Former Nuns Celebrate Civil Union in Italy, as Ousted Priest Marks Anniversary of Coming Out

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 3, 2016

Two women in Italy who had formerly been in religious life celebrated their civil union last week,  just about a year after a priest working in the Vatican  publicly came out as gay.

screen-shot-2016-01-20-at-6-01-42-pmFederica and Isabel celebrated their civil union in the city hall of Pinerolo, where they live, reported The Guardian. The ceremony was held a day early because “the media were alerted to the story and the couple wanted to avoid a media frenzy.” Mayor Luca Salvai, who officiated for the couple, said the town respected the couples’ desire for discretion and a simple ceremony. Theirs is only the second civil union in Pinerolo, a town near Turin in the north of the country.

The couple met while they were Franciscan sisters working at a rehabilitation center with people suffering from addiction. They left religious life, critical of the church’s teaching on homosexuality, and have entered not only a legal partnership, but will make their marriage vows in an unofficial religious ceremony. Franco Barbero, a resigned priest and friend of Frederica and Isabel, will preside at a religious service for the couple. He commented, reported The Irish Times:

“They are two lovely people, of intense faith and with serious studies behind them. . .They prayed a lot about this and they reflected at length during a difficult process.  In the end, they took their decision knowing that not many would approve….

“Mind you not everyone in the church disapproves…. They were criticised but also understood by their fellow nuns. Just like there are many decent priests who do not condemn this type of choice. I can also tell you too that this is not the first time that I have married two nuns.”

Having exercised their civil rights, the couple affirmed that they remain faithful believers and called publicly for greater respect from the Catholic Church, according to The Telegraph. Isabel said, “God wants people happy, to live the love in the light of the sun,” and Federica added, “We call upon our church to welcome all people who love each other.”

A year ago yesterday, former priest Krzysztof Charamsa came out as a gay man with a similar message. He has offered thoughts on the church in a new book, The First Rock. A Vanity Fair report on the book says the former priest criticizes a culture at the Vatican which “built the perception that homosexuals are sick and pedophiles” as a “move that serves to maintain homophobia within the Church.” Charamsa claimed further that allegations of a gay lobby were false, but propped up by ranking church leaders who “favored a corrupt system that allowed them to hide any suspicion of sexual abuse.”

CharamsaStonewallA former Vatican theologian and professor in Rome, Charamsa announced his coming out just days before the 2015 Synod on the Family, a moment that was a “big step for himself and the Church” according to New Ways Ministry. He has since moved to Barcelona with his partner, having been suspended from priestly duties.

In the interim, Charamsa has lectured and written widely, including an appeal to Pope Francis to end the “immeasurable suffering” the Catholic Church inflicts on LGBT people. He has said, “Today, I am a better priest. . .The paradox is that today, I cannot exercise my being a priest,” and that, “The church needs a Stonewall.” To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Krzystof Charamsa’s journey, click here.

Charamsa said in October 2015 that he hoped to be “free, happy, out of the closet, and serving the same ideals and the same values for which I became a priest” in a year. As he celebrates today the anniversary of his coming out, and as Federica and Isabel celebrate their love, may we echo their joy, the joy which comes from living as one’s authentic self, as one is created by God to be.

Top Catechist Calls Teaching on Homosexuality “Nonsensical”

 

fr_rene_camilleriweb
Fr. Rene Camilleri

Malta’s top catechist has questioned Catholic teachings on homosexuality and criticized a position paper about reparative therapy released by that nation’s bishops last week.

Fr. Rene Camilleri, who heads Malta’s Secretariat for Catechesis and is the Archbishop’s Delegate for Evangelization, called church doctrine on homosexuality “nonsensical,” reported Malta Today. He said:

” ‘The Catholic Church’s doctrine still refers to homosexuality in terms of it being an illness or a disorder. . .Speaking like that in today’s society is simply nonsensical.’ “

Camilleri was responding to a position paper from the Maltese bishops opposing the criminalization of reparative therapy, a proposal currently under consideration by the island nation’s legislature. The paper linked homosexuality to pedophilia and to mental illness, prompting strong criticism and even an acknowledgement from Archbishop Charles Scicluna that the paper was a mistake. Camilleri added his own critiques, saying:

” ‘My objection to this position paper is that it seems as though the Church still believes that it is possible to convert homosexuals, which is unacceptable to me. . .we cannot accept the presence of gay conversion therapy on the market in this day and age.’ . . .

