An openly gay bishop in Northern Ireland has announced he will marry his long-term partner in a civil union.

Pat Buckley, 57, is an unaffiliated Catholic bishop. He will exchange vows with his male partner on February 8 in the same chapel where he celebrates mass twice a week, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

The Catholic Church excommunicated Buckley in 1998 when he received an unauthorized episcopal consecration as a bishop from Bishop Michael Cox, the man who had also ‘ordained’ Sinead O’Connor, the Telegraph reported. In 2006 he published a book called “A sexual life, a spiritual life: a painful journey to inner peace.”

Buckley became a Catholic priest in 1976 and was sacked from the priesthood in 1986. He has conducted an independent ministry in Larne, Northern Ireland, ever since, along with a team of helpers and other disenchanted priests who are no longer formally part of the Church, one of whom is married.

On his website Buckley asserts that he “has a long established ministry to the gay and lesbian community,” adding that he believes “homosexuality is not sinful in the context of love. Sex is only sinful when it is about use or abuse.”

He also says, “Sex is good. It is God's gift. It even allows men and women to share in God's role as Creator. That's why we pro-create. Sex is only wrong, immoral and sinful if it hurts someone or if it is used to use or abuse.” Buckley concludes, “A sexually active life (in love) is as pleasing in God's sight as celibacy / virginity.”

Buckley told the Telegraph he had not expected his announcement to attract such publicity, and said his partner wants their relationship to remain private. “I did not realise that this was going to come out and I would prefer not to talk about it at the moment,” he said.

Bishop Pat Buckley