Fired Gay Priest: "The Church Needs a Stonewall.”

CharamsaStonewall“I can’t follow Jesus from the closet,” said Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa, the former Vatican official fired after he publicly came out as gay in October. Charamsa added, “The church needs a Stonewall,” referring to the 1960’s protests outside a New York gay bar of that name which many people identify as the start of the modern gay liberation movement.

Though fired from his job at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now suspended as a priest by his home diocese in Poland, Charamsa was clear in a Religion News Service interview that he has no regrets:

” ‘I understood that [being closeted and being in a relationship] had nothing to do with reality. . .A moment arrived and I couldn’t do it anymore.”

That moment, just days before the Synod on the Family, arrived following the priest’s frustrated attempts to reform the church from within. Working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Charamsa said he “couldn’t cast doubt on the strategy of homophobia” and “could not even use the word ‘homophobia’. ”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo commented in the article that gay priests who come out usually meet with support from parishioners and friends:

“Priests I know who have come out have often done it gradually and more privately. . .[Publicly] it’s always been received with great support.”

Not all have welcomed Charamsa’s  coming out, though, and a few LGBT Catholic advocates are among his critics according to The Washington Post. Andrea Rubera, an organizer of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics’ conference right before the Synod, criticized the priest’s timing and said further:
” ‘Our fear now is that his coming out, and the way he came out, will build a wall, not a bridge.’ “
 Michael Brinkschröder, who is a leader in the European Forum of Christian LGBT Groups, said pressure “is not the appropriate means to achieve change.”

Charamsa, however, was clear that his coming out was indeed a protest. Despite disagreements over the details, LGBT advocates with whom he consulted were overwhelmingly supportive of his decision. Like any protest, there have been tremendous costs and Charamsa reported that family members in Poland are suffering, too, including the bullying of his brother’s children by their peers at school.

Commenting on the Synod itself, Charamsa said Vatican staff “entered into panic” in response to the 2014 Extraordinary Synod’s more welcoming tone towards lesbian and gay people. Describing this year’s deliberations as “inhuman theater,” he added to his initial criticism of homophobic comments by Cardinal Robert Sarah:

” ‘Sarah should have been reported (to the police) for his statements, but the synod didn’t say anything. . .He’s only one expression of a mentality; they think like him, because they didn’t contradict him. It’s a mentality and a paranoid vision of homosexuals.’ “

Charamsa’s hope is in Pope Francis who can, in the priest’s words, “turn on a light in the hearts of bishops” to promote reform. He is clear, however, that Francis must act concretely for inclusion and not just speak merciful words. The gay priest’s own target for reform is quite clear: institutional homophobia.

In an extensive interview with The Washington Post, Charamsa describes growing up Catholic in Poland.  He said that coming to understand his own identity was “like hell,” asking God for years to cure him of this illness. He explained to AFP:

” ‘The Catholic Church doesn’t actually kill people, but it kills them psychologically. . .It kills them with its backward stance, with its reject, contempt and constant preaching against homosexuals.’ “

Charamsa said church teaching on homosexuality is “like saying Earth is flat” and that these teachings are similar to religious fundamentalism. Speaking specifically about church leaders’ silence when it comes to anti-LGBTQI laws, Charamsa claimed the church was pleased by criminalization as a confirmation of its own teachings. He said further:

” ‘As long as [the church] does not openly reject and condemn this criminalisation, it is an accomplice of anti-homosexual terror.’ “

Krzysztof Charamsa’s decision to come out as a gay priest was a personal one, and he should be applauded for having the integrity such an act entails, particularly with the consequences he has faced. Regardless of how one feels about Charama’s own coming out announcement and the detail that he has had a partner, his points about institutional homophobia ring true. For his decision to speak out publicly against this homophobia, all LGBT Catholics and their allies can be most grateful.

Next week, Pope Francis has an opportunity to condemn LGBTQI criminalization and clarify a sometimes ambivalent Catholic stance regarding violence against sexual and gender minorities. Catholics across the world are asking Francis to send a clear message with the #PopeSpeakOut campaign.

To send a message to Pope Francis and add your voice to the many Catholics openly critical of institutionalized homophobia, visit the campaign’s website by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


9 replies
  1. Brian Kneeland
    Brian Kneeland says:

    I sent my message to Francis – now it is his turn to speak out about criminalization of being ones’ true self in Africa and in the Church in the United States. After so many years of negativity and hurtful actions and speech by church leaders the need for dialogue and pastoral approaches is now or it will never happen! My prayer is that it happens and soon!

  2. Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
    Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

    He was open and honest. Is it possible to be so? There are many clergy, not only RC, who remain in the closet.

  3. brgeem
    brgeem says:

    Fr Krzysztof Charamsa’s coming out will only build a wall around the man-made centre of the Church of Rome. There are hundreds of thousands of Catholics, ( not all Roman Catholics ), who support him with love and prayer – yes, many in secret, many remaining in the closet – and there will be equal numbers in Orthodoxy and the Protestant denominations. Too there are many people of other faiths who applaud Fr Krzysztof’s actions. These are true loving bridges, not walls. The problem walls are the Vatican walls – it is time to bring them down. What I see Pope Francis doing, little by little, is the pushing aside of barriers, but the walls remain. My experience is that a new generation is not only opening closet doors, but demolishing the closet – tearing it down – or, not even going in there.

  4. Loretta Fitzgerald
    Loretta Fitzgerald says:

    It pains me that he was criticized by some LGBT advocates for some aspect of his coming out. None of us can be what others expect in speech, behavior, whatever. Isn’t this why we have a conscience. To search our hearts and minds to see what pleases God.

