Lay Catholics in Italy Split on Civil Unions Question

January 31, 2016

Outside the Pantheon in Rome, equality supporters, including Catholics, call for civil unions to be legalized.

YesterdayBondings 2.0 explored how Pope Francis and the Italian hierarchy have engaged that nation’s present debate about civil unions for same-sex couples. One theologian’s analysis was that, for Pope Francis, this was an issue best left to the laity. Today’s post explores just how the laity have been involved and what their involvements could mean.

Italian Catholics on both sides of the civil unions question have participated in major demonstrations. Nearly a million LGBT supporters rallied on January 23 in public squares across Italy, bringing clocks with them to call on legislators to “wake up” about the necessity of recognizing same-gender partners in law. Rome’s Gay Center spokesperson Fabrizio Marrazzo said the 100+ demonstrations signal Italy’s “crisis point. . .about civil rights,” reported the National Catholic Reporter.

Among those experiencing this crisis is Andrea Rubera, a married gay Catholic in Rome, whose story, told in The New York Times ,reveals the urgent necessity of legal protections. Rubera married his partner, Dario De Gregorio, in Canada, and they became parents to three children. The Times article explained:

“But when they returned to their native Italy, a transformation occurred. Mr. Rubera suddenly became a single man, and his legally recognized husband in Canada became his single male roommate in Italy. Italian law also divided custody of their children.”

Of this, Rubera commented:

” ‘There are major injustices coming from this, all toward the kids. . .We are dreaming to be recognized as we are — as a family.’ “

Despite this reality, support for civil unions is declining, if the polls are accurate. Latest numbers have support below 50% whereas it peaked at 67% or higher last May, a decline tied to a clause supporting stepchild adoption for same-gender couples, according to some pundits. Attempting to assuage critics, the civil unions bill was watered down, reported Crux, when sponsors added “language clearly distinguishing the relationships from marriage” and other amendments.

Yesterday, groups and individuals against civil unions took part in “Family Day” protests, which received support from some church leaders, including Italian Episcopal Conference President, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. According to Crux’s John Allen, lay support for conservative church leaders is one reason that the Catholic Church “still has significant social capital and packs a political punch” in Italy. He wrote:

“That doesn’t mean the Italian Church wins all the time; famously, it lost referenda in 1974 over divorce and in 1981 over abortion, and prevailed in 2005 over stem cell research only by persuading Italians not to vote in order to invalidate the ballot.

“Yet Mass-going Catholics remain a sizable chunk of the national population and are well represented in both major political parties, and their sentiments have to be at least considered.”

Yet, simply citing that Catholics are politically involved is not sufficient evidence that LGBT rights will fail. It may actually be evidence for the contrary, as Out Magazine noted:

“At one time, the power of the conservative Roman Catholic Church seemed an almost insurmountable obstacle to the progress of LGBT rights. In 2003, Belgium became the first Catholic-majority country to adopt marriage equality, soon to be followed by Canada, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, France, and, most recently—and in a popular referendum—Ireland, revealing a trend that shatters such a pessimistic illusion. In fact, countries with a Catholic majority make up nearly half of those with marriage equality, and Catholics are overwhelmingly inclined to support same-sex marriages, or at least civil unions. So long as the false narrative of mainstream Catholicism’s lack of acceptance prevailed, LGBT progress for Italy looked bleak. Now, the country of 60 million looks poised to legalize same-sex civil unions. “

Ireland’s referendum and the marriage victories in many historically Catholic countries and states, aided in most cases by lay Catholics’ fervent efforts for equality, are true. But this is Italy, where the church’s political hold remains stronger due to the Vatican’s influence. With lay Catholics active both for and against civil unions, with Pope Francis advancing a more nuanced response, and with Italy’s bishops not united in strong opposition, it seems unclear just what influence Italian Catholics will have on Tuesday’s expected vote.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Vatican Marks David Bowie’s Passing By Praising Him

January 12, 2016

David Bowie

Even the Vatican has marked singer David Bowie’s passing, praising the artist whose life and career perpetually challenged sexual and gender norms, and who, at varying points in his life, identified as gay and bisexual..

Among the first to honor Bowie was Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture who tweeted lyrics from the musicians 1969 song “Space Oddity”:

“Ground Control to Major Tom/Commencing countdown, engines on/Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”

L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, published an obituary complimenting Bowie. The New York Times reported:

“The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has eulogized David Bowie as a singular musician, ‘never banal,’ who grew artistically over five decades thanks to his interest in art, film and theater.

