‘Gay Garnethill’: Who Am I To Judge?

The parish bulletin of St Aloysius, Garnethill, dated 1 May, 2016,  carries an advertisement,  headlined “Who Am I To Judge”: “an evening for friends and relatives of people who are gay or lesbian and who have questions about how to be supportive while remaining faithful to the Christian Faith” (Ed: yeah, right…)

Below is an expanded version of the bulletin advertisement, from the Ignatian Spirituality Centre website:

For Parents and Friends of LGBT People    
9th May at 7.30pm

When a relative or a friend comes out gay, lesbian or other non-heterosexual identity it can be a challenge both to our Christian upbringing and the way we feel about them.

This evening led by family of a gay man and the ISC Team who has worked on retreats for gay people for more than 20 years, looks at these challenges to see how we can live our faith with integrity and best love our LGBT friends and relations.

Open to all of whatever Christian denomination.

It also offers the opportunity to meet with others who have similar concerns. Source


Nobody who remembers our front page report ‘Glasgow Jesuit: Body Massage, Anyone?’ by Patricia Phillips in our February, 2015 edition, will be too surprised at the above advertised “evening for friends blah blah.”  You can read the original report by  downloading Issue No. 86, the February Newsletter, 2015 on our website, Newsletter page here  –  just click on the downward arrow at the archive section and select Issue No. 86. For ease of reference, we publish the text of that front page below:

‘Glasgow Jesuit: Body Massage, Anyone?’
by Patricia Phillips

On June 6, 2013, Pope Francis lamented the existence of what he called “the gay lobby” in the Vatican.  Pope Francis’ statement, especially following other revelations on the same subject around the time of Pope Benedict’s departure, drew much needed attention. But the Holy Father need look no further than his own order of priests, the Society of Jesus, for direct confirmation of what he called the “stream of corruption.”1

In 2003, The Catholic Herald newspaper exposed a Jesuit-run website which contained things contrary to Church teaching on homosexuality, including links to “gay” pornographic websites.  This scandalous website was suppressed by the Jesuit provincial, Fr David Smolira, but before it was suppressed, copies of the relevant web pages, were sent to then Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The site was run by Fr David Birchall SJ, parish priest at St Wilfrid’s Church, Preston, in Lancashire (Diocese of Lancaster).  His personal web page gave more details about him including the worrying fact that he was Vocations Director for the Jesuits in Britain for four years, and his unbelievably inappropriate offer for anyone to contact him “for a talk, meet, massage, drink, chat . . .

In another section titled “Sexuality and Christianity”, headed by pictures of two young boys kissing and two girls cuddling, visitors were invited to click on buttons to get “thoughts” on various topics, covering Love and Self Acceptance, Same-sex relationships and Bible and Church Teaching.  At the end of these “thoughts” was a little speech entitled “Don’t Be Isolated”.  A link on the right hand side of this asked: “Who am I? – See”. This link invited one to see who has given all these “thoughts”.  When one clicked on the “See” button, it returns to Fr David Birchall’s home page.  A list of Fr Birchall’s “thoughts” from this section were submitted to the CDF.  They were not remotely in line with Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

The site also contained a list of links to other organisations for “Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Christians”.  Some of these organisations are good Catholic organisations which help homosexual people to live chaste lives (such as EnCourage) some claim to be Catholic, but openly dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality (such as Quest) and some are not Catholic at all and totally reject Catholic teaching on homosexuality – even to advocating “gay” marriage (such as Metropolitan Community Churches).  This is very confusing and dangerous for homosexual people genuinely seeking help and advice about their situation.

Another part of this site advertised a weekend retreat for “Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Christians”, led by Fr Rob Marsh SJ, Helen O’Donnell and Fr David Birchall SJ, at the Jesuit-run Loyola Hall Spirituality Centre in Liverpool, England (Archdiocese of Liverpool).  At the top of this page were two links to “gay” sites, which included direct access to “gay” pornography, called “gay-to-z.com events guide” and “pink links”.   Even though some of these documents contained very offensive images, it was thought vital that the CDF see what kind of material Fr Birchall  was encouraging people to visit.

Although the Jesuit provincial, Fr David Smolira, did suppress parts of this disgraceful website – if only because it was exposed by The Catholic Herald – it was pointed out that there are still many other concerns about this whole issue, not least that there is a possibility that some of this material may eventually be put back on the internet in the future.  There is also the issue of Fr David Birchall SJ himself. The Cardinal was asked if it is right for someone to be working as a parish priest who:

  • clearly holds unorthodox views on homosexuality;
  • offers a “massage” to any stranger who cares to contact him via the internet;
  • encourages homosexual people to visit internet sites which contain “gay” pornography

It was also queried whether it was right for the Jesuit-run Loyola Hall to be hosting Fr Birchall’s  weekend for “Lesbian & Gay Christians”. 

Unfortunately, despite the file of documentary evidence sent to the Vatican, Fr Birchall is still in a position of immense influence, holding the post of Director of the well known Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow. He is still immersed in the “gay” retreat scene, as revealed in the January 2015 Newsletter for the LGBT Pastoral Council in the Archdiocese of Westminster where the Wounded Healers Retreat in Calpe, Costa Blanca is advertised: Full details of the retreat are on the net at http://calpe.co.nf   [Ed: this link is no longer working, but Patricia Phillips’s claims are corroborated across the internet, including here]. The retreat is open to men of whatever Christian denomination or on the borders, and whatever sexual orientation. A leaflet can be downloaded from the website. Further details: David Birchall SJ, Ignatian Spirituality Centre, Scott Street, Glasgow, G3 6PE – Tel: 0141 332 3659 Mob: 0793 0866679″

Calpe is a place in Spain where Fr Birchall has done these ‘retreats’ in the past, usually for ‘gay men’, and they have offered things like ‘massage’.  Is this really the sort of thing with which the Director of the Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow should be involved?

The original Catholic Herald article and the website to which it refers are no longer available online, but may be cached online somewhere. 

I know I said if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord who am I to judge. But who's going to find the Lord through a retreat organised by a Jesuit in Glasgow? Gimme a break! That's hilarious!

I know I said if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord who am I to judge. But who’s going to find the Lord through a retreat organised by a Jesuit in Glasgow? Gimme a break! That’s hilarious!

Comment continued…

The idea that this LGBT event – scheduled to take place tomorrow evening in Garnethill – is designed to help the relatives and friends of LGBT people to support them and yet  “live [their] faith with integrity”, is laughable.  In the extreme.  At one time I’d have felt duty bound to go along to this event myself, in order to be able to report it honestly and with integrity, keen not to misrepresent the organisers and participants. No longer. It’s very clear that the teaching of the Church on homosexuality will be mocked – Fr David Birchall SJ is listed at the top of the St Aloysius’ bulletin among the clergy, identified as the ISC Director (Ignatian Spiritual Centre, Director). He’ll be running this show. It’ll be about as faithful to authentic Catholic teaching on homosexuality as any other event in that House of Heresy is faithful to Catholic teaching on just about any doctrine you care to name. I’ve attended enough of them to know that if it’s faithful Catholic teaching you’re looking for, if it’s an event to help you live your Catholic faith with integrity, forget about body massages and give St Aloysius, Garnethill, a huge body swerve.

Or maybe you disagree?  Let’s hear it…