Priest Suspended from Ministry After Officiating at Lesbian Couple’s Civil Union Ceremony

A priest in Italy has resigned as pastor and has been temporarily suspended from active ministry after officiating at a lesbian couple’s civil union ceremony.

Fr. Emanuele Moscatelli officiated at the same-gender civil union ceremony for two lesbian friends of his, identified as Beatrice and Francesca in Italian media, on July 11. Novena News reported that the ceremony was held at the town hall for Sant’Oreste, the town where Moscatelli had served as pastor of St. Lorenzo Church before this controversy erupted. The priest officiated with permission of Mayor Valentina Pina and wore a sash with the colors of Italy’s flag that government officials often wear.

But Moscatelli’s decision prompted an ecclesial backlash from his bishop, Romano Rossi of Civita Castellana, who ordered the priest to “dialogue” shortly after the ceremony. The news article reported:

“Moscatelli subsequently announced that he had ‘spontaneously resigned’ from the parish, but Bishop Rossi denied that the priest had been forced to do so.

“‘On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 14, we met in the bishop’s office with Fr. Emanuele, and we agreed that he would resign his assignment as pastor, as a sign of taking distance from what had happened’, Rossi said in a statement.

Rossi stated that in the ‘dialogue’ he had with the priest he ‘made him [Moscatelli] understand the mess he made’.

“‘I can understand that in certain circumstances of weakness, friendship or the spirit of the time comes into play, but celebrating a civil union is too much’, the bishop affirmed.”

Beyond the resignation, Moscatelli will leave active ministry for one year to reflect, according to the bishop, “in order to recover the clarity and joy of his presbyteral ministry in the concreteness of today’s world” and come to “clarity on a doctrinal level and communion on a pastoral level.” A future canonical trial is still possible, according to Novena News.

Catholics and LGBTQ advocates have pushed back against Moscatelli’s resignation. John Allen, Jr., editor of Crux, commented in his report that such voices “have expressed skepticism that Moscatelli’s resignation was truly voluntary, and many suspect his period of reflection is effectively a prelude to laicization.”

Likewise, Novena News reported on responses from two Italian LGBTQ groups. Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Centre in Rome commented:

“‘[To celebrate a civil union] is a civil liberty granted by the State, which should not influence the activity linked to the Church of a parish priest. There have been priests who bless the wedding rings of homosexual couples. We don’t understand the difference.”

The LGBTQ group Arcigay said in a statement supporting Moscatelli, “This is the Italy we like, a sign of change, inclusion, openness and equality.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 31, 2020

5 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    I am sure that in addition to humiliating the well intentioned priest, Bishop Rossi has angered the parish, embarrassed the women who married and created another completely unnecessary conflict for ‘The Church’. Jesus of Nazareth had a mission. It surely was not to create conflict. It certainly could not have been to establish a new hierarchy of ‘high priests’ to interfere in the day to day lives of others.

  2. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    ” … Moscatelli will leave active ministry for one year to reflect, according to the bishop … and come to ‘clarity on a doctrinal level and communion on a pastoral level.’”

    This is not dialogue or synodality. It’s brainwashing, not worthy of a church. And as a side note, where’s the priest’s opportunity to be hustled off to another parish? Prelude to laicization, eh? They move mighty fast when it’s about gay couples or women’s ordination.

  3. Michael Evernden
    Michael Evernden says:

    So sad. We have a wacko priest gupporting Trump and denying the seriousness of COVID right here in San Francisco – the mayor went after him on the front page of the Chronicle. No action taken… but OMG, what would happen to him if he ever supported gay rights?

  4. Keith Henry
    Keith Henry says:

    We have missed the point here. The bishops dilemma, and that of the Italian Church, is NOT the same-sex civil union. By canon law and the agreements established at the post war establishment of the Republic, a Catholic priest CANNOT don the tricolore sash and officiate as a State official. The sanction against (or year of reflection by) Fr Moscatelli would have been the same if he had officiated at an opposite-sex wedding as a government official instead of a priest. He should have let the women be civilly united by the mayor, followed by his perfectly Catholic and canonical blessing afterward.

    The injustice here is not homophobia. It is the uncomfortable reality of separation of Church and State in the Italian Republic.


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