“The paper, which frequently weighs in on pop culture, noted the ‘ambiguous image’ Bowie cultivated early on in his career and blamed it on his aim to attract media attention.

“But it said that aside from such ‘excesses,’ Bowie’s legacy ‘is one of a sort of personal sobriety, expressed even in his dry, almost thread-like body.’ “

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.11.13 PM

Tweet by Cardinal Ravasi

This is kind, if unexpected, praise from the Vatican for Bowie, who challenged gender norms. Zack Ford of Think Progress explained:

“This confusion was apparent in his own sexuality, which never seemed to fit neatly into any particular label. First he was gay. Then he was bisexual. Then coming out as bisexual was the ‘biggest mistake I ever made,’ because he didn’t ever feel that he was a ‘real bisexual.’ He admitted to having same-sex sexual interactions, ‘but frankly, it wasn’t enjoyable.’ In terms of sex and relationships, his own description of himself as ‘promiscuous’ may have been the most accurate of them all, but it reflected, as in the other aspects of his life and career, defiance of convention.”

Commenting further on Bowie’s significance for LGBT communities, a columnist with The Daily Beast wrote:

“In his refusal to label himself, there didn’t appear to be a cowardice, but rather an honesty and maturity around how unfixed, at least for him, the notion of sexuality was. That proved to be its own liberation, or at least freeing, moment for so many of every kind of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Vatican’s praise for David Bowie has generated global headlines, fueled by the dissonance created in bringing together rigid Catholic officials and the unconfined seeker that was David Bowie. That the Vatican’s newspaper was so affirming is a positive sign for LGBT issues in the church, likely another outcome from Pope Francis’ improved engagement with the world and demand for all people to be respected and valued.

I think Cardinal Ravasi and those behind the L’Osservatore Romano article are touching a deeper truth that connects Pope Francis, David Bowie, and all of us in between: the path to holiness is the journey towards authenticity. To paraphrase the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, “To be a saint is to be yourself.”

The world benefited from Bowie’s art, just as Catholics benefits from the many LGBT people who, in their own journeys to authenticity, help break down harmful gender and sexual norms in the church. We are all richer for the carefully tended fruits which then emerge.

David Gibson of Religion News Service headlined a column, “Saint David Bowie?” Perhaps we can just remove the question mark and simply say, “Saint David Bowie.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Slovenia Rejects Marriage Equality with Pope Francis’ Blessing

December 22, 2015
Africa Pope

Pope Francis

Slovenians rejected equal marriage and adoption rights for same-gender couples in Sunday’s national referendum, an outcome encouraged by Pope Francis who opined on the vote last week.

63.5% of voters rejected the marriage equality law approved by Parliament last March, which had defined civil marriage as the union of two adults and equalized adoption rights reported the Associated Press. LGBT opponents acted quickly to the law’s passage, with a church-supported group called “Children Are At Stake” gathering nearly 40,000 signatures to file for the referendum. Slovenia is 60% Catholic, and it remains conservative on LGBT issues despite being more socially progressive than other post-Soviet nations.

LGBT-negative voices received a boost from Pope Francis during his Wednesday audience the week before Slovenia’s referendum. According to The New Civil Rights Movement, Francis told the general audience which included Slovenian pilgrims:

“I wish to encourage all Slovenians, especially those in public capacity, to preserve the family as the basic unit of society.”

This is not Pope Francis’ first time using a general audience to weigh in on marriage equality. In February, the pontiff endorsed an effort in Slovakia to ban equal marriage and adoption rights, as well as parental consent laws regarding sexual education in schools. In that case, the vote failed.

The pope’s interventions raise at least two issues for me.

First, Pope Francis’ language was similar in both appeals by focusing on the family as the “basic unit” or “vital cell” of society. Like many LGBT advocates, I agree with this sentiment, and I believe strengthening families is key for the common good. Strengthening this basic unit is precisely what expanding family law to include same-gender couples and their children does. Denying equal rights only undermines families. Pope Francis may be relying upon debunked sociological data frequently employed by anti-LGBT voices. Regardless, it appears he needs to update his understanding of LGBT families today (which have been noticeably absent from the institutional church’s ongoing reflections about family life in the last two years).

