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.


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