Under Pope Francis, Italian Gay Catholics See Signs of Hope — and Resistance

April 9, 2014

Whether a ‘Francis effect’ exists and just what it might be are questions which have dominated media coverage of Pope Francis’ first year. Now, the Washington Post profiles gay Italian Catholics who very much believe  ‘l’effetto Francesco’ or ‘Francis effect’ is positively influencing not just the Church, but their nation as well. The article begins by setting the Italian context:

Giulia Masieri is given Communion during the Mass held by Don Andrea Bigalli in the Church of Sant’Andrea in Florence, Italy. The parish welcomes gay Catholics.

“But for the pope, perhaps no one issue illustrates his divergence from tradition more than early signs of rapprochement between the church and gay Catholics.

“Francis’s shift so far has been one of style over substance; nothing in the church’s teachings on homosexuality has changed, and conservative clerics remain deeply skeptical of any radical move toward broad acceptance. But few places offer a better snapshot of the church’s evolving relationship with its gay flock than here in Italy, the host of Vatican City and where Roman Catholicism wields outsize influence.”

Italy, long influenced by the Catholic Church, is a holdout among European nations on LGBT rights. The nation’s bishops have helped stop even civil union-type legislation and, of the so-called ‘social issues,’ the Post writes that “homosexuality remains the last taboo.” LGBT advocates do not expect legal recognition of same-gender partners any time soon, even as Italian politicians begin to more publicly endorse gay equality. And yet, the Post notes:

“…the influence on the ground of Francis’s words and deeds — including a recent suggestion that the church may look more closely at the issue of civil unions — has begun to create what gay Catholics here describe as a burgeoning spirit of acceptance in pockets of the church’s grass roots.

“In Florence, a local parish council this month permitted a group of gay Catholics to hold their first public prayer session inside a Roman Catholic church. In Rome, a parish run by Jesuit priests announced a special service scheduled for April that, also for the first time in recent memory, is openly reaching out to gay as well as divorced Catholics. A leaflet for the service depicts Francis on the cover and reads: ‘The Church wants to be home. For everybody.’

“Prompted by a new Vatican questionnaire seeking views on family issues including same-sex couples, a representative of the Diocese of Padua held a landmark meeting in December with a gay Catholic group. Luigi Pescina, a spokesman for the group, said members were told that local church officials would now aim to ‘strip ourselves of prejudice and fear’ and ‘open up a relationship of exchange and enrichment’ with local gay Catholics.”

Elsewhere, Catholic priests and politicians who are already LGBT-affirming are pushing the boundaries and citing Pope Francis when doing so. Kairos, an existing gay Catholic group who received a personal response from Pope Francis last fall, may now hold public liturgies and be affiliated with the parish which had been hosting it. The group’s coordinator Innocenzo Pontillo and others said of these steps:

” ‘It may seem small, but for us, this is important…It is like feeling the light on your face. These are things which I feel would have been impossible before Pope Francis.’

“New members of the group, like Anna Maria — a 35-year-old lesbian who was too afraid of being ‘outed’ to give her last name — have come to consider the pope’s comments on homosexuality last July as a personal turning point.

“She said her devoutly Catholic mother called her after hearing the pope’s declaration. The two of them had grown distant since Anna Maria had told her mother years earlier that she was a lesbian. ‘But when she called me, she said, “If the pope is not judging you, then who am I to judge you either?” ‘ “

Yet, LGBT advocates are warning of claiming too much, too soon, as positive as Pope Francis’ first year has been. They point to continued examples of priests condemning gay and lesbian people.  And sustained cultural change will be needed if Pope Francis’ welcoming tone is to have a lasting impact.

There are also those in the Catholic hierarchy working against LGBT inclusion, including Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of Italy’s conference of bishops. In a speech, Bagnasco urged parents to oppose an anti-bullying campaign launched by the Italian government to stop violence against and suicides by gay people.

The cardinal used harsh language, saying schools were becoming “indoctrination and re-education camps” in a “totalitarian dictatorship” and attacked what he termed “gender ideology.” According to The New Civil Rights Movement, outcry from Catholic bishops has now caused the government to postpone rolling out the anti-bullying program.