Second, why is Pope Francis endorsing political campaigns in Slovenia and Slovakia while foregoing similar interventions elsewhere. Certainly, the pope must contextualize his remarks. But he said nothing about marriage equality during his visit to the U.S., despite the bishops’ likely desires that he condemn Obergfell.  Moreover, he avoided LGBT criminalization completely when in Kenya and Uganda recently. Such selective remarks may be coincidence, but they may also reveal Pope Francis to be appeasing different audiences when it comes to LGBT issues. Preaching mercy to some audiences while simultaneously encouraging other audiences to deny equal rights is disingenuous at best.

Legislators with the United Left party in Slovenia said the referendum is merely a setback, with MP Violeta Tomic saying, “Sooner or later the law will be accepted.” In the meantime, LGBT Slovenians will remain second-class citizens without access to marriage or adoption rights, due in part to Pope Francis’ intervention against equality. This is not a hopeful start for the Year of Mercy in terms of LGBT human rights and the pope.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


As Year of Mercy Begins, Cardinal Says Being Gay Is Not a Crime

December 8, 2015
Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Being gay should not be illegal. This is a top Indian prelate’s message as the nation’s legislators consider decriminalizing homosexuality, coming just as Pope Francis formally commences the Year of Mercy today.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Archdiocese of Bombay  (city of Mumbai) spoke to The Hindu Times about his public opposition to Section 377, which criminalizes homosexuality. He explained:

“For me it’s a question of understanding that it’s an orientation. . .I know there is still research being done whether it’s a matter of choice or matter of orientation and there are two opinions on this matter. But I believe maybe people have this orientation that God has given them and for this reason they should not be ostracised from society.”

Gracias was India’s only religious leader to criticize the re-criminalization of homosexuality in 2013. When the Delhi High Court’s decided to reinstate Section 377, he remained opposed to it in principle and is hoping legislators will act now to remove it.

Criminalizing a person’s sexual identity is a form of discrimination which the church opposes. Gracias further noted that “the Vatican itself is not for criminalisation of these people” and that such matters are distinct from questions of sexual ethics.

Beyond repealing Section 377, Cardinal Gracias’ encounter with LGBT people has implications for the church. He affirmed that those he met seek to serve faithfully both their church and their society. Citing the Year of Mercy, Gracias said “society should change its attitude towards [LGBT people], be more welcoming and understanding” and the church desires these same ends.  The Indian Church can help expand people’s thinking, said the cardinal, and added:

“The Church also has an important role to play in providing them a sense of security. It’s not just that they should be tolerated, they should also be accepted. For many of them, through no fault of their own, this is a great suffering. They may like to have a family, have children but they cannot. It’s a cross that they have to bear.”

Gracias criticized “judgmental language,” mainly by those who think “it is a choice to be same-sex oriented.” Meeting with India’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which he heads, the cardinal said those gathered agreed their rhetoric about lesbian and gay people was too harsh. Locally, Gracias recently asked a priest to tone down his preaching on homosexuality.

The cardinal is realistic, however, about both the local Church and broader Indian culture being very traditional and resistant to change. He expressed fears of a backlash if LGBT rights are pushed too far, but said fear could not stop progress because communities “should not suffer because of that.” He concluded:

“Maybe this is a change that will take some time to come because Indian society is truly not ready for it but it is certainly a change that should come today, or tomorrow, whatever is the best time.”

As the Year of Mercy begins, I would call attention to the reason Cardinal Gracias gave for his more inclusive approach to LGBT issues. He explained:

“I had been reflecting on the question of whether the church should be more welcoming towards members of the LGBT community for some time. I met some groups and associations of LGBTs and I had an understanding for them. I don’t want them to feel ostracised. That’s why I came out publicly some time back saying I was in favour of decriminalisation of Section 377. . .

“When you interact with them you realise that they are everybody, they are sons and daughters of our own friends and our own society. But it is still something that is hidden and in the closet. People are frightened to come out because of the lack of acceptance.”

Cardinal Gracias’ public statements against criminalization are laudatory, as were remarks made in an exclusive interview with Bondings 2.o during the Synod on the Family that the church “embraces. . .wants. . .needs” LGBT people. What is most instructive, however, is his willingness to encounter LGBT people and risk being moved by their stories.

Pope Francis has called for a ‘culture of encounter,’ but few church leaders have made it real. Bondings 2.0‘s readers include many committed advocates who do much good in their local churches by creating encounters. While we cannot know the power of any specific letter or meeting, but we do know with certainty this is how change in the church and in society always happens.

