Father Ray Blake of St Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, Brighton, has attacked gay people for being ‘hedonistic’ and complained that local politicians pander to the ‘gay lobby’ and are ‘ignorant of our faith’.

The offensive nature of Fr Blake’s remarks is unfortunate but what is more serious is his failure to understand the extent to which the church itself is to blame for many gay people and many politicians wanting nothing to do with it.

Father Blake’s God is for everybody.

The mission of Christianity is to extend God’s kingdom beyond the boundaries of just Israel, as in the Old Testament, to the whole of humanity across all the earth.

This is the good news, the gospel, of the New Testament and it really is for every human body.

To make the point crystal clear the Son of God spent his time sharing the lives of marginalised people whom society despised.

Sadly, however, the church has failed time and time again to realise how radical this message actually is.

Instead of condemning gay people Father Blake should ask himself what he is doing to evangelise the gay community, and why he does not have more gay people in his church.

The answer of course is that gay people are not there because of the Church’s relentless hostility and its misrepresentation of a handful of biblical texts to condemn them.

To justify its persecution of homosexual people the Catholic Church draws on just three brief texts scoured from the thousands of pages of the Bible: a) the ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ story in Genesis, b) the Leviticus holy code and c) reference to ‘unnatural relations’ in a couple of letters of St Paul.

In the Old Testament, which was written in the Bronze Age some three and a half thousand years ago, the Sodom and Gomorrah story is about the failure to afford hospitality to strangers, a dreadful sin in the ancient Middle East.

Leviticus is a long list of so called ‘abominations’ which include eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and having sex with menstruating women.

Leviticus even prescribes the death penalty for disobedient children.

Why does the church single out one sentence in Leviticus, whose relevance to gay people is highly dubious, and ignore hundreds of others?

The suspicion must be that there is a pre-existing prejudice for which justification is being sought.

In the New Testament St Paul actually writes about ‘unnatural relations’ as a punishment for idolatry, the worship of objects rather than God.

Again it is debatable whether he really means homosexuality as we know it, but either way it is the punishment and not the crime.

In his 1986 statement Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict, ignores Biblical scholarship to claim that the Bible condemns all homosexual acts, that homosexuals are ‘intrinsically disordered’ and have a tendency to evil.

With teaching like this it is unsurprising that gay people feel alienated.

Being a gay catholic has been described as being like a Jew in the Nazi party.

The unfortunate truth is that the Catholic Church has a truly terrible history of misusing the Bible to oppress and persecute many different groups: slaves, black people, the disabled, Jews, women, and gay people are in a very real sense just its current target.

Here may well be the explanation for Father Blake’s complaint that none ‘of the parties standing for election locally represent his religious views’.

Perhaps this is because none of them can stomach the obnoxious discrimination which his church pursues against a large number of their constituents, urged on by a pope who instructed his bishops to fight against the Equality Bill with ‘missionary zeal’.

The labour government, according to Father Blake, ‘has become contrary to the spirit of Christianity’ by which he presumably means supporting the human and civil rights of gay people.

Actually the labour government, and indeed most people, might think that the spirit of Christianity has more to do with loving your neighbour and welcoming everybody regardless of race, gender, ethnic origin, disability or sexual orientation.

An objective reading of the New Testament is a lesson in inclusivity.

It is arguable that the Holy Spirit is now working through the secular world to bring about change in God’s church.

Changing Attitude Sussex works for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Church.

At our next meeting on Monday 12th April at 8pm at The Chapel Royal, Brighton,

Jeremy Marks of Courage UK will explain how he took the church’s beliefs seriously and tried to ‘cure’ gay people of their homosexuality.

After a decade he recognised that he had achieved nothing and had done a great deal of harm.

He made a public apology and now celebrates gay identity as a blessing from God.

Everybody is welcome, even Father Blake! More information is available at www.changingattitudesussex.com.