Italy’s situation is a reminder for the universal Church that while Pope Francis is opening doors to LGBT people, lasting change will only come as a result of cultural transformation and we have much to do. Still, the ‘Francis effect’ seems helpful along this path to a more just Church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


QUOTE TO NOTE: Italian Archbishop Calls on Church to Re-Think LGBT Approach

March 20, 2014

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Archbishop Italo Castellani

Archbishop Italo Castellani of Lucca, Italy, has called for the Church to re-think the negative way it thinks about lesbian and gay people.  On Top magazine reports on his recent conversation with reporters in which he stated:

“If all the flowers were the same, fields would lose their beauty.

“Gay. Well, I must confess, when I use this word it seems that there is an intrinsic judgment yet. I struggle to use it. Therefore, we need a cultural transition, because difference is wealth. What matters above all is the dignity of the person.”

The archbishop’s words were originally reported in an article on Schermo.it, an Italian language news website.  The translation of his statement was provided by the blog, Agere per Formulas.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Letter-Writing Revolution Requires Our Involvement

October 10, 2013

Pope Francis

Pope Francis makes headline after headline for personally reaching out through letters and phone calls to people who have written to him, and speaking pastorally with them. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica now reports that the pope sent a handwritten reply to a group of gay and lesbian Catholics in Italy, and the original letter may have prompted the pope’s recent warm remarks on LGBT people.

Based on a Google translation (and Bondings 2.0 will update with a more reliable translation when that becomes availabe), La Repubblica writes:

“Pen and paper. Among the many revolutions made ​​by Pope Bergoglio, in addition to phone calls home to ordinary people…there is also the ‘post effect,’ the mountain of letters delivered every day at his residence in Santa Marta, and sent directly to him…

“Some people think it may have been one of these ‘messages in a bottle’ that inspired the breakthrough of Bergoglio about gays. A letter sent in June to the Pope by various Italian gay Catholics…where gays and lesbians asked Francis to be recognized as people and not as a ‘category’ and called for openness and dialogue on the part of the Church, recalling that the closure ‘always feeds homophobia.’ “

Further information comes from America Magazine, which only weeks ago carried a groundbreaking interview with Pope Francis where his remarks on homosexuality were positive and welcoming, which reports:

“A leader of the impromptu committee said as gay Catholics they had in the past written to other members of the church leadership in Italy and had always before been rewarded with silence…

“The Kairos group said they also received a letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State, which informed them that Pope Francis ‘really enjoyed’ their letter to him and the way it was written, calling it an act of ‘spontaneous confidence.’

“One Kairos leader said Pope Francis had also assured the group of his blessing, something they could not before have imagined happening. The members of Kairos have decided to keep the rest of the message of both letters private.”

When New Ways Ministry led a pilgrimage to Italy in 2011,  the Kairos group met with our American travelers to share stories and perspectives.  Francis DeBernardo, our executive director, is contacting them currently to learn more about this papal letter.  If we receive more information from them about the correspondence, we will update you.

While the contents of the pope’s letter remain private, truly as if between a pastor and the people he serves, there are broader lessons for the LGBT and ally Catholic community in this experience.

First, the wisdom that relational encounters with people are the most effective form of advocacy is relevant even for the pope. If La Repubblica‘s conjecture is correct that the personal letter from Kairos of Florence led to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” and other comments that have greatly shifted the Church’s tone on LGBT issues, then everyone should be writing letters to Rome. New Ways Ministry wrote a letter to Pope Francis, telling him about the goodness and holiness of Catholic LGBT people and pastoral outreach to them here in the U.S.  Would you consider writing your own thoughts to him?

Second, if reaching out to the pope is effective, perhaps it is time for Catholics to reach out to their local Church leaders, namely priests and bishops. Sharing personal stories to replace philosophical constructs with human faces and relationships might lead to further conversions.

