Three Italian priests and one nun in have sent an open letter to the Archbishop of Florence, Italy, to call for more open dialogue on the issue of homosexuality and the Catholic church. Their letter, which should be read in its entirety, is a call to the church to exhibit an extravagant sense of hospitality and welcome to all. (Clicking on either of the links above will bring you to the letter. Scroll down the page halfway to find the complete text.)
Fathers Fabio Masi, Alessandro Santoro, Giacomo Stinghi, and Sister Stefania Baldini wrote the letter to critique a collection of articles and letters in a Catholic newspaper, Toscana Oggi, which covered homosexual and heterosexual civil unions, but which did not present any views opposed to official Catholic thought. The letter, which has been made public by the Italian Catholic LGBT group “Progetto Gionata” (“Jonathan Project”), states:
“We believe that the articles printed in the Diocesan weekly publication (Toscana Oggi) do nothing but repeat existing ecclesiastical positions on homosexuality, without providing any insight on a topic that has been considerably developed and explained in recent years, and which requires more research.
Our letter testifies to the fact that there is diversity of positions regarding this issue today, both in secular thought and in our churches themselves. We, along with various theologians, bishops and Christian laypeople, do not see our viewpoints represented in Toscana Oggi’s treatment of this issue through its articles.”
The pastoral leaders call for the church’s magisterium to update its views on homosexuality in light of the significant research progress made in this area:
“It is important for the Church to recognize the progress made in the science of understanding humanity in a positive manner and to refrain from making absolute declarations which she will then have to admit are mistaken, as has happened in the past. These developments lead us to see homosexuality in a new light and to deal with it under a different moral perspective. On this topic, the Bible does not, nor could it, say anything, simply because it was not known, just as it says nothing about ecology or use of the atomic bomb.”
The authors go on to diminish the requirement of procreation in sexuality and to propose that the church should welcome all people:
“Regarding the issue of being procreative or sterile, Jesus said that it is the heart which must be fruitful and Paul says that one joins God’s people through faith, not by heredity right. In this sense, who can honestly define themselves fruitful? Who can become judge of their own fruitfulness or that of others? Sterility can befall anyone.
“This way of profoundly welcoming the life of each and every human being, this is something we learned from the Church! For disciples of Jesus, it is not so much about defending principles, rigorously guarding them, like angels with a sword of fire before the tree of life; rather, it is about ‘looking into’ the lives of women and men of our times, in order for them to progress towards fullness. It does not entail being faithful to a God who is known and possessed, but to a God who ‘is coming’. Jesus said: ‘Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you do not know how to interpret this present time?’ (Luke 12:56)”
The Catholic Church, they say, should be leaders in the work of welcoming and accepting lesbian and gay people:
“It seems to us that it should be from the (Catholic) Church should itself that a new way of understanding homosexuality come, with a sign of welcoming and profound respect for the love felt by people who personally live out this orientation. Two people who love each other are not an attack on society nor are they a betrayal of the Gospel. Scandals should be looked for elsewhere!
“Referring partly to these Biblical sources and partly to the human experience we know as we live out every day with these people, we feel that it is a natural and Christian response to welcome these different forms of love in full communion. We feel that they are an integral part of our journey of life and faith, and that with them, as with all others, we can participate in sacramental Communion and community life.”
Many thanks to these courageous pastoral leaders for so boldly speaking the truth in love to their archbishop.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry