The Vatican and the Pope were still reeling from the Kim Davis meeting fiasco during the Pope’s American visit, when their next gay fiasco arose.
Things were almost looking up. The Vatican’s public relations machine was working overtime on remedying the damage caused by the Ms Davis episode, by focusing on the Pope’s meeting with a gay couple while in the US, and expressing regret over the meeting with Ms Davis.
Pope Francis was undoubtedly looking forward to the next major Vatican event, a Synod of Bishops starting on 4 October in Rome, seen as a potentially defining moment for his Papacy. The Synod of Bishops is a follow-up to last year’s Extraordinary Synod. The meeting involves 279 bishops from more than 120 nations and is being seen as a test of Pope Francis stamping his authority on the direction of the Catholic Church. The Synod is scheduled to examine issues relating to the family and homosexuality. Conservatives in the Church fear the Synod may be a pretext for modernising the Church’s position on homosexuality.
They may not have needed to worry as the Pope reportedly opened the Synod by forcefully asserting that marriage is an indissoluble bond between man and woman, and by stating the Church can’t be ‘swayed by passing fads or popular opinion.’
The day before the start of the Synod of Bishops, Monsignor Krzysztof Charisma, a respected theologian who lived in the Vatican for 17 years, announced in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that he is gay and he is in a long-term same-sex relationship:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monsignor Charisma was promptly fired on the eve of the Synod. Not because he’s gay of course, but because of his … ‘irresponsible’ timing:
With regard to the declarations and interview given by Msgr. Krzystof Charamsa it should be observed that, notwithstanding the respect due to the events and personal situations, and reflections on the issue, the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure. Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary.
Vatican Spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican Radio (3 October 2015)
The Church is facing an existential crisis on the issue of homosexuality and marriage equality, especially after the constitutional referendum in Ireland which resulted in the Irish people approving marriage equality, and the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States which held marriage equality is a constitutional right.
Liberal Catholics are looking to the Vatican to catch up with, and reflect, the cultural and social progress of the past few decades across the Western world, while pressure builds from Western conservatives, supported by bishops from a largely homophobic African continent, a growth market for the Church, to maintain the hardline position on homosexuality.
I sense, at this point the Pope may just wish he could send one of those Pope Francis bobblehead souvenirs from his US visit to the Synod to represent him. It might be easier …
The Synod will run until 25 October.