The pen and paper revolution underway with Pope Francis offers each person an opportunity to write their own message in the model of the Kairos of Florence authors. If you do write to Pope Francis or a local church leader, please consider sharing your message in the ‘Comments’ section for this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


More to the Story Than Simply an Exorcism

July 22, 2013

While reviewing news stories and opinion pieces for this blog, I tend to avoid pieces which scream of sensationalism, of which there are many since this blog deals with two journalistically volatile topics:  religion and sexuality.

Image from the movie "The Exorcist"

Image from the movie “The Exorcist”

One story came across my computer screen a few weeks ago about a priest in Italy recommending an exorcism for a young gay man.   Reading the headline, I initially wrote this off as a sensational story.  Yet someone sent me the link recently, and when I read the whole story, I realized there was more to it than just the exciting headline.

Indeed, the story is not so much about  the priest, but about a mother who is a strong advocate for her son and LGBT people.

Gay Star News  reported the incident this way:

“A faithful Catholic mom was comanded to get an exorcist and leave the church, after her priest discovered her teenage son was gay.

“His condemnation came after she begged him to read a letter to his congregation in favor of gay rights on behalf of her and her son.

“But he replied: ‘Your son is a devil. So, please, go to an exorcist. And, please, leave this church.’

“The incident earlier this month in Palermo, the capital of the Italian island of Sicily, has now been reported by LGBT Christian group Ali d’Aquila.”

But buried in the story is the fact that this mother was a fearless advocate for her son:

According to Ali d’Aquila coordinator Giovanni Capizzi:

“She asked the priest to read a pro-gay letter during the service. But this is how the priest reacted.”

More importantly, Capizzi also noted that he sees this priest’s response as uncharacteristic of the Catholic clergy that he knows:

“Ali d’Aquila is hosted by priest Padre Cosimo Scordato in the San Francesco Saverio church in the Albergheria area in Palermo.

“We have to thank all the wonderful priests who believe in us. Not all the church people are homophobic or anti-gay.

“Some priests don’t want us to pray and hold public meetings, but some of them are really friendly and pro-gay.”

So, far from being a story about  a priest’s ignorant reaction, the story turned out to be about a mother who was advocating her son, and the fact that Catholic priests in Sicily are more welcoming of LGBT people than is usually thought.  I’m glad I read the story past the headline.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World–Especially in Catholic Nations

April 16, 2013

As marriage equality legislation increases in the United States, there is also progress being made in several nations around the world, including notably Catholic ones. Bondings 2.0 provides brief updates on five nations that are moving towards greater LGBT rights, and we encourage readers to use the provided links for more information.

Uruguay

In this predominantly Catholic nation, 71 of 92 deputies in Congress voted for marriage equality sending the legislation to the pro-LGBT president, Jose Mujica, for his signature within weeks. BBC News reports that Uruguay becomes the second Latin American country to pass full marriage equality, after Argentina. In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender adoption regulations.

Italy

A leading judiciary figure in Italy has called for equality in one of the final European nations without legal recognition for same-gender relationships, and one of the most Catholic. The Sacramento Bee reports on both the Italian judge’s statements and the Vatican’s stance on Italian law:

“President Franco Gallo said the Italian Constitutional Court has ‘ruled out the constitutional illegitimacy’ of laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

“‘At the same time, the Court has stated that two people of the same sex still have the fundamental right to obtain legal recognition of their stable union, with attached rights and obligations,’ he said…

“In February, the Vatican’s top official on family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said: ‘gay marriage is one thing, and our position on that is well known, while discrimination is another matter.’

“‘Individual rights must be guaranteed’ through ‘private law,’ including for same-sex couples, Paglia said, referring to ‘patrimonial’ aspects. He stated that it was ‘time for lawmakers to worry’ about the issue.”

France

The French Senate passed legislation allowing same-gender marriages and extending adoption rights to lebian and gay couples. The National Assembly passed similar legislation in February. The debate over marriage equality in France inspired massive demonstrations and heated exchanges in the past year, reported here and here on Bondings 2.0. France is a historically Catholic nation, and it has been Catholic lay movements and French bishops leading opposition to LGBT rights. Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides further details, as France is now just months away from full marriage and adoption rights being passed.

Ireland

Members of a Constitutional Convention voted on April 14 in favor of a national referendum on equal marriage rights, with 78% seeking an amendment with language directly enacting same-gender marriage and another 17% for language that allows the government to do so. The Irish Times reports on the way forward as government officials take up the Convention’s recommendations:

“The Government was committed to holding a discussion on the report of the Constitutional Convention, [Minister for Justice Alan Shatter] said. ‘The issue of a constitutional referendum will thereafter be considered by Cabinet,’ he said. It was for the Cabinet to decide on the holding and the timing of the referendum, he added…

“The members of the Convention also voted yesterday in favour of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.

“’I think there would be a great deal of wisdom in that legislation being progressed and published before we go to a constitutional referendum,’ Mr Shatter told RTÉ today. The issue was omitted from the 2010 Act legalising civil partnership for same-sex couples, he said. Mr Shatter is due to publish details of a Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address such issues in the coming months.”

Ireland is considered one the world’s most Catholic nations, and the bishops there have already threatened to cease issuing marriage licenses if marriage equality becomes legal. The next steps will be for the Irish government to take up the Convention’s recommendations and enact legislation, either for constitutional changes or changes in the law under existing constitutional strictures.

New Zealand

Legislators will expand same-gender rights in New Zealand, where civil unions currently exist, as a full equal marriage bill receives a final vote tomorrow. On Top Magazine reports:

“Big crowds are expected to be on hand to witness Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality member’s bill receive its third reading in Parliament.

“The measure received overwhelming approval at its committee stages last month. Wednesday’s final vote is considered a formality. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage…

“If the bill is approved, it is expected to take effect in August.”

As always, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers as progress for full LGBT rights proceeds in these nations and others. If you have not done so, use the ‘Follow’ box in the upper right hand corner of this page to receive daily email updates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Pope Francis’ Support of Civil Unions Is Part of a Growing Trend in Catholic Church

March 22, 2013

News reports that Pope Francis supported civil unions as a compromise strategy when he was archbishop in Argentina have given hope to LGBT-affirming Catholics that he may be a pope who will be willing to soften the hard line that the Vatican has taken on the issue of marriage equality and same-gender relationships under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

If Pope Francis does institute the same policy as pope that he promoted in Argentina,  he will be in good company with other bishops around the globe on this matter.  As Bondings 2.0 has been reporting over the last year or so,  there has been a growing trend of more openness to same-gender relationships, including civil union support, by a number of bishops and church leader from various nations.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Bondings 2.0 has been taking note of this trend since December 2011, when Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, supported the idea of civil unions in the United Kingdom’s marriage equality debate.   At about the same time, Fr. Frank Brennan, a Jesuit law professor in Australia, wrote an essay supporting the idea of civil unions, too.  Just last month, the bishops of England and Wales, in commenting on the marriage bill there, praised same-gender parents:

 “We recognise that many same sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.”

Bishop Pa0lo Urso, of Ragusa, Italy, also gave de facto support for civil unions in January 2013 when he stated:

“When two people, even if they’re the same sex, decide to live together, it’s important for the State to recognize this fact. But it must be called something different from marriage.”

Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini

Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini

Just over a year later, he was joined by Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, in nearby Calabria, Italy, who supported legal protections for gay and lesbian couples, as long as the word “marriage” wasn’t used.

In the United States, the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, supported a civil unions bill in March 2012, as a way to forestall marriage equality.   In their statement, the diocese said:

“The Diocese of Manchester consistently has opposed legislation that would establish civil unions. However, the proposed amendment to HB 437 falls into a category of legislation which the US Bishops have previously considered: bills in civil law which may not reflect the fullness of the Church’s teaching, but which nonetheless provide an “incremental improvement” in the current law and a “step toward full restoration of justice.” (USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 32)”

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Archbishop Vincent Paglia

Most recently, Archbishop Vincent Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, also supported legal protections short of marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  A news report stated:

“In his first Vatican press conference since his appointment as the Catholic church’s “minister” for family, Paglia conceded that there are several kinds of ‘cohabitation forms that do not constitute a family,’ and that their number is growing.

