Outspoken bishop Pat Buckley is set to have a civil partnership in Larne — where he blesses gay and lesbian unions in his private independent chapel.
The maverick cleric (57) will tie the knot on February 8.
While the intention was posted at Larne Borough Council offices, it is thought that a follow-up service will take place at the chapel in The Oratory — his residence which was owned by the Diocese of Down and Connor and which he refused to vacate when he was suspended as a priest.
The chapel, where the bishop celebrates Mass twice a week, has also been used as a wedding venue for the past 22 years.
PR guru Max Clifford’s agency is now handling the publicity surrounding the nuptials. It is believed that Bishop Buckley and his partner have been together for almost three years and decided to enter a civil partnership several months ago.
The unofficial bishop said that while he would like to speak publicly about the union, his partner preferred to stay out of the limelight.
He said: “I did not realise that this was going to come out and I would prefer not to talk about it at the moment.”
On the bishop’s website he describes himself as an “unofficial chaplain to disaffected and alienated Catholics and Christians, and others, from all over Ireland and further afield”.
The bishop has a long established ministry to the gay and lesbian community and says he believes that homosexuality “is not sinful in the context of love. Sex is only sinful when it is about use or abuse”.
He counsels the gay and lesbian community and holds church services and seminars for them.
P A MacLochlainn from the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association said that he was delighted for Bishop Buckley and said he would be sending a message of congratulations.
“I wish him every happiness and no one deserves it more, he has done so much for couples from the gay and straight communities and now it is his turn to celebrate,” he said.
“I hope that this encourages other members of the clergy to overthrow authority and follow their hearts as he has done. I find it laughable that certain politicians accuse the gay community of destroying marriage when the gay community seem to be getting civil partnership more than anyone else.
“This is all about equality and it has been proved again and again that gay people can be loving couples and good parents just as much as straight people.”
10 facts about a renegade bishop
1 Bishop Patrick Buckley was ordained a Roman Catholic diocesan priest in 1976 and was first suspended from the priesthood in 1986.
2 He was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1998 as a result of his unauthorised episcopal consecration as a bishop.
3 He was ordained by Bishop Michael Cox, who also |‘ordained’ the singer Sinead O’Connor
4 Bishop Buckley is not treated as a bishop by the Catholic Church in Ireland or indeed Rome.
5 Since 1986 he has conducted an independent ministry from The Oratory in Larne, a house which belonged to the Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor and which the then Fr Buckley refused to leave following his suspension from the priesthood by the then bishop, Cahal Daly.
6 Marriages for divorced Catholics as well as the gay and lesbian communities and mixed religion couples are carried out at The Oratory.
7 Bishop Buckley was born the eldest of 17 children in Tullamore, Co Offaly, in 1952
8 He was elected to Larne Borough Council in 1989 as an independent, a seat he lost in 1993.
9 Bishop Buckley is openly gay and confirmed his homosexuality in 1999 on the front page of The News of the World.
10 He currently writes a column and delivers advice to readers in a Sunday newspaper.