A Polish priest who, on the eve of the Synod on the Family, came out as gay and announced he has a partner has been indefinitely suspended.
Regardless, Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa remains firm in his calls for the church to stop harming LGBT people and is appealing directly to Pope Francis.
The New York Times reported that Charamsa wrote a letter to the pontiff, asking him to end the “immeasurable suffering” the church has caused LGBT people and their families, writing:
” ‘Be merciful — at least leave us in peace, let the civil states make our lives more humane.’ “
The priest’s letter comes after the Synod’s close, a meeting which has disappointed some LGBT advocates and left others suggesting it was one of several steps towards a more inclusive church. Charamsa called the Synod’s end “homophobic,” singling out Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah’s comparison of LGBT advocacy to “Nazi-Fascism and Communism.” Of these words, the gay priest explained:
” ‘That’s why I renew my appeal to the Holy Father. . .No one publicly said a word against those defamatory sentences. What kind of respect does that show to us all?’ “
[Editor’s note: Bondings 2.0’s Francis DeBernardo speculated that Pope Francis’ non-specific apology at a general audience during the synod may have been a response to Sarah’s vicious language.]
For being gay and partnered, Charamsa has been suspended indefinitely per a statement from the Diocese of Pelplin in Poland, reported Crux. This suspension remains in place until the priest shows “a real improvement of life and it can be reversed,” which would includes adherence to the “true teaching of the Church and Christ’s priesthood.” Despite punishment, Charamsa affirmed his decision to come out, saying to NBC News recently:
” ‘I am a gay priest and I am happy to say that I am a gay priest. . .I lost my work in the Vatican, in university, but I think I found my courage, my liberty, my dignity.’ “
Though sanctioned, Charamsa is not silenced and, besides his letter to Pope Francis, he is speaking directly to Catholics through the media. According to Crux, he sharply criticized Catholic teachings on homosexuality during an Italian television program:
” ‘We gays, lesbians, and transsexuals were not created defective . . .I had to hide being homosexual not only in the Vatican, but for my entire ecclesiastical life: during studies in the seminary, during my work in the university, in my parish, in every ecclesiastical setting. . .To be gay in that period was something ugly, horrible, which had to be refused, eliminated, and destroyed, even if it was part of you.'”
The priest told the network, “Retequattro,” that the Catholic Church “cannot continue destroying our lives” and said of his own life:
” ‘A year from now, I see myself free, happy, out of the closet, and serving the same ideals and the same values for which I became a priest.’ “
Charamsa also denied reports he was paid to come out or was otherwise benefiting, reported AFP, and further said there was no “gay lobby” at the Vatican though he added:
” ‘I met homosexual priests, often isolated like me. . .But I also met several fantastic homosexuals who are some of the best ministers in the Church.’ “
Charamsa has released a 10-point “liberation manifesto” for the church to address the harm it causes through institutional homophobia, reported The Independent, and said previously that the church’s expectation of gay people to be celibate for life is “inhuman.”
The priest’s coming out has prompted larger conversations about gay priests and news broke around the same time of other gay priests being removed from active ministry for their sexual orientation. In Chicago, Crux reported a priest was removed from ministry for an “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.”
Reports also surfaced of a Vatican retreat in Italy which seeks to “cure” gay priests and others with “inappropriate sexual tendencies. Former priest Mario Bonfante claimed he was expelled from religious life after coming out as gay and refusing to seek treatment. Spokespeople for both the Vatican and the retreat are refusing to comment, reported Sunshine Coast Daily, but critics are not holding back. New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo said:
” ‘This sort of thing is completely wrong. . .Being gay is not a disease that needs to be cured. . .What needs to be cured is not homosexuality but homophobia.’ “
That homophobia, all too present in the institutional church, as a recent incident in Italy revealed. A priest, Gino Flaim, defended pedophilia, saying victims sought affection. He also said that homosexuality was a disease. Thankfully, he was suspended quickly.
The Polish priest’s harsh treatment for being gay and partnered is in sharp contrast to the harboring of priests who abused children, observed Peter Saunders, a clerical sex abuse victim and member of Pope Francis’ commission on the issue. Michael Coren criticized the church’s hypocrisy when it comes to gay priests, too, in The Star, writing:
“When it comes to sexuality the Roman Catholic Church is living a lie, one that has become so systemic and accepted that it’s now part of Catholic culture. Some of the finest priests I have ever met have been gay, partly perhaps because they understand a sense of ‘the other’ and thus evince compassion and empathy. . .
“Rome has to abolish compulsory clerical celibacy, admit and embrace its gay priests and lay people, stop obsessing about sex and sexuality, and open the doors of the church and, forgive me, the closet.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry