«I know I will pay the consequences, but it’s time the Church opened its eyes»
“I want the Church and my community to know who I am: a gay priest who is happy, and proud of his identity. I’m prepared to pay the consequences, but it’s time the Church opened its eyes, and realised that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman”. Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, 43 and Polish, who has been living in Rome for 17 years, speaks with a calm smile on his face. He is not just any priest, but has been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003, is assistant secretary of the International Theological Commission of the Vatican, and teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. Never before has a priest with such a high-profile role in the Vatican made a similar statement. Today, on the eve of the Synod on the family, Monsignor Charamsa will be in Rome at the LGBT Catholic International Meeting organized by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, to support the discussion on gay Catholics.
Why did you decide to come out?
“There comes a day when something inside you snaps, and you can’t go on. If I had been alone I would have lived the nightmare of a denied homosexuality, but God never leaves us alone. And I think He has helped me take this important existential step. It’s important because of its consequences, but it’s also the premise for living honestly, which should be natural for every homosexual. The Church is already behind in tackling the issue, and we can’t wait another 50 years, which is why I’ve decided to tell the Church who I am. I’m doing it for myself, for my community, and for the Church. It is also my duty towards the community of sexual minorities”.
What do you think you will achieve?
“It seems to me that in the Church we are ignorant about homosexuality because we don’t really know any homosexuals. We have them all around us, of course, but we never look them in the eye, because they seldom say who they are. I hope that my personal experience will help stir the Church’s consciousness in some way. I will personally reveal my identity to the Holy Father in a letter. And I will tell the universities in Rome where I teach who I am; to my great sorrow I will probably no longer be allowed to work in Catholic education”.
You are making this announcement on the eve of the Synod on the Family, which begins tomorrow at the Vatican.
“Yes, I would like to tell the Synod that homosexual love is a kind of family love, a love that needs the family. Everyone – gays, lesbians and transsexuals included – foster in their hearts a desire for love and family. Everyone has the right to love, and that love must be protected by society and law. But above all it must be nourished by the Church. Christianity is the religion of love, and love is central to the figure of Jesus we bring to the world. A lesbian or gay couple should be able to openly say to their Church: ‘we love each other according to our nature, and offer this gift of our love to others, because it is a public matter, not just a private one; we are not merely engaged in some extreme pursuit of pleasure’”.
But this is not how the Church sees things.
“No, this is not the position of current Church doctrine, but similar views have been aired in theological scholarship. Above all in Protestant scholarship, but we also have excellent Catholic theologians who have given important contributions in the field”.
Catholic Catechism based on the Bible defines homosexuality as an “intrinsically disordered” tendency…
“The Bible says nothing on the subject of homosexuality. It instead speaks of acts that I would call “homogenital”. Even heterosexual people may perform such acts, as happens in many prisons, but in that case they are acting against their nature and therefore committing a sin. When a gay person engages in those same acts, they are instead expressing their nature. The biblical sodomite has nothing to do with two gays that love each other in modern-day Italy and want to marry. I am unable to find a single passage, even in St Paul, that may be seen as referring to homosexual persons asking to be respected as such, since at the time the concept was unknown”.
Catholic doctrine excludes gays from the priesthood: how did you manage to become a priest?
“The rule was introduced in 2005 when I was already a priest, and only applies to new ordinations. For me it was a shock. It didn’t use to be like this, and I think this is a mistake that needs to be corrected”. Have you always known you are gay? “Yes, but at first I didn’t accept the fact; I submitted zealously to the teaching of the Church and to the life it forced upon me, according to the principle that ‘homosexuality does not exist (and if it does, it needs to be destroyed)’”.
How did you go from denial to being happy about being gay?
“Through study, prayer and reflection. A dialogue with God and the study of theology, philosophy and science were crucial. Moreover, I now have a partner who has helped me transform my fears into the power of love”.
A partner? Is that not even more irreconcilable with being a Catholic priest?
“I know that the Church will see me as someone who has failed to keep a promise, who has lost his way, and what’s worse, not with a woman, but a man! I also know that I will have to give up the ministry, even though it is my whole life. But I’m not doing this so that I can live with my partner. The reasons are much wider-ranging and based on a reflection on Church doctrine”.
Could you explain?
“If I failed to be open, if I didn’t accept myself, I couldn’t be a good priest in any case, because I couldn’t act as an intermediary for the joy of God. Humanity has made great progress in its understanding of these issues, but the Church is lagging behind. This is not the first time, of course, but when you are slow to understand astronomy the consequences are not as serious as when the delay regards people’s most intimate being. The Church needs to realise that it is failing to rise to the challenge of our times”. English translation by Simon Tanner www.simontanner.com