Giles Hibbert OP was born in 1923 into a distinguished military family. He was brought up in a country house in Wiltshire where his father, Major General Hugh Hibbert DSO was the local squire and leader in the Anglican parish. Giles was educated at Uppingham and went into the army and saw active service as an engineer during the Second World War and later in Korea. The army sent him to Cambridge to study for an engineering degree, but while there he heard his true calling. He gave up his degree course, was received into the Catholic Church and joined the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). He was sent to study at Louvain and moved on to Oxford where he completed a doctorate.
After some time teaching at Blackfriars Oxford and in the university, where he taught Plato and Aristotle as well as Hebrew and Biblical Studies, he was appointed chaplain to the Catholics at Sheffield University where he spent eight fulfilling and rewarding years. After two years as chaplain at York University, he ended up living alone in a small house in the Peak district which the order bought for him. He became very active as chaplain to the local Newman circle. From there he ran Blackfriars Publications, set up in 1993 under the patronage of Timothy Radcliffe, until his health forced him to return to live in community. In 2009 he moved to the Dominican House on Haverstock Hill in London and in December 2012 to Cambridge where he had a happy final year of life.
Giles was a person of strong principle; as was stated in his funeral eulogy, he had a temperamental impatience with hypocrisy, pomposity, limp piety and self-deception in others. He was quite prepared to criticise the official teachings and workings of the Catholic Church. He was one of the fifty-five priests who wrote to the The Times in August 1968 to show their disapproval of Pope Paul VI's unilateral declaration, in the face of the opposition of the papal commission, of Humanae Vitae. A battle with the Inquisition resulted in an editorial about him in The Guardian of which he was ever afterwards immensely proud. This principled nature also led him to become a founder member of the Gay Christian Movement (now Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement) and, in 1977, its first vice president.
During his time on the board of LGCM, Giles consistently maintained that the Movement's concern should be with the Church's understanding and acceptance of human sexuality in its entirety. That may seem obvious now, but it wasn't in 1977, when the specific concerns of gay male Anglican clergy tended to dominate the agenda. Giles also publicly defended Denis Lemon, the editor of Gay News, in the blasphemy proceedings brought by Mary Whitehouse, and contributed a chapter to the influential book Towards a Theology of Gay Liberation, edited by Malcolm Macourt and published by SCM. His work with his order meant that he was unable to remain on the board of LGCM for a long time; however he remained a strong supporter of LGCM and of Catholics for a Changing Church, for whom he wrote several articles.
Giles died in December 2013, at the age of 84, at the end of a long and often painful illness.
(This biographical statement taken from an obituary written for LGCM by Michael Egan and an obituary posted on Catholics for a Changing Church, December 28, 2013.)
Biography Date: April, 2014
Catholic (Roman) | Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (United Kingdom) | Activist (church change) | United Kingdom