Fr Bernárd J Lynch
“I do not subscribe to the superstition that one’s understanding of an event alters the event. No, the event does the altering, and the question one faces is how to live with time’s brutal alteration. People invent gods, saints, and martyrs a lot of the time to prevent them from drinking what they are offered to drink from their own cup. To come up from that place where one thought one was dead means that one becomes greedy for life. And life is many things, but it is above all the touch of another. The touch of another, yes, no matter how transient, at no matter what price.”
This is a quote from my latest book If It Wasn’t Love. I am a Roman Catholic priest for over forty years. I have worked for thirty of those in pastoral care for people with HIV/AIDS. I am married to my husband Billy since 1998. I spent over twenty years in New York City and have worked in London since 1992.
In 2017 a presentation was made of a Proclamation from the Council of the City of New York honouring more than 40 years of service to and activism with the LGBT and AIDS communities. It is authored by the Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens, NY and was be presented by Mr. Andy Humm, a former New York City Commissioner of Human Rights. A copy of the proclamation is pasted below and attached. In 2019, Lynch received Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad in the Charitable Works category. The awards recognise the contribution of members of the Irish diaspora in the world.
CITY OF NEW YORK
WHEREAS: Rev. Bernárd J. Lynch has been a tireless advocate for the rights of LGBT people for more than forty years as an out gay and proud Roman Catholic priest beginning with his work in Dignity/New York in the 1970s; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch founded in 1982 and sustained the first AIDS ministry in New York City with Dignity/New York, aiding thousands of people with AIDS in the darkest years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic by healing their spirits, reconciling them with their faiths and their families, guiding them through their deaths, and celebrating their tragically short lives as documented in the documentary films AIDS: A PRIEST’S TESTAMENT in 1986 and SOUL SURVIVOR in 1990; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch’s leadership in the AIDS crisis included service on Mayor Edward I. Koch’s Task Force on AIDS and was recognized by the AIDS National Interfaith Network with their Award for Outstanding Contributions to HIV/AIDS Ministries in 1990; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch, at great personal risk, publicly advocated for the rights of the LGBT community at a time when most religious voices were in opposition; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch publicly supported Mayor Edward I. Koch’s Executive Order 50 in 1984 compelling City contractors not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation;
WHEREAS: Father Lynch also publicly campaigned for and testified in favor of New York City’s lesbian and gay rights bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in jobs, housing and public accommodations, seeing it through to passage by the City Council in 1986; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch’s advocacy for LGBT rights brought down on him a false prosecution perpetrated by church and government officials opposed to his work—charges that he faced down in Bronx Supreme Court, winning total exoneration from Justice Burton Roberts as documented in the documentary film A PRIEST ON TRIAL in 1990; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch continued his ministries in London and Ireland and worldwide touching thousands with his books and television/radio appearances including the BBC’s premier interview show “Hardtalk” in 2013. He was amongst the first ever openly LGBT group invited to Arus an Uachtaráin (President's official residence) by President Mary Robinson in 1995. He was the first priest of any denomination to march in London’s LGBT Pride Parade, co-founded a support group for gay priests, served as Chair of the Camden LGBT Forum, served as Co-Chair of the first London Irish LGBT Forum that led the first Irish LGBT group in London’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2014, and aided the “Take the Boat to Vote Campaign” to bring Irish nationals home to pass successfully the historic Irish referendum opening marriage to gay couples in 2015; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch has been honored with the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement’s award for “Longstanding Work and Witness” to LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS in 2008, the Magnus Hirschfeld Award for outstanding service to the cause of Irish LGBT Freedom in 1986, with canonization by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and as one of the twenty most prominent people to come out of County Clare; and
WHEREAS: Father Lynch’s relationship with his husband Billy Desmond was publicly blessed in 1998 and he became the first serving Catholic priest in the world to have a civil partnership in 2006; now therefore
BE IT KNOWN: That I, Daniel Dromm, Council Member of the 25th District, am proud to honor minister, advocate and human rights champion
Father Bernárd J. Lynch
For his extraordinary service to the LGBT and AIDS communities of New York, London, and Ireland and for his courage in the face of tremendous adversity.
Signed this 27th day of January in the year Twenty Seventeen.
Council Member, 25th District
Listen to Council Member Dromm’s message here.