho square. It’s a beautiful church and they do lots of good work for the homeless but there certainly is no great love, understanding or outreach to the massive gay community of Soho.

This in itself is sad because of the location and yesterday Jesus let me experience first hand the discrimination and hurt when after humble going to confession the priest refused me absolution!

It was not the parish priest but a visiting priest who I met last year and after confessing my sins which had nothing to do with Rayne he said “you can’t have a partner”.

So on the grounds that I wasn’t going to dump Rayne, he wouldn’t give me absolution!!

I told him that I’d never been refused absolution in 14 years, that I wouldn’t be on my knees confessing my sins if I wasn’t sorry and genuine and that in confession I was expecting to meet the understanding and loving heart of God rather than to be humiliated and shamed!

All to no avail. He didn’t want to listen, he didn’t want to know and as far as he was concerned he knew my soul better than either me or God!!

Anyway, I was quite pleased with myself that I remained firm but calm and as he walked off and left me in the box alone, I felt a deep presence of Jesus with me and once again the terrible pain inflicted on the gay community by well-meaning and yet cold and hard-hearted church folk.

To be perfectly honest if something like this happened to me in a parish up in the mountains in the Irish countryside I would be surprised in this day and age …but for it to happen in the middle of Soho in one of the world’s largest cities is ridiculous.

Only yesterday was I reading this article:

https://www.newwaysministry.org/2021/09/20/irish-archbishops-encourage-lgbtq-outreach-amid-major-decline-in-church-life/

It does make me very sad that there is no proper outreach to the gay community of Soho.

This is not to take away from all the good work of helping the homeless but in some ways helping the homeless is easy! It’s not controversial, it’s the obvious poverty and nobody will criticise you for giving a homeless guy a sandwich.

On the other hand, helping the gay community will bring enormous controversy and problems and criticism…

In any case I won’t hold my breath waiting for an apology because for all the sermons on humility, one thing I’ve noticed over the years as that most priests rarely say sorry….at least not to the people they hurt.

And so as I finish my breakfast here in Brighton I thank God for this first hand experience of rejection and discrimination which further helps me to articulate and describe the plight of gay Catholics

I am also grateful that I have been asked to represent our parish in the Synod process which is beginning where I hope to be able to share my concerns about outreach to the gay community.

So praise God, even the difficult experiences get turned into something good and let’s pray for this priest who I met yesterday that as well as learning english, he also learns of the tender and merciful heart of the Father for the gay community.

Have a great day and pray for me too to stay strong!

Michael