“Paglia suggested that nations could find ‘private law solutions’ to help individuals who live in non-matrimonial relations, ‘to prevent injustice and make their life easier.’ “

Though some claim that Paglia later backtracked from these statements, it seems that his later comments were simply a criticism of news reports which tried to make it sound like he had supported marriage equality, which it was clear he had not done.

Related to this trend of supporting civil unions as a political strategy is a newer trend by some bishops in speaking positively about gay and lesbian relationships.   This recent trend began in May 2012 when Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, Germany, addressed a national gathering of Catholics, stating:

“When two homosexuals take responsibility for one another, if they deal with each other in a faithful and long-term way, then you have to see it in the same way as heterosexual relationships.”

Cardinal rainer maria woelki

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

Woelki re-affirmed his position in an interview with Die Zeit magazine, in which he stated:

“ ‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,’ the Catechism says about people with homosexual tendencies. If I take that seriously, I can’t merely see homosexual relationships as a ‘violation of natural law,’ as the Catechism puts it. I should also try to perceive it as people permanently taking  responsibility for one another, being loyal and willing to take care of each other, even if I can’t agree with such a lifestyle.”

Early in 2013,  the French bishops conference went public with a statement opposing marriage equality, but which spoke very favorably of gay and lesbian relationships.  For example, they stated:

“The diversity of homosexual practices must not hinder us from taking seriously the aspirations of those men and women who wish to engage in a stable bond. . . .

“The Catholic Church calls the faithful to live such a relationship in chastity but she recognizes, beyond the one sexual aspect, the value of solidarity, of the attention and care of the other which can manifest itself in a lasting affective relationship.”

You can read relevant excerpts from this document provided in English translation here, thanks to Bondings 2.0 reader Tom Luce.

Bishop Scicluna

Bishop Charles Scicluna

Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta spoke in a similar vein about same gender relationships in February 2012. The bishop made his remarks in response to an anti-gay letter written to him by a Mr. Joe Zammit:

“Bishop Scicluna maintained that ‘Gay people are not called to marriage which is the permanent union between one man and one woman open to the gift of parenthood,’ but then added, ‘they are indeed called to chaste friendship and chaste friendship is chaste love.’

“ ‘To say, as Mr Zammit keeps harping, that “there can never be love but only lust between homosexuals” is to deny the truth of what the Church teaches.’ . . .

You can find a video of Bishop Scicluna’s comments here.

All of  these items indicate a definite trend toward a more positive approach on same-gender marriage that is percolating among the hierarchy.  Although none oppose the traditional teaching on marriage, these moves indicate a willingness to move away from harsh rhetoric, as well as looking for ways to accommodate legal protections for families headed by same-gender couples.

The recent report that Cardinal Bergoglio had supported civil unions can offer some hope that now as pope he will do the same.  I would be more hope-filled if his statements reflected some of the more positive messages that some of the bishops reported on above had made about the goodness of gay and lesbian relationships.  The report of his proposed compromise makes me wonder if he was motivated by political pragmatism in an effort to prevent marriage equality or a moral duty to protect lesbian and gay couples.  I think the hope for the future may be in the fact that the trend among bishops for a  more positive framing of lesbian and gay relationships will flourish more openly under a pope who, for whatever reason, has already been willing to drop the traditional hard line.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013

News NotesHere are links to Catholic LGBT news items that might be of interest to you:

1) Archbishop Victor Tonye Bakot of Yaounde, Cameroon called same-sex marriage a “serious crime against humanity,” according to Reuters. His comments intensify ongoing debates over legal equality in Cameroon, where youth are agitating for LGBT rights in a nation that has criminalized homosexuality.

2) The Telegraph reports that Scottish regulators recently ordered a Catholic family services agency to end discriminatory adoption practices that favored couples married for at least two years. Scotland is moving towards marriage equality, but for now the regulators gave the agency until April 22nd to end their policy.