The Year of Mercy is a perfect moment for renewed dialogue between LGBT Catholics, their families and faith communities, and church leaders across the world. Let us not wait to get started!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

U.S. Diplomat Criticizes Vatican Assertion that Western Aid Tied to Marriage Equality

November 12, 2015

Randy Berry

Visiting the Vatican earlier this week, a United States’ diplomat tasked with LGBTI human rights criticized the Catholic  hierarchy’s assertion that Western governments tie foreign aid to marriage equality. These remarks come just weeks before Pope Francis journeys to Africa, including Uganda where anti-gay legislation became law last year and Kenya where homosexuality is illegal.

Randy Berry, the U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI People, said of these assertions, recently restated in the Synod on the Family’s final report, “the notion that aid was given on the basis of civil unions is completely false,” reported the The Tablet. He stated flatly: “It is not. Period. Full stop.”

Berry made the comments during meetings with Vatican leaders to discuss about the persecution of LGBT people globally.  He met with representatives from the Vatican Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.  The Tablet reported:

“Mr Berry stressed he had not come to the Vatican to pressure the Church to change its position on same-sex marriage rather to discuss violence and discrimination of gay people in parts of the world where homosexuality is illegal.”

Citing Uganda, Berry admitted that certain aid had been suspended in response to that nation’s anti-gay legislation but only after extensive reviews “to make sure that US taxpayer money was not used to fund legal structures that would prosecute people based on their identity.” The only aid affected is that which would have strengthened the state’s ability to prosecute LGBT people under the law, which Berry importantly noted, “the Church also opposed.”

The Synod document had reaffirmed this idea that humanitarian and development aid is being tied to marriage equality, stating in section 76, as paraphrased by Crux:

“They said local churches shouldn’t be pressured on the question of same-sex marriage, nor should international aid organizations make the acceptance of gay unions a condition of their financial help to poor nations.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, also suggested this connection between aid and marriage equality was the case in an interview with Bondings 2.0‘s Francis DeBernardo. The cardinal said that while lesbian and gay people’s identities should not be criminalized, no state should be “victimized” by having aid denied because of anti-gay laws. Turkson has had an already ambivalent record on LGBT human rights issues.

Despite the disagreement of Western aid distribution and “clear differences” on same-sex couples’ legal rights, Berry was clear that the U.S. government and Vatican broadly agree that LGBT people should be protected from violence and discrimination. He called the meetings “quite a positive experience” and “an important first dialogue” from which to build collaborative efforts, according to Time.

That this meeting between high-level diplomats even occurred is historic and a sign of progress in the church. Berry, who is gay and the first person to hold this LGBTI special envoy position, requested the meeting so he could “brief Vatican officials myself.” He was on the continent for a three-week tour through Eastern Europe. Elizabeth Dias of Time commented on the event’s significance:

“It is a sign that the Obama administration sees future opportunity to work with the Vatican after the Pope’s September visit, with the possibility to build on the partnership they have strengthened on climate change and migration. It is also a sign that Vatican diplomatic efforts are willing to take certain amount of risk by talking with the U.S. on this issue, as any LGBT issues thrusts the Church into an often conflicted spotlight.”

Berry has visited more than thirty nations since taking office in February, and he described his role as one of listening as well as advocacy. Affirming Pope Francis’ style of openness, the envoy said:

“That inclusive approach speaks volumes. . .I would hope that be because I think they are completely consistent with what we’ve seen from His Holiness in the past.”

This goal of ending discrimination and violence against LGBT people, particularly their criminalization, is indisputably consistent with Catholic teaching. Uganda and Kenya both criminalize homosexuality because civil leaders have used sexual minorities as political scapegoats. Catholic leaders’ responses have been lackluster, if not quite negative in certain instances. Pope Francis should use his upcoming apostolic visit to speak out for the human rights of all, but note the particular challenges LGBT people face.

In this way, Francis can make clearer his commitment to mercy for LGBT communities and position the Church geo-politically as an ally to those seeking to protect the rights of all sexual and gender diverse communities. No endorsement or even discussion of marriage or civil unions is required.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Synod Day Two’s Question: Who Is Inside and Who Is Outside the Church?

