"I am upset, I feel betrayed", said one of parishioners today, let's call him Peter. He would describe himself as "gay" but would say he was Catholic first. His lifelong partner, Paul, died two or three years ago, they were both converts, they shared a house, said their prayers together and lived a chaste and holy life.
What Peter was upset about was that they had both, as loyal sons of the Church, decided not to have a civil partnership because they understood the 2003 CDF document “Consideration Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons”, as condemning them. They had also taken into account the English bishops statement of 2004 that such partnerships “do not promote the common good and we therefore strongly oppose them”.
Although they had made wills that left property to one another, what Paul hadn't done was to ensure that Peter was named as his next of kin. Paul had a stroke and was unable to communicate, he eventually went into a protracted comma and died. His sister who was actually his next of kin hated Peter and excluded him from any involvement in Paul's care. "She wouldn't even let me near him when died and rather than a Catholic funeral she insisted on a humanist one, just to spite, Paul would have hated it", Peter said.
Both Peter and Paul were Catholic before anything else they reacted strongly to any suggestion that their relationship might be considered sexual. Peter found the words of Archbishop Nichols, a volte face “Same-sex partnerships are not marriage because they have no root in a sexual relationship which marriage does,” he said, “and that’s the distinction that I think it’s important for us to understand, that marriage is built on the sexual partnership between a man and a woman which is open to children, to their nurture and education.” "If only I had known that four years ago we would have been spared the misery we both went through", Peter said.
When priests like me, or other bloggers, criticise Archbishop Nichols for changing the Bishop's Conference teaching on same-sex partnerships and bring confusion we are not being "mischievous" as he suggests, we are showing concern for men like Peter and Paul.
Now, I must get round to making a will, as things stand at the moment my brother, my next of kin, isn't a Catholic, I am not sure he will know what do with vestments or chalices or my little collection of icons or my rather Catholic books and other possessions if he ends up by inheriting everything. What I am more concerned with is what he might do with me, if I should become like Paul. I don't want to end up on the Liverpool Care Pathway or in a nursing home without the sacraments. When I get round to it I intend to leave everything to a couple of priest friends, my executors, to dispose of everything, one of them has done the same naming me as his executor.
Now being practical according to the Archbishop same sex partnerships are devoid of sexual implications therefore I wonder if I have a duty to propose a civil partnership with one of my executors, so everything surrounding my death and dying becomes his responsibility. I wonder, doesn't every priest have a duty to do this?
Yes, I am being mischievous but it sort of makes sense, and yes I know one of parishioners has already made the suggestion.
p.s. Paul was not the real name of "Peter's" friend.