Queer and Catholic Review

Review by Ann Reddecliffe.

This book is a memoir, written by journalist and broadcaster Mark Dowd, former head of the Catholic LGBT organisation Quest.  It is a life lived fully as a Roman Catholic, and authentically gay.  It is also the story of his parents’ journey.  When his mother first learned that he was gay, she took him to the local doctor to be cured (the doctor ruled that it was just a phase and he would grow out of it), but by the end of the book, his mother is a regular attendee at Quest conferences.

In the opening paragraph of the preface he sets the scene with an encounter with a TV producer who asks him to suggest a documentary he would like to make.  He replies that ‘I’d like to show why the Roman Catholic Church is so anti-gay’.  Naturally, he is asked to explain why and his response is, ‘because it is so gay.’  This is one of the themes that recurs in the book, as he comes to realise that ‘gayness’ is widespread in the church and that this creates both a tension with official teachings and a safe place for young gay men to be without the pressure to get married to have children.

This is not a book of theology, but the author has the gift of being able to explain complex theological ideas simply and clearly.  He is able to explain the link between the church’s teaching on artificial contraception and same sex sexual activity (both are not open to procreation), and why any change in official teaching on either of these would undermine the other and be a challenge to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. To change the church’s teaching would require them to admit that their teaching was wrong and that would mean a serious loss of authority.

Instead he shows that rather than challenge teachings that they believe to be wrong, most Catholics, simply ignore them.  He often refers back to the way that his parents just ignored the official line forbidding the use of artificial contraception and used it anyway.  He takes a similar approach when the Roman Catholic Church issued new teaching documents on homosexuality.  This is a very healthy approach for him as it allows him to focus on the good of the love he experienced, rather than the non-affirming church documents.

This book is well written and has a lot of humour, often at the author’s expense.  It is very positive, affirming and written from the heart.