— A former Vatican official, who was stripped of his post early this month after acknowledging publicly that he was gay and in a relationship, on Wednesday renewed his criticism of the Roman Catholic church, accusing it of homophobia.
The official, the Rev. Krzysztof Charamsa, made public a letter that he had sent to Pope Francis, dated Oct. 3, in which he denounced the church, saying that it had made the lives of gay and transgender people “a hell.” He wrote that the church had persecuted gay Catholics and had caused them and their families “immeasurable suffering.”
“Be merciful — at least leave us in peace, let the civil states make our lives more humane,” Father Charamsa wrote in the letter.
Father Charamsa, 43, a Polish former official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has made such assertions before. This month, on the eve of the synod, the church’s assembly of bishops from around the world, he announced in the Italian and Polish news media, and then at a news conference in a restaurant in central Rome, that he was gay and had a partner.
He spoke of the “often paranoid homophobia” in the church and contended that many church officials were gay.
Within hours, the Vatican
issued a terse statement calling “irresponsible” his decision to come out just before the synod. The Vatican also immediately dismissed Father Charamsa from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities where he had taught theology.
His diocese in Poland
then suspended him indefinitely from his functions as a priest, urging him to return to the “true teaching of the church and Christ’s priesthood.” Roman Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy. In the final document produced by the bishops at the synod, which was presented to Francis for his consideration, the bishops reiterated the church’s position that gays should be respected, avoiding “any mark of unjust discrimination.” But the bishops reiterated that same-sex marriage was not acceptable and had no “remote” founding in God’s plan on marriage and the family.
Father Charamsa, who is working on a book about his years at the Vatican, said Wednesday that the synod had taken a step backward on gay and transgender issues.
“The homophobic closure of the synod on gays resuscitated my passion for this battle to bring the church into the modern era,” he said in an interview on Skype from Barcelona, Spain
, where he lives with his partner. “That’s why I made my letter to the Holy Father public, in the hope he can go beyond the synod on the issue.”
While criticizing the synod’s final document for repeating stereotypes on homosexuality, Father Charamsa singled out the words of Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, who had told the bishops, “What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today.”
“That’s why I renew my appeal to the Holy Father,” Father Charamsa said in the interview. “No one publicly said a word against those defamatory sentences. What kind of respect does that show to us all?”
Father Charamsa said that the church should provide marriage equality for all Catholics and revise its teaching on homosexuality. “If the church can’t make a serious, scientific reflection on homosexuality and include it in its teachings,” he said, “even the Holy Father’s openings and warm words on gays are empty.”
Francis appears to have a more open-minded approach on homosexuality than his predecessors. He famously said he did not judge people based on their sexual orientation, and during his recent trip to the United States, he met privately with a former student who is gay and was accompanied by his partner.
Unlike Father Charamsa, some gay activists say they view the synod’s results more hopefully, citing what they see as positive aspects of the final document.
“Bishops write that families with members with homosexual tendencies need a particular care, and that, in the church language, opens to consider same-sex families, as their members are homosexuals or lesbians,” said Andrea Rubera, a spokesman in Rome for the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, an international network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholic associations.
“We need to work with, and not against, the church,” he added.
But Father Charamsa rejected any compromise, saying that by ignoring gays, lesbians and transgender people, the church is asking the faithful to believe that the earth is still flat.
Asked whether he would like to marry his partner, Father Charamsa said, “I see no difficulty in a priest to be married, and that’s regardless of their sexual orientation.”