As a man of faith and a proud dad to a gay son, I urge all Catholics to do the right thing – and vote ‘Yes’
Since my youngest boy came out, I have been on a journey that showed me being a Christian is about loving all equally, writes Tom Curran
I am a card-carrying, practising Catholic. I go to mass every Sunday. I pray every day. I read spiritual books. I reflect and meditate. My life has been shaped by my faith.
As a young man, I wished to become a priest. I then fell in love with Noeleen and decided to enter the 'married state'. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
The two of us have four children who are infinitely precious to us, and who have provided hundreds of the stories that define a family: the "Will you ever forget the day when...?"
None of us will ever forget October 4, 2011. Our youngest, Finnian, who was going through the Leaving Cert at the time, took time off from revision to compete with his brother Domhnall on PlayStation. It ended badly on this occasion. In fact, it ended in a shouting match with a few punches thrown and Finnian leaving the house at a run. Across the road from where we live are maize fields. Golden, that time of year, and about 10 feet high. Finnian just ran into it and kept on running and running until he was exhausted, dropping where he stood, hidden. He was out there for two or three hours. He could hear his mother and brothers calling for him, but stayed silent.
"When I was out there, I sort of had an epiphany," he remembers. "The fact that I was gay had been weighing me down for years and years, I had only told a few of my close friends. Sitting there hidden in the maize, I decided it was just best to get it over with. There was some stress on me at the time, especially with the Leaving Cert. I just needed it out of the way and off of my shoulders."
Finnian came back to the house, sat his mother down and waited for me to come home from work. I sat down, waiting for the worst. Nothing happened. We sat at the table for probably an hour, maybe longer, before he found the words, his big fear that my spirituality and the fact that Noeleen and I are from Donegal, a fairly conservative county, would drive us to reject him.
Now, when the children were born, I remembered something from Isaiah: "You were carved from the palm of my hand." What that means is that children are there for a reason, that they're loved by their parents, they're loved by God. When Finnian told us he was gay, that came back to me, with the deep certainty that I loved him the same as the others, absolutely loved him the same as our other children. As a Catholic, seeing his creation as being born out of love, I couldn't see how he was different to my two other sons or my daughter. For me, it was fine. I didn't have an issue; I was more concerned about Finnian.
Noeleen was the same, but filled with sadness, too, because the lovely life she wanted for Finnian, including marriage, seemed to evaporate. Suddenly, she could just see the pain and prejudice that faced Finnian for the rest of his life. We hugged. We held each other. We felt together as a family in a new, stronger way.
It took a while for Finnian to tell his siblings, and when he did, what he encountered was arguably the most welcome anti-climax of his life. Oddly, it was his mother who pushed him, believing it wasn't fair that they didn't know. Domhnall was packing to go on holiday when Finnian interrupted him to tell him he was gay. "So what?" Domhnall asked and went on packing. Finnian then rang Conall, who was in Australia at the time, and took 20 minutes to work up to his announcement. "Sure what does that matter?" Conall asked. "You're not any different than you were last week." His sister was blow-drying her hair when he told her. She hugged him, told him she would always be there for him and went back to the hairdrying.
The end result of Finnian's serial coming-out was a family pulling together in a generational way. The younger ones just absorbed it and moved on. Noeleen and I had always known that the greatest love you have is for your own, and we learned you measure it by doing things for them. Which is why I'm jettisoning the privacy, the anonymity of a lifetime to publicly affirm my son, and more importantly, to affirm his equality as a citizen of Ireland and a member of a loving family.
I've come on a journey, in terms of my belief, and I feel comfortable in urging all people of faith to consider the equal marriage referendum seriously and to vote yes. In my view, it's the right thing - the moral thing - to do.
Tom Curran is Fine Gael general secretary. He has been involved in the establishment of Association of Catholics of Ireland and has facilitated a number of workshops for Association of Catholic Priests. He is also involved in his local parish of Enfield/Rathmolyon, Diocese of Meath.