” ‘I have my doubts as to the paper’s intended target audience, but if it was addressed to the general public, then mentioning paedophilia in such a delicate topic was always going to leave room for misinterpretation.’ “

This is not Fr. Camilleri’s first time speaking positively about LGBT issues. Last year, he weighed in about a Maltese priest’s decision to bless the engagement rings of a same-sex couple in The Independent. Uncertain whether he would bless such rings, Camilleri still affirmed the other priest’s decision and said ministers “cannot deprive [same-gender couples] of the blessing for which they ask.” He continued:

” ‘Priests are going to face this kind of situation and others that are similar during our pastoral work in new emerging situations that need our utmost pastoral sensibility. The Church should always keep the person at the centre of her existence because her main concern is not to safeguard the law. If a person decides to change his or her way of life and does not conform to Church teachings, the Church itself cannot just slam the decision and use condemnatory language in their regard. . .We are there to accompany people, wherever they are and whatever they choose to do.’ “

Camilleri said that, faced with emerging realities like same-gender civil unions and gender identity protections, the church “cannot afford to keep repeating old teachings because these realities are here to stay.” Informed by new contexts and understandings, the church must “do a lot of rethinking” and “take bold choices,” ever mindful that “the only reason the Church exists are people themselves.”

In 2012, the catechist said church leaders were wrong to oppose adoption by lesbian and gay people and that “the suitability of a person cannot be determined by sexual orientation or marital status.” It should be the children’s interests, not stereotypes, which dictate adoption policies, reported Times of Malta.

Malta’s top catechist has spoken, too, about reforming the church towards what Pope Francis envisions, stating in a January interview with Malta Today:

” ‘[Pope Francis] seems no longer to be there as Pope to safeguard doctrine, but to safeguard mainly the freedom and dignity of people to decide on their own. In all this the role of the church is not seen mainly as that of teaching and guarding right doctrine, but of being there to accompany people in their own journeys.’ “

 

In recent years, people living in highly-Catholic Malta have increasingly decided that LGBT civil rights are supported by their faith and acted freely to advance them. The island nation hosts Drachma, a group for LGBT Catholics, and the Drachma Parents’ Group, which favorably influenced last year’s Synod on the Family. The Maltese government passed a transgender protections law in 2015 that is now considered the gold standard in Europe and legalized civil unions in 2013. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has now announced his support for marriage equality, saying the country is ready to debate the issue.

Fr. Camilleri’s comments about the “nonsensical” underpinnings to the church’s teaching on homosexuality are wonderfully honest. His willingness to criticize his own superiors and, even more so, their willingness to hear such criticism and respond accordingly are signs of progress, too. This freedom to converse more openly now about the problems in the church which many have identified for decades is refreshing. Catholic theology and pastoral practices can and will only improve under such conditions, particularly on issues of sexuality, gender, and relationships. I hope Maltese church leaders’ actions these past few weeks will be an example that spreads globally.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

NEWS NOTES: October 23, 2013

News NotesHere are some items you might find of interest:

(1) The Archbishop of Lima, Peru, has publicly implied a legislator in that country is gay. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne was speaking on a radio program when he attacked the Carlos Bruce, who is the legislator behind a bill legalizing civil unions. Gay Star News quotes the cardinal as saying, “If a person has made some alternate choices, that’s their problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own.” Bruce chose not to reply to the comment.

(2) As marriage equality becomes law in Scotland, the Catholic hierarchy is warning it may imitate the French model and separate sacramental marriages from civil licensing. Archbishop Leo Cushley and the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said legal concerns are to blame, as they fear priests could be liable if they refuse to marry a same-gender couple. Pro-LGBT groups claim this is just politicking, and the Scottish government confirmed religious institutions would not be forced to provide same-gender marriages, according to The Scotsman.

(3) Bishops in Nigeria issued a statement at the conclusion of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria meetings that decried foreign organizations who are promoting marriage equality, along with condemning condom usage. Gay Star News reports that anti-gay legislation is increasing in the nation which has passed a “Jail All the Gays” law and banned diplomats with same-gender partners.

(4) Rosario Crocetta is seeking to clean up waste and corruption in Sicily, which is languishing amid debt and the Mafia. The New York Times offers an in-depth profile of this Italian politician who is the region’s leader, and who also happens to be a gay Catholic, in which he discusses faith, sexuality, and conflicts with local clergy.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Malta’s Bishops Quote the Letter, But Not the Spirit, of Pope Francis’ Words

maltaPope Francis’ positive words about lesbian and gay people in the last few months have been used by Catholic bishops in Malta recently.  Unfortunately, the bishops quoted the pope to support their opposition to that island nation’s proposed civil unions law for lesbian and gay couples.

