More to the Story Than Simply an Exorcism

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


Sicily Elects Catholic Gay Man as Governor

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