3) Hackers downed an anti-gay Catholic blog in Italy for 25 days because it advocated a ‘cure’ to homosexuality and posted comments that blamed domestic violence victims for their abuse.  Pink Star News reports that, unfortunately, the site is now up again.

4) The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed legislation that would grant same-gender couples marriage rights and, as expected, the Catholic bishops in that state have opposed it. The Providence Journal reports that the Rhode Island Catholic Conference director claims marriage equality undermines the common good.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Italian Bishop States His Support for Civil Unions for Lesbian and Gay Couples

December 20, 2012

An Italian bishop has stated his support for civil unions, though not for marriage, for same-gender couples.

 

Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini

Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini

GayStarNews.com reported that Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, of the Locri-Gerace diocese in Calabria (the southernmost part of Italy), has written a letter to his churches where he stated:

“same-sex couples should have their civil rights recognized.”

He also added:

“However, same-sex couples are not families. We can not give them the right to a regular marriage. . . .A marriage is a union between a man and a woman, but every couple should have civil rights.”

While this may not sound like earth-shaking news, it is interesting to note that over the past year, we have seen a small trend among some Catholic leaders (and conservative political leaders, too) to support civil unions as an alternative to marriage.

For example, the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, ended up supporting a bill in the state legislature which would have instituted civil unions as an alternative to marriage.  Similarly, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster (London), England stated his support for civl unions at the end of 2011.  In May of this year, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin, Germany, said that he thought homosexual and heterosexual couples should be treated similarly by the church.

More importantly, Bishop Morosini’s comments differ markedly from an Archdiocese of Milan spokesperson who, in July, said that establishing a civil union registry in that Italian city would lead to polygamy.

No, the earth isn’t shaking because of Bishop Morosini’s comments, but taken in the context of these previous statements from other church leaders, I think we are witnessing the beginning of some kind of shift.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Italian Priest’s Defrocking Stirs Debate Among Students at Fordham University

November 16, 2012

Don Mario Bonfanti

A Catholic priest in Italy has been removed from ministry for publicly coming out in October, but this case led to more fruitful discussions about spiritual leadership in the Church among some of its younger members here in the United States.

Bondings 2.0 noted in October that Don Mario Bonfanti posted,“I’m a gay priest, I’m a happily gay priest” on Facebook during International Coming Out Day.

Gay Star News reports that the bishop of Ales-Terralba has since removed Bonfanti from the register of priests. The bishop, Giovanni Dettori, identified a letter from the priest expressing discontent with the Church as ‘apostasy.’ Additionally, Bonfanti’s outspoken views on marriage equality, communion for divorced couples, and anti-war activism are well known. The diocesan newspaper revealed that the Church views the loss of this priest as ‘sad.’

Here in the U.S., Fordham University’s student newspaper, The Ram, offered a summary by Patrick Maroun of how some young adult Catholics view the controversy of Mario Bonfanti. Focusing on the Catholic commitment to love unconditionally, the essaycaptures students’ recognition that a priest’s orientation is highly irrelevant and discussion should be focused on the quality of ministry:

“Paul Ross, FCRH ‘15, said, ‘It doesn’t bug me at all. I see nothing wrong with it.’

“David Emami, GSB ‘15, shared a similar sentiment. ‘I’m okay with it,’ he said. ‘Is he a good priest?’…

“‘When you go to talk to [any other] priest, [presumably] he’s attracted to women, so there’s no real difference talking to a priest who is attracted to men, as long as his life is devoted to God,’ Marc Alibrandi, FCRH ’15, said…

“‘There’s no reason that him being gay and him being a priest have to be mutually exclusive,’ [Paul] Ross said.”

Young adults concern with a pastoral worker’s abilities trumps considerations of their identity as a person. Maroun hopes the case of Bonfanti in Italy is an opportunity to educate, to love, and to welcome:

“I want to reinforce the call for love in the Catholic Church…We must welcome members of the LBGT community as who they are, and not only as who we wish for them to be.  Just as in art, the beauty of our society and our world is a product of all of the different and great people in it, and the contrast that they create.”

