With so many tributes to loved ones who fell victim to HIV and AIDS, I want to pay tribute to one man who has devoted his life to caring for those with HIV and AIDS. This one person has made such a positive impact on the LGBTQIA community and has literally ministered to thousands of men who were alone and lost. This man is Reverend Bernárd Lynch.
During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s, Bernárd was a tireless voice in the New York City community and traversed the difficult road of illness and death. His leadership served as a beacon of light to those of us lost in the sea of dying faces we could not save. Bernárd took up a fight of which many other men shied away. This man used every ounce of his being to provide care to those who died and to those of us living and blindsided by AIDS. Bernárd’s faith in God never wavered.
Bernárd is an out and proud Roman Catholic priest who has marched in the Gay Pride parades of New York and London for the past 30 years. He has touched the hearts of gay men and lesbian women from the shores of the United States to England to his homeland of Ireland. Few men living can be called icons, but I certainly would call Bernárd an icon.
Bernárd’s list of accomplishments is long and varied. He has worked for the betterment of the LGBT community worldwide.
Father Lynch first came to notice in New York City in 1982 when he formed the first AIDS ministry in New York City with the Catholic group Dignity. It was this same year that he was drafted to work with the then-New York City Mayor Koch’s Task Force on AIDS.
In 1984, Father Lynch publicly backed Executive Order 50 in New York, which forbade discrimination from employers who did business with the city or received business funding. At the height of the AIDS pandemic in 1986, he used his voice to publicly speak up against Cardinal O’Connor in New York City Council chambers for Intro 2, that guaranteed lesbian and gay New Yorkers the right to work and housing without prejudice against their sexual orientation.
Accusations of sexual abuse were lodged against Rev. Lynch in a criminal case in 1989, in which
he was found not guilty and acquitted. Some, including Rev. Lynch, believe that the prosecution
was part of a smear campaign against him by Cardinal O’Connor and his allies in the church and
government. A 2019 civil lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, in which Rev.
Lynch was accused of sexual abuse, was dismissed for lack of evidence.
His work related to HIV and AIDS and his persecution in New York were profiled by Channel 4 in
three documentaries: AIDS: A Priest’s Testament, Soul Survivor, and Priest on Trial. He
received the AIDS National Interfaith Network Award for Outstanding Contribution to HIV and AIDS
Ministries in 1990. In 1992, Father Lynch was the first priest of any denomination to march in
London’s LGBT parade dressed as a priest. In 1993, he founded a support group for priests who
His autobiography, A Priest on Trial, was published in 1993. In 1996, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence canonized Father Lynch outside Westminster Cathedral in London. In 2006, Father Lynch became the first legally married and legally valid priest in the world to have a civil partnership with his partner and husband, Billy Desmond.
In 1986, he received the Magnus Hirschfeld Award for outstanding services to the cause of Irish LGBT freedom. Father Lynch was welcomed in 1995 to the Palace of the President of Ireland by her Excellency President Mary Robinson.
Never in my life have I met, or been privileged to know, a man who represents the LGBT community so well.