    • brgeem
      brgeem says:

      Loretta: It is very sad when there is dissension amongst people who should be united in a cause. I have read everything that Fr Krzysztof has said over the past few months and I cannot understand why there are criticisms. Sadly too there will always be those who desire to make political gain. Fr Krzysztof speaks from his heart – that is clear. I think he is a brave and honest man.

  5. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    The first time I acted on changing a church discipline–not at all the kind of horrible doctrinal problem that homosexuality is–was when I announced in 1967 that I was convinced priests should be allowed to marry.
    This was after being a celibate all my life including 8 years in the seminary–4 in Rome–and a short 4 years as a priest. (Ordained in 1963.) At that point I had never had any sexual relationship–hetero or homo. As I announced this to my bishop and my colleagues, I was cut off from my health insurance and any further financial support without any discussion. I was asked to leave my volunteer work as a priest at an inner city parish in Boston because it was assumed I would get the parish into trouble. I had wanted to enter into negotiations with my home diocese (Burlington, Vt) and at least get the essentials out on the table.
    Thousands of us did this in the ’70’s as an honest challenge to the church to rethink the exclusively celibate priesthood. I had been living and working (with permission) in inner city Boston where people of color were horribly discriminated against including losing their Catholic parishes. This convinced me that a married male priest (long before I began pushing for women priests) would be far and above more qualified to minister to families than a celibate.
    With no official movement or discussion on the horizon, I actually was fortunate to meet someone I could marry. We did this in 1970. I was excommunicated, “ipso facto”, with this horrible sin reserved to the Pope for forgiveness. Later on the practice based solely on the politics of the Vatican’s dealing with bringing Protestants back into the church–a very conservative politics–there were married Lutheran priests and others taken in and “ordained”, and lived with their wives and children as priests. Quite a bit more easy than the Pope changing the doctrine against homosexuality!
    I was not against celibacy as such and certainly the freedom celibacy gave the church to minister to the most impoverished of the world had great value. (Except when priests/missionaries went to America like Not-St.Junipero Serra and acted like tyrants toward Native Americans.)
    I must admit that my conscience said I couldn’t live two lives, though, one as a parish priest and the other as someone in a sexual relationship. I had to be public at the outset, give the church a bit of notice and time to engage in an honest dialog. But even though we were thousands just in the US, there was nothing like any revolution even thought of. Many called themselves catholic but the truth was this was a schism. With some resolute, civil disobedient (non-violent), maybe we could have brought this change closer to reality than we did.
    O.K. on to 2000 in Vermont when at age 62 I had to finally come to grips with my homosexuality. Yeah! I had thought according to Kinsey during my formative years that sexual orientation was a choice along a continuum of types of relationships. O.K. I’m slow, or at least I gave myself the dignity of not making quick decisions. At that point I was married to the same woman 30 years and had 3 grown children. I never had been tormented as a youth about sexual orientation. Protected by the taboo of my church I avoided the problem.
    So as the Vermont legislature had to deal with marriage “equality”–the first state in 2000?–I was put together with immensely articulate, highly credible and very devoted same sex couples in the Statehouse. As an “ex”-priest in my parish of birth, I publicly endorsed same-sex orientation as a God-given nature, I said that same sex love can be sacred. And I said for the first time I was same-sex oriented, something that is fixed and was the basis for same sex couples demanding the freedom to marry. And so I was immediately removed from any parish activity–chorale directing, serving on the parish council.
    I believe I have had good reason to remain in my “hetero” marriage, now 45 years. To me the vows of marriage, the responsibilities of parenting–now grand-parenting–all make a sound case for continuing on with my one deeply personal, sexual, spiritual, intellectual, political relationship. This does not mean that I’m “bi-sexual”. By no means. The idea that I would have to begin working out another such relationship was completely impossible for me. Cheating was nothing I felt I would or could do, with anyone. I guess “taboos” are helpful, but it was really my conscience, the same one that still propels me toward the fight for justice, that kept me a credible celibate and a faithful husband.
    Krzysztof Charamsa has joined the battle. More quickly than I. The essential is to speak out. Living two lives should not be necessary. The revolution of sexuality is totally different from getting the church to accept married priests–probably women priests will be easier. I tried here in Oakland to start a dialog about sexuality. I started my blog, where I state that I challenge the church to use what we called during Vat II “doing the least harm” as Saint John XXIII and Cardinal Bea worked to unite with all religions. It never was taken up by anyone. I have moved to being a “Deist” ( Catholic theology cannot drop the “intrinsically disordered” definition of homosexuality without a huge twisting. I guess it came around to accepting Galileo’s heresy about heliocentrism, but homosexuality is going to be much more difficult and many more people will die at the hands or mouths of religious bigots.

  6. Fredrikka Maxwell
    Fredrikka Maxwell says:

    Knowing something as I do about Stonewall, I understand its significance and can’t help but think that the church does need a rebellion like that. But the bishops and cardinals are not going to do do that–even if they are gay. That threatens their power to lord it over others.  I personally think that if we are going to have any real change in my lifetime in the church that change will have to be from the bottom up–not the top down.Will it take a schisim? It might. Will it take instituting a more progressive American Rite Catholic Church? It could very well. But I think there is a need for change from the bottom up. Because right now nothing is going to happen if we wait for change from the top. Our church is in dire need of reformation–or dare I say REformation? An old song says Change Gonna Come. But I submit not until we speak truth to power and and be ready and willing to march out of the church into a newly reformed Catholoicism. Hugs, Fredrikka Joy Maxwell


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] is similar to former Vatican official Krzysztof Charamsa’s call for the Catholic Church to have its own Stonewall. Charamsa, who had been a priest and theologian at the Vatican, came out just days before the Synod […]

  2. […] priest. . .The paradox is that today, I cannot exercise my being a priest,” and that, “The church needs a Stonewall.” To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of Krzystof Charamsa’s journey, click […]

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