October 7, 2015

This post is the second in Bondings 2.0’s reports from the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome.  New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo will continue to send news and commentary from this meeting. His first post can be reached by clicking here

Here in Rome, the synod is basically a closed event.  No reporters or the general public are allowed into the meeting room where the bishops are having their discussions.  But every day at 1:00 p.m., the Vatican spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, is joined by international staff (including English speaker Father Thomas Rosica, CSB) and a few of the synod participants, to explain what transpired since the day before.

At Tuesday’s briefing,  Lombardi told the assembled reporters that since Monday, 72 bishops had made short addresses to the synod, covering a wide range of topics concerning the family:  economic problems, unemployment, migration, violence against women, care for the elderly, child labor, and others.  The list seemed intended to illustrate a fact that was reiterated several times at the briefing:  the synod would not just be about divorced and remarried Catholics.

Pope Francis presides over the synod.

Lombardi emphasized that Pope Francis had warned the bishops that this would not be a single-issue meeting, just as he stressed that Catholic doctrine on marriage “has not been called into question.  The doctrine is still valid.”

Rosica reported that among the topics covered by the 72 bishops who spoke was a concern about lesbian and gay people.   He said that one message expressed was:  “We do not pity gay persons.  They are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and colleagues.”  He reported that another message expressed about gay and lesbian people was: “These are our children, our family members, our flesh and blood, not outsiders.”

Those messages of affirmation are part of the good news of today.

More worrisome were the remarks by Archbishop ‎Paul-André Durocher, the president of the Canadian bishops’ conference.  Durocher is known as being one of the more pastoral bishops at the synod, and, at first glance his remarks seemed to be balanced.

He explained that many of the bishops see a “growing division between cultural life and and what the church teaches.”  This division can elicit two different reactions, he said.  One way is emphasize what teaching is, so as to make sure that it is not diluted.   The other way is for the church to move away from secular culture, and thus become a ghetto.

Durocher said that  the challenge for the bishops in the synod was “how to hold onto the church teaching and enter into dialogue” with other ideas. Some bishops, he said, will emphasize the teaching and some will emphasize the dialogue.  He described the synod as a “collegial exercise to hold both sides together.”

The problem that I see with this kind of thinking, though, is two-fold.  First, if church leaders want to enter into dialogue, they must do so open to the possibility that their position might change.  Without that openness, they are not really having a dialogue.  They will only be having two separate monologues.  Repeated warnings leading up to the synod have all stressed that there will be no change in doctrine.  If that mantra is serious and not just a message to console conservatives,  then it means that the church leaders really do not want to dialogue with those who hold different opinions from the magisterium.

The second problem is that Durocher imagines that there are only two sides to these discussions: inside the church and outside the church.  He imagines the debate as being essentially between the sacred and the secular,  ecclesia vs. culture.  That simple division is not accurate.

In fact, the most serious debate is not between those inside the church vs. those outside the church, but between those inside the church who want to see changes in certain areas concerning families and those inside the church who want to keep things as they are or even move backward to earlier positions.

It is a serious mistake, one made far too often by church leaders, to see progressives inside the church as being too greatly shaped by secular culture.  If bishops would meet with progressives, they would learn that this group wants change because they have been influenced by the Gospel and the Catholic tradition.  As we say about those Catholics who support LGBT issues, they do so because they are Catholic, not in spite of being Catholic.  They have taken the best principles of Catholic social teaching–equality, human dignity, respect–as well as the best ideas about the goodness of loving relationships for human personal and spiritual growth, and have applied them to the various situations in which LGBT people find themselves.

Although I am most familiar with the LGBT community, I know from talking with others who advocate for the divorced/remarried Catholics and for the equality of women, that the same foundation in Church principles exist.  Faithful Catholic theologians have long argued that the tradition of Catholicism supports changes in the areas of LGBT concerns, divorced/remarried issues, and gender equality.  To imagine that it is only secular cultural forces that want to see these changes is a dangerous mistake which does not recognize how the Spirit of God is moving in the Church.

Among other bits of good news from today, Rosica also mentioned that the problem of terminology also was discussed as a major theme. One bishop said “there must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis of embracing reality as it is.” A different bishop noted that sometimes “our church can often be a dangerous place,” and suggested the synod explore the question: “How do we make our homes and ecclesial communities welcoming places?”  Though no one referred to LGBT issues, I can’t help but think that this was on the minds of some of the speakers.  Rosica stated: “Some of the interventions suggested we should be more inclusionary in our language, especially in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.” He stressed that some bishops said “The language of inclusion must be our language.”

