Who's to Blame if Gay Priests Arranged for Hitmen to Kill Them?

Rev. Rafael Reatiga and Rev. Richard Piffano

The Associated Press reported an unusual story out of Colombia, South America, as allegations arose this week that two gay priests there who were killed last year were not the victims of a robbery, but had hired the gunmen to kill the both of them.

The strange details of the case suggest that suicide may have been the motive:

“Rev. Rafael Reatiga asked his parishioners to pray for him and gave the choirmaster a list of songs for his funeral shortly before he was found shot to death together with another Roman Catholic priest, a Colombian prosecutor said Tuesday.

“Authorities initially suspected robbery when Reatiga’s body was found along with that of Rev. Richard Piffano, 37, in a car in southern Bogota on Jan. 27, 2011.

“But on Tuesday prosecutor Ana Patricia Larrota said investigators had determined that it was suicide by hitmen in the year-old case: the two priests hired gunmen to kill them after Reatiga discovered he had AIDS.

“The priests gave members of a criminal gang the equivalent of $8,500, said the chief investigator of the prosecutor’s office, Maritza Gonzalez, as two of the four alleged assassins appeared before a judge for processing.”

Reatiga also supposedly had syphilis, and witnesses say that he was often seen in gay establishments in Bogota, the capital city.

This story, whether true, false, or somewhere in between, is doubly tragic.  The deaths of the priests are one tragedy.  The second tragedy is that gay priests must continue to hide their sexual orientation due to official pressure from Catholic officials.

In 2005, when the Vatican issued an instruction to bishops around the world not to admit gay men to ordination or the seminary, many commentators, including New Ways Ministry, said that the effect of this rule would be to force gay candidates and priests further into the closet.  Instead of preventing gay men from becoming priests, this instruction would have the dangerous and damaging effect of forcing them to lie about their sexuality, prevent them from integrating their sexuality into their  spiritual and personal lives in holy and healthy ways, and result in significant personal damage to these men, the people they serve, and the entire church.

If indeed the allegations that one of these priests had sexually transmitted diseases, that the two maintained a clandestine social life, and that in desperation they ordered their own deaths, prove to be true, then church leaders who promote homophobia in the clerical life share a large portion of the responsibility for these tragedies.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Luke
    Luke says:

    This is just simply a slanderous blog post. To suggest the Catholic leader have a “large proportion” of the blame for these deaths is a kind of allegation that should be beneth a respectable Catholic ministry. Catholic teaching states that all priests (gay or straight) should live a life of celibacy and most do live fulfilled celibate lives. This case is completely unrelated to the 2005 decision not to admit gays to seminaries.

    I also think it is just completely disrepectful to the dead to speculate in a public forum about why these two individuals choose to end their lives.

    • Charles Busnuk
      Charles Busnuk says:

      Some people are so judgmental, uptight and unyielding, that you wonder how they live their personal life. The writer easily forgets how many priests have left over the last generation because of the requirement of mandatory celibacy. Things must be so(slanderous, etc) because he says they are. I read this blog because I get news I see almost no where else.

  2. Chaplain Bill
    Chaplain Bill says:

    This is a rather confusing post. By your headline question, you imply a connection of the suicide-murder of two priests with sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis and AIDS) to the Roman Church’s position of not allowing the ordination of same-sex attracted men.

    Regarding the question, it can easily suggest that HIV is a death sentence and not a medically manageable disease – something that so many have been working very hard to correct since the advent of protease inhibitors in 1996 so as to encourage widespread HIV testing and access to care for those infected.

    The issue of Benedict XVI’s banning same-sex attracted men from the Roman Catholic priesthood is entirely another issue. The ban could easily be a series of other posts. Clearly unworkable, it only teaches seminarians to continue to lie about who they are — and now to lie convincingly. As the saying goes, “we are as sick as our secrets.” This ban seeds the Roman Church’s next sex-abuse scandal in 20 years. I think that’s the real story.


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