As part of Sr. Camille D’Arienzo’s regular interviews with extraodinary “ordinary” Catholics in the National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Ron Cioffi reflected upon his 47 years as an ordained priest. He spoke about being raised Catholic, his call to ordained ministry, connections with the Catholic Worker movement, and most of all the parish in New Jersey where he has served for many years. Then, asked if there is anything else readers should know, the priest came out, tying together beautifully his sexual identity with his vocation:
“Yes, I am a gay person whose self-identity includes an abiding call to ministry in our church. I wish to testify that there is nothing in seriously living out my life as a priest that dissuades me from any other conclusion than that my orientation is a blessing from God for use in and for the church that is called to help each of us discern and celebrate the good and always affirming love of God for all persons.”
“In sharing this deeply personal fact, I hope it will give courage and hope to so many people who find their minority status a deeply wounding and unrelieved burden that too few religious leaders have moved to redress with a healing that acknowledges one’s full human dignity.”Earlier in the interview, Fr. Cioffi said he had an as yet unrealized goal of establishing an outreach committee with a “focus on welcoming and credibly supporting” LGBT people. He explained at the interview’s end how his coming out as a gay priest might advance that welcome and support:
Despite research suggesting that a high percentage of Catholic priests are gay, there are very few priests who are out publicly. Like other out gay priests before him, Fr. Cioffi provides an example which helps combat the stigma that keeps too many clergy silenced. Such an example can heal the wounds of exclusion that too many LGBT people bear because of church ministers. This witness is, most certainly, a blessing from God!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
The Anglican Church slapped down its American branch last month, punishing it for authorizing same-sex marriages.The church has been riven for decades over issues of female ordination, the ordination of gay clergy and, now, same-sex marriage. The issue is so incendiary that it threatened to tear the global church apart. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the head of the church, is credited with preventing a complete implosion.Yet even in the seeming backlash to gay marriage, one of Canada’s top Anglicans says he sees signs of progress.Rev. Peter Elliott, the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver and the Number 2 Anglican in the region after the bishop, has been at the heart of this debate for years and the local diocese — for historical reasons called New Westminster — is (in)famous for its progressive stand on the topic. The diocese offers a blessing for same-sex marriages, but solemnization of marriages is a national decision and the Canadian church is expected to vote this year on the topic, potentially opening a new front in the long battle.
On Saturday last, Msgr Krzyxtof Charamsa came out and announced not only he is gay but also that he has a devoted boyfriend – and was promptly fired from his jobs as a Vatican theology professor and senior theologian with the CDF. (He later said in a follow -up interview, that his coming out was a “profoundly Christian” act.
Yesterday, just two days later, another priest was fired, this time in Chicago, for “an inappropriate relationship with a man”. It’s widely known that the priesthood includes an extraordinarily high percentage of gay men. We should expect that more and more of them will begin to come out, voluntarily or otherwise. The Church simply cannot afford to fire them all – or the existing shortage of priests will just become even more acute.
Then, on Monday, the Archdiocese of Chicagoannounced that Marco Mercado, who oversaw the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, has been removed from his position because of “an inappropriate relationship with an adult man.” In this case, the priest was remorseful, not defiant. “I apologize if this scandal has caused any hardship to the faithful,” Mercado said in a statement, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Under any circumstances, these would be remarkable firings. But the timing is significant: This weekend, Roman Catholic bishops gathered in Rome to kick off their synod on so-called family issues, the continuation of a meeting that began last fall. Among the subjects possibly on the docket: the Church’s posture toward gay Catholics.
The pope’s statements about gays have opened up wide – ranging commentary and debate. One of the most intriguing consequences will be more open discussion on gay priests, and on the core teaching itself on same – sex relationships. This story from Vatican Insiders combines both of these: an openly gay former priest from Argentina has responded by writing directly to Pope Francis, requesting that the teaching be revised:
The Pope’s remarks about gays to reporters on the plane from Rio has triggered discussion worldwide, and led a former gay priest to write to him
Pope Francis’ remarks on gays, when he spoke to reporters on the plane returning from Rio, have sparked considerable discussion worldwide, and have been welcomed by many in the homosexual and lesbian community.
One member of that community, a former gay-priest from Mendoza, Argentina, Andres Gioeni, has written a letter to the pontiff urging him to “deepen the opening and renew the Church’s moral teaching on sexuality”.
He did so after hearing Pope Francis say, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they are our brothers.”
Gioeni told La Nacion, the Argentinean daily paper that Francis reads: “I wrote to him because I believe there is a ray of hope in the response that he gave about not judging gays. I see humility and an opening in him”.
He revealed that he had left the priesthood to become an actor and author after discovering his homosexuality, and was now celebrating “the fresh air” that has come with Pope Francis.
In the letter, published on his Facebook account, he says he dares to present himself as “a spokesman for a great many of the people who belong to the homosexual community”, and asks Pope Francis, “simply, with humility” that he “encourage, stimulate and promote a deepening of the theology of sexual morality about (regarding) the place and experience of the homosexual person”.