On the positive side, the bishops used Pope Francis’ message to encourage civility in what could become a rancorous debate.   Pink News quotes a statement, the bishops:

“First of all, we should keep in mind that through this bill we are discussing persons and their lives. Consequently, in order that this may be a mature discussion, it should reflect a profound respect towards those persons. As Pope Francis recently said referring to persons with a homosexual orientation, ‘in life God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation’.”

While the bishops’ call for civility is admirable, especially since they are following the lead from Pope Francis, it is curious that they did not follow the pope’s example of supporting civil unions when he was an archbishop in Argentina.  Instead the Maltese bishops have taken a hard-line stance, opposing their nation’s civil unions bill, not because of any sexual ethics implications, but because it would allow couples in a civil union to adopt children.   Their statement notes:

 “According to the bill, the ‘partners in a civil union’ will be given the right for child adoption. We consider such an issue of a very delicate nature similar to every issue that involves children and the child’s best interest.

“Since there are contrasting views on the issue, it seems to us that it will be wise if the legislator takes the necessary time to make the right decisions on this matter. Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.

“Moreover, we ask the Members of Parliament to continue taking measures that strengthen the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman. Considering that the family constituted by the unity in the difference between a man and a woman ‘remains the first and principal builder of society’.”

In the second paragraph, the bishops seem to indicate that they recognize that this is a controversial issue, with varying opinions,  Yet, they are firmly against civil unions and they expect legislators to be so, too.   What is even more curious is that they never argue as to why and how it is better that children be raised by a heterosexual couple rather than a homosexual couple.  They state their claim as if it was accepted fact by all, which it clearly isn’t if a civil unions bill is being considered.

Helena Dalli
Helena Dalli

The bill is currently being debated by the nation’s Parliament which is also considering a bill to outlaw homophobic discrimination.  When the civil unions bill was introduced this week, Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli spoke words that sound more like Pope Francis’ message than the bishops’ statement did.  Pink News reported Dalli’s comments:

“We are people before we are straight, gay, black, white or red.

“We have to move towards a society that shuns discrimination and everyone enjoys rights to live a happy life.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

Separating Civil and Sacramental Marriage–Part 1

It’s always curious to me when similar arguments appear in the writings of people whose views on a topic are opposed.   I’ve pointed this out in two other instances, and you can read about them here and here.

The latest example comes from two sides in the marriage equality debate. Both writers are Catholic priests–one supports and the other opposes marriage equality.  Yet they agree on the fact that the institution of secular marriage and sacramental marriage need to be separated.  Today’s post will examine the essay from the priest supporting marriage equality, and tomorrow’s post will examine the essay from the one who opposes it.

Father Frank Brennan, SJ
Father Frank Brennan, SJ

Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ, a professor of law at Australian Catholic University, in an essay on EurekaStreet.com entitled “It’s time to recognise secular same sex marriage,” wrote about his nation’s marriage equality debate.  Over a year ago, he had written in support of legalizing civil unions, but he has now changed his mind to support marriage rights.  In his current essay, he suggested:

“It is high time to draw a distinction between a marriage recognised by civil law and a sacramental marriage. In deciding whether to expand civil marriage to the union of two persons of the same gender, legislators should have regard not just for the wellbeing of same sex couples and the children already part of their family units, but also for the wellbeing of all future children who may be affected, as well as the common good of society in setting appropriate contours for legally recognised relationships.”

Brennan has some exceptions to his support for same-sex marriage:

“Same sex couples wanting to create their own children may in the forseeable future be able to use only their own genetic material, precluding the possibility that such children will have a biological father and a biological mother. Whether or not we legislate for same sex marriage, we should restrict artificial reproduction of children such that they will have a biological father and a biological mother, and hopefully able to be known by them.

“Legislators making laws regarding adoption ought be able to demand that adoption agencies continue to consider the best interests of the child. In the case of a child unrelated to any prospective adopting couple, the adoption agency ought be able to have regard to the desirability of a child being brought up in a family with an adult male and an adult female.

“If these concerns were met or at least weighed in the balance against the claims of children already in same sex families deserving respect and nurture by the state and society, society could properly move to recognition of civil unions or same sex marriage if and when the overwhelming majority of the population (including those who are presently married civilly) supported such change.”

His conclusion in support of marriage equality, however, is very strong:

“It would be just and a service to the common good for the State to give some recognition and support to committed, faithful, long-term relationships between gay couples deserving dignity, being able to love and support each other in sickness and in health, until death they do part.”

