Catholic, HIV-Positive and One of God's Children

By Chippriott, Vincent | Conscience, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Catholic, HIV-Positive and One of God's Children


Chippriott, Vincent, Conscience


WAS BORN ON MARCH 5, 1950, IN a small market town in Pembrokeshire, South West Wales called Haverfordwest. Both my parents were devout Roman Catholics, my mother being French and my father Maltese. From the age of four I attended the Mary Immaculate Catholic Convent School where I was well educated by a small community of Sisters of Mercy who, though very strict, were also very kind. At the age of II I transferred to a secondary school and then to university where I obtained a degree in travel and tourism.

It was during my time at university I first realized my sexual identity as being that of a gay man. I attended Mass regularly and received the Holy Sacrament each Sunday. Knowing the church's teaching on homosexuality, my dilemma was whether to abstain from receiving communion and going to confession or to seek advice outside of the confessional. I decided on the latter: big mistake.

I was 18 years old. The priest to whom I went for counseling was horrified and said my feelings were both unnatural, immoral and a mortal sin. I was told that on no account was I to receive the Holy Sacraments, my soul was doomed for eternal damnation if I continued with my lifestyle and because of my age it was his duty to inform my parents of the situation.

When I left this meeting, I was in a terrible state of mind. I remember running blindly through the streets of London. I found my way to the entrance of Westminster Cathedral. I went to the chapel of the Sacred Heart and knelt crying, trying to pray for forgiveness and guidance. I lost all sense of time; I only remember arriving back at my student accommodation, unable to sleep with feelings of guilt, sadness and of rejection by our Holy Mother and the church. Worried with thoughts of shame and the reaction I would receive from my loving parents, I contemplated committing suicide. I realized that whatever I did, I seemed to be doomed.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The following morning I was summoned to my tutor's study. He said that he had received a phone call from my father. I was told I had to take the first train to Haverfordwest that afternoon without returning to my student accommodation. For the first time, there was no one to meet me at the train station. When I entered my parents' home, I was not greeted with affection, only grief. My father told me I had brought shame on the family name and that my mother was too upset to see me. I was told to go to my bedroom and wait as the local parish priest and my parents' doctor were coming to see me.

Father Paul Satori came to me first; his attitude was totally different from the priest who I had first gone for counseling. He was very understanding and gentle; his concern was that homosexuality was still a criminal offense in the United Kingdom. He reassured me that my parents loved me and cared for me and that they were more concerned about my safety. We prayed together. He informed me that the Holy Spirit and the Sacred Heart of Jesus would guide me through this troubled period. And that no matter what, I was still a child of God and would always remain so. We agreed that he would discuss the situation with my parents once the doctor had seen me and would help me with my predicament.

The meeting with my parent's local doctor lasted for about an hour, I was told a lot of young men went through a period in their teenage years of confusion about sexuality and, with the right treatment, I would soon be a normal heterosexual man.

Two days later, against my will and to my horror, I was sectioned in a psychiatric hospital and forced to undergo electric shock treatment. I was kept in a private ward in the psychiatric hospital for three months while I underwent a series of shock treatments. After leaving the hospital, feeling very confused and lonely, Father Satori arranged for me to go on retreat for two weeks at the Caldey Island monastery before returning to university. …

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