-complete report at Vatican Insider.
- A “Revolutionary” Statement on Gay Priests from Pope Francis (slog.thestranger.com)
- Pope Francis On Gay Priests: ‘Who Am I To Judge?’ (thinkprogress.org)
- Ken Briggs on Pope Francis’s Statements about Gay Priests: “Is There a Degree of Willful Deception in a Larger Plan to Give the Church an Upbeat, Loving Face?” (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Why I Take Hope in Pope Francis’ Statement on Gay Priests (thewildreed.blogspot.com)
Pope Francis is reaching out to gays, saying he will not judge priests for their sexual orientation, in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returns from Brazil.
In a broad-ranging 80-minute conversation with journalists on the plane bringing him back from a week-long visit to Brazil, the Pope also said the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests was definitive, although he would like them to have more leadership roles in administration and pastoral activities.
The Pope defended gays from discrimination in what was his first news conference since being elected pontiff in March, but also referred to the Catholic Church’s universal Catechism, which says that while homosexual orientation is not sinful homosexual acts are.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” the pope said.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society,” he said, speaking in Italian.
- Pope Francis: ‘Integrate gays into society’ (scotsman.com)
- Pope Francis says he won’t judge gays (cbc.ca)
- Pope Francis says he won’t judge gay priests (foxnews.com)
- What Would Jesus Do: Pope Francis On Gay Priests In The Catholic Church “Who Am I To Judge?” (bossip.com)
Cardinal Keith O’Brien had a long-standing physical relationship with one of the men whose complaints about his behaviour sparked his downfall as leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland.
KEITH O’BRIEN: It has now emerged he was in a long-standing physical relationship with one of the men now accusing him. Picture: Getty Images
The man left the priesthood in the middle of the last decade but rejoined and is living on the continent in a post the cardinal helped him secure.
The complainant is known to have been in regular telephone contact with Cardinal O’Brien until recently and was a frequent visitor to St Benets, his official residence in Edinburgh’s Morningside.
It is understood the cardinal confessed to the relationship after it was recently revealed there had been several complaints to the Vatican about his sexual behaviour towards priests in the 1980s. It is thought to be part of his reference to his sexual conduct as “a priest, a bishop and a cardinal”.
It also emerged the dramatic downfall of Britain’s leading Catholic cleric was spurred by gay priests angry at his rhetoric and hypocrisy about same-sex marriages.
All those who complained about Cardinal O’Brien and alleged they had been abused by him were known to him for decades. At least two are known to have been in same-sex relationships and had become exasperated at double standards in his statements about gay marriage.
In the six months building up to him being forced to stand down last month, the cardinal had been under some pressure from priests to tone down the rhetoric.
However, his statements, such as describing homosexuality as a “moral degradation”, were a tipping point for those previously close to him.
-continue reading at Herald Scotland.
As the College of Cardinals meets to elect a new Pope and as the US Supreme Court meets to address marriage equality, Confessions of a Gay Married Priest: A Spiritual Journey (Maurice L. Monette, Vallarta Institute, 2013) puts a human face on millions who will be impacted by their decisions.
Monette belonged to a Roman Catholic order of priests for 30 years, authored numerous books, and directed graduate programs in church leadership and organizational psychology. He and his husband of 24 years live in Oakland, California.
According to a CBS News Poll released on March 5, 66% of US Catholics favor letting priests get married, 66% favor letting women become priests and 62%believe same-sex marriage should be legal.
Franciscan priest and best-selling spirituality author Richard Rohr says of this book, ““This story illustrates one of the most counter intuitive messages of world religions, how our failings, heartbreaks and disappointments can be stepping stones to the spiritual joys of the second half of life.”
Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Huffington Post contributor with a longtime ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics, says, “Through little cameos in prose and poetry, Monette’s faith journey shows the triumph of the human spirit over religious messages to suppress sexuality. This is a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance that brings about freedom for a more authentic God-relationship.”
Former marketing director for the National Catholic Reporter Dan Grippo says, “It’s the one book I recommend for each Cardinal before he casts his vote for the next Pope. The lessons Monette shares are lessons for the future church where all women, men and children are appreciated in their diversity.”
In reference to the Church’s transition, Monette comments, “My story and the stories of so many others offer healthy alternatives to a Church that has become better known for its sex scandals and cover ups than its spirituality and social justice. A mature sexual ethics would go a long way to healing this wounded Church.”
-continue reading at Religion Press Release Services.
DANI Garavelli talks to a gay priest about living in the shadow of shame cast by the conflict of his vocation and his sexuality
LOOKING back from a distance of more than 20 years, Fr Joe can see that his decision to join the priesthood was motivated in part by his homosexuality. Coming of age in the 1970s, when there was still a huge stigma attached to coming out as gay, it provided an alternative to getting married and having children.
“I was hugely idealistic and genuinely believed in the priesthood, but I think it was also the only respectable way to be Catholic and single,” he says. “I wouldn’t have recognised it at the time, but I think I was trying to escape having to tell my family about my sexuality or even having to face up to it properly myself.”