In instances like the defrocking of Mario Bonfanti for coming out as God created him, an injustice is committed against good pastoral leaders desperately needed in the Church today. The person attacked, the community they serve, and the Church worldwide are all deeply harmed. We can hope, like the students at Fordham University, that from this injustice God draws forth good.  The Catholic Church can become more loving and welcoming, especially to the LGBT Catholics who so effectively serve in it.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

For New Ways Ministry’s listing of gay-friendly Catholic colleges and universities, visit newwaysministry.org/gfc.

For further information on New Ways Ministry’s efforts in Catholic higher education and to get involved, contact youngadults@newwaysministry.org.


Sicily Elects Catholic Gay Man as Governor

November 9, 2012

A gay Catholic man was recently elected governor of Italy’s island province of Sicily.  Yet his election may not signal new possibilities for LGBT-friendly initiatives.

Rosario Crocetta

Rosario Crocetta, the new governor, who was a candidate of the Democratic and Catholic Union of Christian and Centre Democrats parties, has not been known for advocating for LGBT equality in Italy.

Yet, Crocetta’s reluctance to work for gay rights is not the only reason that LGBT issues will not be on his agenda.  According to The Guardian, the coalition of parties that elected him

“. . .is also likely to limit pro-gay political initiatives in the region. Crocetta’s inability to act on social rights will be compounded by the lack of power given to governors under Italian legislation.

“‘Lacking nationwide legislation, single regions cannot act independently [against] homophobic behaviours and to grant same-sex unions. Isolated initiatives approved in Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria (central and northern Italy) have not positively affected daily lives of gays and lesbians, who still face social and legislative discrimination,’ says gay activist Stefano Bucaioni.”

Still his election was praised by one of the leading gay rights activists in Italy:

” ‘This is very important as a message for the Italian LGTB community,’ said Andrea Maccarrone, president of the Rome-based gay rights group Mario Mieli.

” ‘Citizens appreciate when politicians are open and honest with them, including about their private lives,’ he added in an interview. ‘Being gay is no longer seen as a problem that stops them being good representatives of the people.’ “

That Crocetta’s orientation was not a factor in the election signals for him and others that attitudes in pre-dominantly Catholic Italy are changing.
While Italy is one of the few nations in the European Union that do not offer some sort of relationship-recognition in law, according to Maccarone Italians are becoming more and more accepting of LGBT people:

“Acceptance of homosexuality is evolving faster in public opinion than among politicians, he adds.

“The influence of the Vatican and the sway small conservative groups can hold over the balance of power in the country’s fractious political landscape have helped obstruct reform.

“But even in the conservative south, public attitudes are more open than outsiders believe, Maccarrone says. He points to the vibrant gay community in his own hometown, the Sicilian city of Catania.

” ‘It’s very open to gays,’ he says. ‘You can see openly gay people in the streets, sometimes holding hands, it’s not a big issue. Of course I’m not saying there’s no homophobia, no violence, but in the south, like in all of Italian society, the people are more open than politicians.’ “

Crocetta himself believes there is a lot more openness to gay people in Sicily than the island is given credit for. Another Guardian article on his election stated:

“Crocetta, a devoted Catholic, has long claimed that southern Italy is surprisingly relaxed about gay politicians, once stating,       ” ‘There is a great respect for the individual, making it less homophobic than the north.’

“In August he told an interviewer, ‘After leaving prison in England, Oscar Wilde took refuge in Palermo. Seen like this, there is lot people have to learn about the south.’ “

The fact that a centrist Catholic party helped to elect Crocetta is commendable.

The fact that this same party is unlikely to work for LGBT equality shows that there is still much work to be done.  According to Gay Star News:

“Once in power, Crocetta may not be able to do much for LGBT rights however. He won the election leading a coalition with the Union of Christian Democrats, a centrist party very close to the Catholic Church.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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