Gay scene exists in priesthood: Pell

Newly-installed Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, has admitted there were "small pockets" of homosexual culture among priests in Melbourne.

Archbishop Pell became the focus of pro-gay protesters last week for his hardline stance against homosexuality, and he has refused communion to homosexuals in the past.

But he conceded today on Channel Nine's Sunday program there was a homosexual element among priests in Melbourne - albeit "very, very small" - that should not be encouraged.

Archbishop Pell rejected as a "slur" and "insulting" the suggestion that a group of priests close to him were known as the Spice Girls because of their keen pursuit of high liturgical practices involving incense and rejected any suggestion the group was gay.

Mary Helen Woods, daughter of well known Victorian Catholic, the late Bob Santamaria, said she saw the group of priests as "girly", but not gay.

"George, being a sort of charismatic figure, has a close circle of good friends amongst the clergy and amongst the young seminarians," she said.

"They are ... ardent friends and they tend to be quite a close little circle and they're sort of quite high church.

"They love their ceremonies and they love their incense and they love dressing up, and if they want to describe that inner circle as the Spice Girls I can sort of see where the comment's coming from.

"I don't see it as a sexual thing at all, I just see it as, if you like, a power thing.

"People are attracted to a powerful bloke, they tend to be a bit girly about it and I don't mean gay, I mean girly."

Archbishop Pell called the "Spice Girls" label a slur, and said he was very insulted at the mention of the group in such a way in the media recently.

"That was most insulting and most misleading and a gratuitous slur," he said.

"I totally reject those anonymous sort of comments."

Archbishop Pell did admit, however, there was a small gay culture within the Catholic church.

"There might be small pockets of it and it's certainly something we shouldn't be encouraging," he said.

He said that the subject of homosexual behaviour was often discussed in relation to closed communities, however there were few of those left in modern times.

"There are very very few of those now and those who live in such communities generally interact very freely with the rest of society," he said.

"Nonetheless, there is certainly a dimension of truth in that danger."

Archbishop Pell said any sexual activity by priests was incompatible with their work, and that he had offered counselling in the past to those who needed it.

"There will be no discrimination. Regular sexual activity, whether it's heterosexual or homosexual, is incompatible with continued active priestly work," he said.

"If that is happening, they need to resolve the situation.

©AAP 2001
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