Letter: Priests broken at `boot camp'

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The Independent Online
Letter: Priests broken at `boot camp'

Sir: It is on behalf of many gay Catholics, lay and ordained, that I write to thank you for publishing a long-overdue expose on the reformatory for "errant" priests at Stroud ("Gay priest reveals secret of Catholic `boot camp' ", 27 August).

The kind of surveillance described by the anonymous priest might well be appropriate for priests involved in child abuse and the regime might be of benefit to those with alcohol problems, but they are completely inappropriate for men (both gay and straight) whose only "sickness" is falling in love. The very fact that the Church apparently thinks it appropriate to lump together gay men, non-celibate heterosexuals, paedophiles and alcoholics and subject them to the same methods of "treatment" betrays a stunning lack of understanding of human sexuality and unwillingness to deal honestly and openly with the issues surrounding compulsory celibacy.

Indeed Stroud seems to have become somewhat of a dumping ground for priests that bishops want out of the way quickly because of the potential embarrassment they might cause. No one seems willing to ask whether priests are driven to "errancy" by the lack of effective support structures in the Church. No doubt some gay priests feel that they have been helped by Stroud, but I have only ever encountered men broken and bemused by their experiences there.

Dr ELIZABETH STUART

Convener, Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan

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