A reporter asked Durocher about the question of the Church’s prohibition of divorce, inquiring if it was a matter of doctrine or discipline.  The importance of such a question is due to the fact that there have been so many statements that doctrine will not change.  But can a church discipline change?

Durocher’s answer was: “To be quite honest, there might be differences of opinion” on that question, and it “will be debated.  We will discuss it seriously.”   Though the question was asked in terms of the situation of divorced people, it can also be applied to LGBT issues such as the reception of communion, the baptism of children of lesbian and gay couples, allowing transgender people to serve as godparents, and the firing of married lesbian and gay church employees–all of which are matters of discipline, but not doctrine.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

National Catholic Reporter: “Vatican: Pope reminded Synod that divorced and remarried not only issue”

More Details Emerge About Gay Priest Dismissed from Vatican After Coming Out

October 5, 2015

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa

A few more details and commentaries have emerged about the gay priest serving at the Vatican priest who came out this past weekend

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa announced he was gay and partnered last week just days before the Synod of Bishops kicked off in Rome, reported Crux.  The news report quoted another news story in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, in which the priest provided some background for his decision:

“[He] was motivated to make his sexual orientation public by hate mail that he received after publicly criticizing a right-wing Polish priest who is strongly anti-gay in the Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.

The 43-year old priest said he hoped to be “a Christian voice” influencing the Synod on Marriage and Family [which began yesterday] as it discusses LGBT pastoral care among other topics related to family life.

Charamsa, a theologian for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, assistant to the International Theological Commission, and professor at several pontifical universities in Rome, initially came out in interviews published in Italy and Poland. Crux quoted his message to the LGBT community in his coming out announcement


” ‘Do not apologize for what you are,’ he said in comments meant for the LGBT community, ‘because you’re full members of the community, and in the case of the baptized, of the Church. [You’re part of a] civilized community, and the Church doesn’t have the moral right to deny your right to love and get married.’ “

The priest, who has not been laicized although this decision remains in his bishop’s hands, said the decision to come out was “a very personal, difficult, and tough” one because the Catholic Church is homophobic. For this reason, he also said LGBT Catholics should fight for their “dignity and right to happiness” when the Church persecutes them.

Charasma’s announcement led to his immediate dismissal from both the CDF and university faculties.The priest acknowledged these potential sanctions in the Irish Times, but was clear he could not remain silent:

” ‘I am ready to pay the consequences of this but the moment has come for the Church to open its eyes to gay believers and to understand that the solution which it offers to gays, namely total abstinence from a love life, is simply inhuman’ . . .

“Monsignor Charamsa said on Saturday there was a day when ‘something breaks inside you’, adding that God guided him to this decision, ‘which should be the most simple for any homosexual’.

“He said: ‘It seems to me that, in the Church, we don’t know homosexuality because we don’t know homosexuals, yet we have them all over the place. With my story I want to shake the conscience of the Church a bit.’ “

Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi called the priest’s actions “very serious and irresponsible” because they made a “pointed statement” as the Synod was beginning, reported Vatican Radio. Others, however, have welcomed Monsignor Charasma’s integrity and openness precisely because it shakes the church’s conscience while criticizing the Vatican’s expulsion.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, told The Independent:

“Charamsa now joins the long list of people fired from jobs in Catholic institutions because of LGBT issues. It is unfortunate that Church leaders did not see this as an opportunity for further dialogue with someone they have known and trusted.”

You can read New Ways Ministry’s full statement applauding Charamsa’s courage and honesty here.

Michael Bayly, who blogs at The Wild Reed, commented on Charamsa’s firing:

“I remind myself that expulsion is often the cost of true discipleship.”

Before Charasma’s announcement theologian Mary Hunt penned an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun noting that a large number of closeted gay men are involved in church decisions which harm LGBT people:

“Finally, it is time to end the gay charade in the Roman Catholic Church. The sea of men in every church and papal meeting during the U.S. visit underscored a homosocial power structure. It is an open secret that a high percentage of clergy and religious leaders are same-sex loving people, whether sexually active or not. For those same men to collude in anti-LGBTIQ efforts, including legislation and theology, is morally repugnant.”

Monsignor Charamsa’s coming out and dismissal come in a charged week for LGBT Catholics news, as reports surfaced about Pope Francis’ encounter with Kim Davis and a same-sex couple. Even with those items swirling, the gay priest’s announcement cut through and made headlines — a testament, I think, to the power that such a revelation has to move people and potentially effect change in the church.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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