He notes, too, that Pope Francis has taken a different approach to gay and lesbian couples than Pope Benedict XVI did.  Pope Francis, while archbishop in Argentina, supported civil unions.  Brennan notes his agreement with the new pontiff, but goes a little further:

“I am with Francis on civil unions but, unlike him, I now accept that we can probably no longer draw a line between civil unions and same sex marriage.”

Check out tomorrow’s blog post to see how a priest who opposes marriage equality also seeks to separate secular marriage from sacramental marriage.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

QUOTE TO NOTE: Vatican Official on Civil Unions

computer_key_Quotation_MarksArchbishop Vincent Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Family, was recently interviewed by National Catholic Reporter’s  John Allen, who asked the prelate to clarify his recent statements which supported civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.  Though some commentators felt that Paglia had retracted his support,  his comments in the Allen interview indicate that he continues to back civil unions. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

“ALLEN: Speaking of private law, you recently created a small media frenzy by suggesting that nations could find “private law solutions” to protect the rights of unmarried couples, potentially including gays and lesbians. In some quarters, that was seen as softening the Vatican’s line on gay marriage at a time when bishops in various countries are trying to resist a push for it. Did you learn anything from that episode?

“PAGLIA: Yes, that I have to be more careful in how I talk about these things, and more aware that words can be derailed. You may think they’re going to take you to the station, but in reality they can carry you to the edge of a cliff! But to make clear to you what I actually meant at the time, I proposed what the church has maintained: it is a matter of [protecting] individual rights. Facing the explosion in various forms of living together today, I simply called on states to find solutions which help people and avoid abuses.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

‘Known Lesbian’ Reaches Out to Cardinal Without LGBT Friends

In mid-April, Bondings 2.0 reported on a South African cardinal who claimed to know of no LGBT individuals personally, and thus rejected any claims he could be homophobic. Now, a self-ascribed “known lesbian” has written to Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier to challenge his statements, and, in between, presents a novel argument for why Catholic prelates fight so fiercely to deny LGBT equality.

Melanie Judge’s piece was published in the Mail & Guardian, a leading African paper, under the title, “Hi, Cardinal Napier. I’m lesbian.” She begins by questioning the cardinal’s involvement on issues of sexuality if he knows of no LGBT individuals:

“For someone who doesn’t know any homosexuals, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time concerning yourself with the lives of lesbian and gay people – specifically our rights to equality and protection under the law.

“If you don’t know us, and then by implication there aren’t any of us in your church, it seems queer that you would assume such an active position in denying us our right to rights.”

Ms. Judge is not content to say that Napier is simply anti-gay.   Instead, she believes his staunch opposition to South African legislation that would legalize civil unions is merely an attempt to preserve his power, and the power of the Catholic Church, that

“…entrenches a version of social relations and human sexuality based on male supremacy, the subordination of women, and the abjection of homosexuality….Perhaps your investment in the lives of sinful others is driven by an interest in protecting that power and the ideology that props it up. If so, I can understand why you’d rail against gays, lesbians and women who challenge your ideology.”

She continues by shedding light on Napier’s attempt to make LGBT people invisible, which contradicts the Church’s call to acknowledge, welcome, and include LGBT people:

“As you would know, a powerful way to neutralise nonconforming people whose very existence challenges your church’s prescription for human interaction is to make them invisible. To deny the very existence of gay and lesbian people is to render them unknowable and unseeable. Excluding people in this way sends a message to lesbian and gay people in your church (many of whom I know and see, and I’m not even Catholic) that they will be not be acknowledged by your leadership. To deny recognition is to deny human dignity, a strategy at the heart of homophobia.”

Ms. Judge’s comments examine the desperate attempts by Catholic bishops to maintain their privilege in a society structured around heterosexual relationships and male dominance, adding the unique perspective of a South African to her critique of oppression:

“Sexuality and gender were heavily regulated and constrained under apartheid and colonialism. Women and queers ‘knew their place’ and ‘suffered’ quietly and invisibly. Now we see a burgeoning of sexual and gender diversity – it’s exciting stuff, Cardinal. It’s a sign of a plural and democratising society in which ­difference is no longer synonymous with dysfunction.

“Shunning difference and enforcing conformity is how the church has asserted its control over populations for centuries. But this unchecked grip on power has been slipping in the face of democratic pressures. I feel for you, Cardinal; it’s hard to compete with the divine prospect of freedom and equality…

“Queers and women are laying claim to the resources, recognition and representations of citizenship – both inside and outside the church. It’s the stuff of democracy and of human rights. Still, none so blind as those who will not see.”

Melanie Judge respectfully confronts Cardinal Napier for both the ignorance his statement contains and the the underlying causes driving his anti-LGBT efforts.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry