The Roman Catholic Bishop of Paisley, John Keenan, above, was accused yesterday by the Scottish Secular Society of ‘fabricating a ridiculous conspiracy that the BBC is seeking to oppress the Catholic Church’.
The Society was reacting to reports that Keenan had sent a letter to the director of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon, outlining his concerns of the corporation’s treatment of Catholics in a recent short film titled Homophobia in 2018, Time for Love.
In the letter, he accused the film, which was published on the BBC’s digital platform “The Social”, of blaming hatred toward gay people on Catholics. The video citing Catholic teachings and liturgy, and includes a clip which says the Catholic Sacrament of Holy Communion:
Tastes like cardboard and smells like hate.
In a press release the Society said that Keenan’ complaint “ironically” reinforces the core message of the video.
With his demand for religious privilege and a certain freedom from accountability, the Bishop attempts to invalidate Sean Lionadh’s personal testimony. The Social’s platform is intended to allow ‘young content creators a platform to express their views about matters that directly impacted on them’. One wonders how it is that Bishop Keenan supposes Lionadh’s poem is evidence of such repression as he does in his letter.
Keenan wrote that he took ‘offence’ at the supposed ‘polemical’ tone of the poem. He took issue with one line about communion smelling ‘like hate’ but yet could not see how Sean might have been pushed away from his church of upbringing?
He needn’t look far as the Bishop Keenan has a track record of perpetuating an environment within the Catholic Church that is unfriendly to LGBTQ members of society.
The Society pointed out that, in the political realm prior to the 2015 election, he asked voters to ‘Think Church’, implying among other things that certain politicians or parties should be punished for the 2013 legislation which is contrary to Catholic teaching on marriage. It is, however, in his tenure as Glasgow University Chaplain and his recent establishment of a Courage Chapter in Paisley where his influence will have been most significant.
In 2012, he took the decision against the advice of the Student Representative Council to make a campus-wide speech against same-sex marriage on the grounds that it might be ‘unwelcoming.’ Rather than take the whole student body into consideration, Keenan took a firm and partisan stance in the face of students, both homosexual and heterosexual, religious and non-religious alike.In the face of this it is difficult to deny that the Bishop Keenan utilised his privileged position as a spiritual leader within a public university to propagate a personal position at the expense of the students.
He has since taken it upon himself to invite Courage, an American Catholic group, to set up a chapter in Paisley. This extreme group offers a ‘gay conversion’ service to those that need ‘support’ in the form of repression and chastity to ‘ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.’ Evidently, he believes that LGBTQ people should not feel love for one another but instead harbour feelings of guilt and shame: these views go beyond ‘unwelcoming’.
The Bishop of Paisley John Keenan may believe that he sounds friendly, or that he acts in the interests of a church supposedly under attack, but if he wishes to involve and invite young people into his faith, he might best listen to people like Sean rather than tell them to shut up, zip up and close off. In reflection, if the Catholic Church is to continue to have a public role in society, should it not strive to be inclusive, thoughtful and compassionate? But perhaps most importantly to actually listen?
According to this report, the Bishop’s letter to the BBC said:
In the current climate of growing hostility to Catholics I would appeal that the BBC guard against adding fuel to the fire. In that regard I would ask that the corporation now reach out to Catholics to understand their concerns, that they are being portrayed in a prejudicial way.
When it comes to important public debates about the wellbeing of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality Catholics feel their views are becoming increasingly marginalised, almost criminalised.
In his correspondence, dated April 23, 2018, Keenan quotes recent Scottish Government figures which show 57 per cent of religiously aggravated crime is committed against Catholics, who make up only 16 per cent of the population.