Fr Bernard Lynch, who is openly gay and thinks gay priests make up 50% of the Catholic clergy, discloses for the first time his relationship with fellow Irishman Billy Desmond in his forthcoming autobiography.
The 64-year-old from Ennis, Co Clare, has been at loggerheads with Vatican superiors since the 1980s when he became one of the first Catholic clerics to give his public support to people dying from Aids-related illnesses.
The furore that followed, including a probe by the FBI, forced Lynch — who has been a member of the Society of African Missionaries for 42 years — to relocate from his New York base to London, where he still resides and where his duties include counselling gay priests.
But he has remained a thorn in the side of Vatican chiefs ever since, not least for his vehement support of gay priests which flies in the face of a Church which has described homosexuality as “intrinsically flawed”.
He admitted he is certain to face the axe from his religious order when his book, containing frank details about his gay relationship, is published.
“I know they are having a problem. They have told me so. I am under investigation. The Vatican has already told them to get rid of me.”
However, Fr Lynch has vowed to continue his priesthood, even if he loses his official title.
“A priest is a priest for people. I believe that the priesthood, like my baptism, is an indelible mark on my soul, so I will always be a priest.”
And at the forefront of his work will be his duties counselling gay priests, who he thinks make up 50% of the Catholic clergy.
He also says he will not back down on his forthright opinions on strict celibacy rules and anger at the Vatican’s failure to deal with sex abuse scandals.
“To me, a lot of the abuse of children by priests in the Church is a result and consequence of sexually arrested development in priests.
“It is not paedophilia, and that is not to take from the crime and the terrible hard done to children in this way.
“When you go into seminary at 14 or 16, you are arrested in your sexual development. From that time on, everything sexual is sin.
“Sex is really not integrated in he way normal boys and girls do as they grow up. As so priests stop growing sexually. And when they start growing again at the ripe old age of 50, they start off where they left off, as a 14-year-old looking for 14-year-olds.”
He also hit out at the irony of a Church, which as he sees it has a large number of closeted gay clergy in its ranks, which publicly condemns homosexuality.
“I can go into confession and say I have been in every sauna and bath-house and sex club in London 10 times a week and I can get absolved for my sins, but if I go in and say, ‘I have been in love with a man for 19 years, married for 14’, there’s no absolution. That’s the sickness of the Church.”
lIf It Wasn’t Love: Sex, Death and God, by Bernard Lynch, will be published by Circle Books on May 25.