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Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS Paperback – 15 Nov 1997
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Honourable... empassioned and tender (Sara Maitland)
'Two journeys are powerfully described - Rosemary finds a brother and a meaning to life and Simon finds he can survive a bullying fundamentalist father to accept himself first as a gay priest, then as a man living with AIDS... Rosemary Bailey's book will shock because it reveals the damage done to gay priests by the church, but it also shows that openness and honesty breed love and understanding? Revd Malcolm Johnson, Bishop of London's Adviser on Pastoral Care and Counselling
About the Author
Rosemary Bailey was born in Yorkshire in 1953, and studied English and Philosophy at Bristol University. She has worked as a journalist for twenty years, writing about sexual politics, culture and travel for many publications including the Sunday Times, Guardian and Vogue. She now lives in London and France with her husband, biographer Barry Miles, and their son.
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This book was written by a journalist, Father Simon's sister. Relatives who cared for people with AIDS may really relate to her struggles. Still, I got tired of reading, "Here are some facts. And here are some comments from my brother's diary. And here are some comments from my own."
This book spoke of a different place and a different time. Britain can be seen as having better gay rights laws than the US. I think Britain's HIV crisis is not as intense as that in the US. The Anglican Church is huge in Britain, but Episcopalians, the US equivalent, only make up about 2% of the US population. When Americans think of gay priests, they'd probably think of Catholic ones, rather than Episcopal ones, first. Also, the US has had a major crisis over pedophile priests; that topic isn't mentioned in this book at all.
This book may feel dated as stronger HIV drugs were manufactured shortly after Father Simon died. Perhaps he would have lived if he had had them. There is an emphasis on "dying from AIDS" in this book and now many people "live with AIDS" via these new and improved medications. Additionally, this book may feel VERY anti-climactic. As a priest who supported liberal causes, loved dancing, and worked in the theater, the author makes it clear that everyone suspected her brother was gay, including her family. When her brother became shockingly thin and couldn't shake medical problems, it was just obvious to his flock that he had HIV. So this is not about a man who shocked the community by his orientation and health status.
The book is not a difficult read, but it took me forever to finish. I don't know these church members. I didn't see the British TV show on which Father Simon came out on two matters. Perhaps only Britons who saw the news segment will relate to this book.