In Italy, Gay Priests Come Out via Letter Decrying Homophobia in the Church; And More News

When Bondings 2.0 first began in 2011, the hope was to find enough content to post once a day. Twelve years later, we consistently find ourselves with too much Catholic LGBTQ+ content! We have stuck to one post per day as a rule, but that at times means some news gets lost and never make it onto the blog. Today’s post is a form of our “News Notes” series that features two of these older stories, which are still relevant and worth reading.

Fifty Gay Priests in Italy Come Out in Public Letter

Fifty gay priests in Italy broke their silence and came out publicly, criticizing a culture of homophobia in seminaries, church documents, and the clergy in which, they write, “silence appears as the only way of survival.” Their letter, titled Con tutto il cuore (“With All My Heart”), was released last fall. In it, the priests explained (via Google Translate):

“We cannot speak openly about our homosexual orientation with our family, friends; much less with other priests or committed lay people. The Church is not a context in which to find immediate acceptance, especially for us. . .We experience a painful laceration between how we discover ourselves, created by God, and what others expect from us instead. . .

“Often we are forced to deny ourselves in the name of a hypocritical spirituality, with devastating effects. We have heard stories of consecrated persons lacerated by guilt to the point of leaving priestly life and, in some cases, taking their own lives: a terrible temptation, even for some of us.”

The priests’ decision to come out was prompted by the synodal process that Pope Francis has asked the church to undertake, which the priests view as an opportunity for dialogue, especially about the formation in seminaries and of younger priests. They criticize the Vatican instruction barring gay men from being admitted to seminary, writing:

“The motivation, which would seem to be based on psychosocial data, in reality does not and cannot have any basis other than that of a superficial prejudice and our stories bear witness to this.”

The priests condemn fellow gay clergy who “push to the outside the conflict they carry within” by being among the most “homophobic” of church leaders.” Such priests are “smothering their own being with clericalism.” They also criticize the close ties that some church leaders have with right-wing political movements targeting LGBTQ+ rights.

Responding to the Respect for Marriage Act

In December 2022, after the U.S. Congress passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), strengthening marriage equality protections at the federal level, several Catholic publications published commentaries on the meaning of the Act going forward.

At Americasenior editor Robert David Sullivan wrote the law’s passage “upholds a principle that most Americans can agree on: We are not going back to the 1950s.” Sullivan points to consistently rising support for gay people, including for equal marriage rights. He believes “the morality of same-sex marriage remains a legitimate topic of discussion,” and there may be diverse opinions on LGBTQ+ rights, but confronted with “the potential costs of stigmatizing or marginalizing millions of Americans, including friends and family members,” most people “do not see those costs as acceptable in the 21st-century United States.”

At Commonweal, law professor Douglas Laycock argued the RMA strengthens both marriage rights and religious liberty, at once ensuring same-gender couples will be able to access marriage at least in some states, however the Supreme Court may rule in the future, while acknowledging religious people may hold different opinions, and providing certain exemptions so religious institutions can act according to their beliefs. Laycock, who leans conservative on LGBTQ+ rights, called the RMA “a model for further legislation” and “important breakthrough” as it is a compromise recognizing that any “legislative progress on gay rights requires corresponding protections for religious liberty.”

At Religion News Service, Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., asked if the Catholic bishops fears that the RMA would harm religious liberty were justified, “or are they being paranoid?” Reese, who cited Laycock, commented:

“In opposing the RMA, the Catholic bishops may have hoped to hold the bill hostage to get protection not just from the bill itself but from other laws. If so, this tactic failed and simply further alienated their opponents. . .By their scare tactics against the Affordable Care Act and the Respect for Marriage Act, the bishops have lost all credibility on religious freedom issues, which is sad. There are legitimate concerns that Catholic charities and hospitals have over religious freedom, but who is going to believe anything the bishops say in the future. They have destroyed their credibility.”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, July 22, 2023

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