My Catholic priest opposes gay marriage, now I’m ashamed to go to church

My religion has come to alienate and hate minority groups

I would never have classed myself as a deeply spiritual and dedicated Catholic, however in my early teens I attended mass around once a week. I believed (and still do) in God and I even used to read prayers at mass once a month. But, one Saturday evening in 2013 at the weekly vigil I suddenly felt separated from this religion that I had been bought up to believe in and respect.

It was during the priest’s sermon when he pointed to the back of the room and urged the congregation to sign the petition that he had placed there. Now at the age of 16, like many young people I became very sceptical about a number of issues and of course, as you grow up your bank of logic and knowledge naturally increases and you begin to question certain things.

So, when my parish priest urged me and a further 100 or so members of the congregation to formally oppose gay marriage I was stunned. As a straight guy I’ve never encountered homophobia against me and have never been the victim of bullying for my race, background or appearance, so this was the first time that I had ever thought about how influential people, especially in religion and politics, have come to demonise, and essentially bully, particular groups of people.

That Saturday evening my local parish priest could have turned his own and more importantly his audience’s attentions to the injustice that had been carried out to victims in Operation Yewtree, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, the communities that had been left devastated by austerity, the dangers of North Korea’s third underground nuclear test, the grief of the loved ones left behind after the Boston bombings or any other issue (domestic or global) that caused pain and suffering in mid-2013.

Instead, he decided to draw all of our attentions to this proposed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry. Not only did he draw our attention to this issue but he urged us to oppose it wherever possible. That evening I had never felt so unattached and embarrassed of something that I once held so dear.

An ancient institution that once preached tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation had abandoned all of its core values and began a campaign of hate and oppression to drive the LGBT community underground. The catholic church’s official stance on homosexuality is that they accept people may have homosexual feelings but it would be a sin to act on it – how can a society like ours even tolerate this abhorrent form of prejudice?

For too long have minority groups of all kinds been oppressed by the powerful, whether it was European Jews in the 1940s, African-Americans in the 1960s, or even women since basically the beginning of time. Yet, in the 21st-century Britain we do not learn from the mistakes of history and choose to alienate and persecute a minority that has the same rights as any man or woman.

From that day I stopped going to church and I have recently begun to see the cracks in the supposedly pure image of religion whether it be sexism, homophobia, racism or one of the many other unlimited forms of prejudice, with no single religion being excluded. Now I am not for one minute saying dedicated Catholics or religious people are wrong or prejudice. However, in my opinion the Jesus that I know would have been ashamed by what happened that night and I doubt he would be alone in feeling that.