Once ordained, however, he realised being gay in a church which considers homosexuality to be intrinsically disordered brings problems of its own. Prey to the same temptations as everyone else, but unable to talk openly about them, many homosexual priests find themselves feeling undervalued and isolated. Trying to navigate their way in a highly sexualised society, with little or no pastoral support, it’s hardly surprising if they sometimes find it difficult to keep their vows.
“I think celibacy is always a struggle, it’s the same for all priests – in fact it’s the same for married people – you try to keep your integrity, to stay true to what you have been called to, ” says Fr Joe, who was a priest in Scotland but has now moved abroad. “I belong to a religious order that means you live with other guys; it means you have emotional support and your chances of being lonely are less. The ones I feel really sorry for are the diocesan priests who are alone in a parish. I think celibacy must be even more difficult for them. They have no-one to confide in when they are feeling low or horny or any other normal human way of feeling.”
As with any same-sex environment, such as a boarding school or prison, there can also be a kind of “super-heated effect” in the seminary or church where, regardless of sexual orientation, men have crushes on other men and that is more likely to spill over into sexual behaviour when the whole subject of sexuality is taboo. “I think that is something gay men in the Church are prone to,” Fr Joe says. “Because the subject is hidden, it creates this secret club kind of environment because priests who are gay are only likely to be open with other priests who are gay, you become part of a secret club, not because you want to, but because your peers are your support group.”
Fr Joe’s experiences are not rare. Studies have suggested the priesthood attracts a disproportionate number of gay men, with Dominican Friar-turned-journalist Mark Dowd suggesting earlier this week, the figure could be as high as 50 per cent. Such statistics have become headline news because even as the Church has become increasingly strident in its position on such issues as gay marriage it is being claimed that an increasing number of homosexual priests, Bishops and even Cardinals are breaking their vow of chastity.
– continue reading at Scotsman.com.
A news story that sounds like the plot of a Dan Brown novel has been making headlines around the globe as it promotes the idea that Pope Benedict XVI was supposedly forced to resign by a group of gay prelates in the Vatican.
The Guardian newspaper reported:
“A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.
“The pope’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.
“The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called ‘Vatileaks’ affair.
“Last May Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.
“According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising ‘two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red’ had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.”
While such a story could be true, the sensationalism, coupled with the paucity of facts, and being based on a “secret” document, all inspire serious doubts about its legitimacy.
Veteran church observer David Gibson downplays the possibility of the report’s veracity on his Religion News Service blog:
“I’m one of those who would say this is pretty massively overplayed. For one thing, Benedict’s resignation was most certainly the result of numerous factors, mainly revolving around the internal problems of the Vatican, of which sexual shenanigans were likely one — but hardly the only one, or even the principal one. His advancing age was the element that pushed it all to the brink.”
Reports such as this one, based on little fact, are dangerous because they perpetuate a myth that gay people are to blame for anything wrong or unusual in the church–the way that gay priests were scapegoated for the sexual abuse crisis. Furthermore, it paints gay people as manipulative, power-hungry, clandestine.
The tragedy is that such myths will continue as long as gay people serving in the church must do so in secrecy. By maintaining such a repressive atmosphere around LGBT issues, the Vatican has helped to foster a climate of suspicion and fear which paves the way for such speculation. Could a “gay lobby” exist in the Vatican? Given the repressive atmosphere, it seems very unlikely that any gay priest or prelate would have the courage to acknowledge his sexual orientation to another priest or prelate.
The sorry scandal of this story, which could be lost in the sensationalism around gay issues, is that power-mongering does indeed exist so blatantly at the Vatican. Whether by gay men or straight men, this power-mongering seriously harms the church’s mission and credibility in the world.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
via Bondings 2.0.
I agree absolutely that these headlines are sensationalist and should be treated with caution. I think it’s absolutely true that there are gay bishops and cardinals at the Vatican, and that some of them are sexually active – just as many priests are gay everywhere, and many priests everywhere have sexual lives, sometimes openly, more usually hidden. But allegations that these are tied up with blackmail, or that the papal resignation was precipitated by blackmail, are no more than rumours, and could be based on no more than mudslinging in the dirty political games to win curial influence. Probably the most important lesson to be drawn from the story, is the urgency of doing away with the ridiculous rule on compulsory celibacy, and an acceptance that some people (and clerics) are gay. When openness is not scandalous, there’s no possibility of blackmail.
It’s also important to note that the La Repubblica report included a much more serious allegation, of widespread financial skulduggery, that most of the sensationalist reports of a gay cabal have totally ignored.
- Gay Men at the Vatican Are Giving the Rest of Us a Bad Name (thewildreed.blogspot.com)
- Pope’s resignation tied to blackmailed gay-lobby within the Vatican: Italian newspaper (news.nationalpost.com)
- The Red Prada Shoe Drops? (dish.andrewsullivan.com)