Catholic and civil partnered 33 year old journalist Richard Bramwell on how the church he loved let him down with its attack on gay marriage
I can’t quite explain why it made me cry.
Perhaps it was blind fury. Perhaps it was because I felt, for the first time in my life, like I’d been kicked in the guts for being gay.
Perhaps it was both. But when I went online last weekend and read that Catholics up and down the land were being rallied from the altar to oppose the Government’s plans for same-sex marriage, I felt betrayed.
For the best part of 20 years I went to mass every Sunday with my mum, a teacher in the Catholic primary school over the road, and my brother and sister. I was far from angelic, but I served as an altar boy and I sang in the choir. Once I’d got over not wanting to get out of bed each Sunday, I loved it.
In my formative years, I was taught by Dominican sisters – wonderful, kind and witty women who instilled in us that ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ were ‘magical, magical words’ (and that if you tried hard to be kind, there might be a boiled sweet in it for you).[pullquote_right]for the first time in my life, like I’d been kicked in the guts for being gay[/pullquote_right]They taught me that God made us; that he loved us for who we are; and that, in return, we should love, accept and be tolerant of others, even if they were different to us and what we knew.
Fast-forward 20-odd years and being ‘different’ has become a way of life – and not in a bad way.
I’ve fallen in love with a [Catholic] man and we are civil partners in law. The day we stood before our family and friends to make that commitment to each other was the most joyous of our lives so far – and the party wasn’t bad either.
It felt like our very own shining example of how much the world had moved on, and how much more tolerant society had become.
So it feels pretty devastating to realise that the Catholic Church hasn’t become more tolerant.
The church that instilled in me so many wonderful values; the church that taught me to love my neighbour; the church that showed me how Jesus stood up for the marginalised and the unpopular doesn’t want to accept the likes of me and my man for who we are.
The diatribe in which Cardinal Keith O’Brien last week described plans for same-sex marriage as “grotesque” and likened it to legalising slavery was bad enough.
But the letter by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith is even worse: it couches prejudice in seemingly acceptable terms.
I could just imagine some familiar faces, dressed for mass in their Sunday best, being convinced by the insidious language, before heading home to sign the Coalition For Marriage’s online petition, turn the roast potatoes and warm the gravy.[pullquote_left]the church just doesn’t like gay people[/pullquote_left]I’m no intellectual, but I fear these people might have missed the scare-mongering in those words, words that serve to preserve the status quo and just didn’t tell it like it is: that the church doesn’t like gay people.
The archbishops’ letter warns that society sees man and wife as the “guardians of the next generation”. Well times have changed. Many same-sex parents are performing that same task – often to children abused, neglected or cast aside by their (sometimes married) mums and dads.
The letter warns that marriage as we know it is under threat.
Am I missing something?
Would the Government’s proposals bar a man and a woman from making a commitment to one another before God and prevent them from nurturing a family? No, and quite rightly so.
A change in the law would simply allow a similar kind of commitment to be made by others who, through no choice of their own, have grown up and discovered that they are gay. Where’s the problem in that?
It’s not even like we’d be able to make that commitment in church. Scandalously, this plan to “tackle inequality” appears to do precisely nothing to tackle the ban on a religious marriage for somebody like me.
Society has changed in the hundreds of years since marriage was first enshrined in law, and our understanding of love and of relationships has changed too. It’s time the law reflected that.
If I’d had the choice to marry in church I would have. My partner would have too.
We would also like to attend mass on a Sunday to say thanks for the many things in our lives that we genuinely feel grateful for.
But how can we – taught that God made us who we are – be part of a church which says our love shouldn’t be recognised in the way that a man and woman’s should?
That doesn’t sound very Christian to me.
Richard Bramwell, aged 33, lives with his civil partner Tim Smith in Stoke-on-Trent and works as a local newspaper journalist. You can tell him what you think and see what he’s Tweeting about @richbramwell1