In the UK, 62% of Catholics now say that same-sex relationships are “not at all wrong”.
This finding, from the authoritative, annual British Social Attitudes Survey for 2017, is particularly dramatic when viewed over the long term, the thirty years from 1986 and 2016. This transformation in attitudes applies to all Christians, but especially to Catholics, for whom moral acceptance of same-sex relationships rose from just 9% 30 years ago, to 62% in 2016.
It is always worth paying close attention to press interviews with Msgr Krysztof Charamsa, the Catholic theologian at the CDF who came out as both gay and partnered, on the eve of the 2015 Synod on /marriage and family. There have been several of these, initially on the occasion of his coming out, and later with the launch of his book, in the original Italian and the later translations. Sadly, as far as I am aware, none of these have yet appeared in English.
I therefore provide below, my own free translation (based on a modified Google translation), of his most recent (German) interview with Berliner Zeitung. In this post, I present the interview in full, without comment. My responses will follow, in a series of follow-up posts.
Ex-Monsignore Krzysztof Charamsa “Gott liebt mich, weil ich meinen Mann liebe”
(Translation: “God loves me, because I love my husband”)
We meet in the breakfast room of a small hotel at Hamburg main station. Krzysztof Charamsa, 44, has presented his book here. He wears a light, waisted jacket, with a blue handkerchief, if I remember correctly. A white shirt. Blue jeans. He looks very elegant. The most striking however is orange glasses. Krzysztof Charamsa laughs and loves to cry. I had not imagined the Grand Inquisitor of the Catholic Church so. Not even one of his staff. Krzysztof Charamsa is a Pole, but speaks German. Very rarely does he search for a word.
What is Spinning?
This is my sport: cycling in the gym. At the bottom I am struggling, everything is going through my head. I can think clearly.
One does not step forward. This is your favourite sport?
It is like liberation. You kick wildly into the pedals. They sweat. You are exhausted. But you do not have to worry about anything. Your head is free. It hits the spot.
That’s why you wrote a book about the “immutability of God”.
My dissertation. At that time I did not know Spinning. I was looking for security, for a solid foundation. It seemed to me to offer me a God who is self-sufficient. This was a God who does not lean toward his creature. No God of friendship, no God in the world, in history. A very sad image of God, I find today. I’ve been thinking about why we’re going to suffer during my studies. Where we have a gracious God. That was my determining question. I have no answer. But today I think it was my homosexuality, my suffering for it, which made suffering such a big subject. I did not know anything about the pleasures of love, nor of gay love.
When masturbating did you have homosexual fantasies?
That was not nice?
I was anxious. I spent my puberty in communist Poland, in the Catholic Church. Both hyper-homophobic facilities! With whom could I have spoken? How? I had no words for it. I had feelings of guilt. I would have had them, even if I had been heterosexual. But my gay fantasies increased my insecurity.
You were ten, eleven years in Hamburg. You must have seen homosexuals at least at the Hauptbahnhof.
I did not see them. Because I could not see them. In the world I lived in, there were no homosexuals. People just did not talk about them. They did not exist. As one says in Chechnya today: homosexuals can not be suppressed, because they do not exist. This is the way the Catholic Church behaved.
How many homosexuals are there in the Catholic Church?
Nobody can tell you. There are no surveys. I can only g. Based guess. Based on my experience. I was in priestly seminaries, I taught. I have always lived among priests. I was not a monk who lived in a single monastery. I believe that, cautiously estimated, fifty percent of the Catholic clergy is homosexual.
The total population is assumed to be 10%.
The priesthood is a fantastic space to conceal homosexuality when it is not socially accepted. For this reason the priestly life attracts many homosexuals. It does not matter that you are not interested in women. One is always in male company.
A homophobic organization of homosexuals
This is the dilemma of the Church. Hence much of the suffering and despair of the priests. Homosexuals are persecuted and at the same time homosexuality is celebrated. Aesthetic. Pope Benedict XVI has greatly aggravated the hatred of homosexuals. At the same time, however, under his pontificate, it was as gay as never before in the modern age: the red shoes, the peaks, tassels, and fringes that were on display everywhere. “Soon we will all have to wear lace underwear,” one of the papal ceremonial masters complained. See for yourself on Youtube how Ratzinger and other dignitaries of the Vatican look at the naked torsos of the brother Pellegrini! That same Ratzinger writes that homosexuals can not love. They have, he says, only this morbid desire.
Perhaps the Ratzinger’s own – deep-rooted – life experience … He is doomed to non-love.
That I do not know. But I do know that is precisely the situation in which many thousands of priests find themselves. The situation I was in, it took very long before I realized: it is not homosexuality that is sinful, but the church. Many, many homosexual priests are very good priests.
You were a member of the Congregation for the Congregation for twelve years. You persecuted the devil on behalf of the church. Then, on October 3, 2015, you publicly declared to the world : I, Krzysztof Charamsa, Catholic priest and member of the Congregation of the Faith, am gay, and this is my partner, Eduard Planas, whom I love. You changed from Saul to Paul.
I inherited the place, which became free, when Georg Gänswein became Ratzinger’s private secretary. I inherited his computer, his office, his chair. Paul followed the truth. When he persecuted the Christians, he believed that he had to do so for the sake of the truth. Then he recognized his error and became a Christian. I thought God was against my homosexuality, so I fought it. Then I discovered that God had nothing against my homosexuality. He had given something against which my love was strugling. I was an official of a truth office, a Stasi. I was perfect in this office. I put together, for every question, the views that the Church had represented over the centuries. The new knowledge of science did not matter. The church was in possession of the truth. This treasure was to be lifted. I did not do that as a cynic. I did it because I believed in it.
This was the purpose from one minute to the next.
I had nothing but a suitcase and my husband. That was a liberation. And peace. The first time: peace. A new security. I am a believing man, so I know: That was a gift from God.
You always have to get everything from the top!
Yes, yes. Of course I also have to develop energy and strength. But they also come from God. Life needs a foundation. If you have that, you can let go. This was the experience of Paul. This was also my experience. But it took me a long time to realize that the ecclesiastical texts against homosexuality speak about me. In the Catechism, for example, it says of homosexual relations: “They violate the natural law, for the transmission of life is excluded in sexual act. They do not arise from a true affective and sexual supplementary need. They are in no way to be approved.” Today I know that the catechism preaches homophobia and not the love of God. That’s why I introduced my partner at my coming out. This was a theological statement. I wanted to make it clear: I’m not looking for sex. I’m looking for love. Sex I can have anywhere. For me, it’s about love. Homosexual love.
Is the doctrine that the Father has the Son nailed to the cross in order to save mankind, not unloving?
The suffering, the self-sacrificing God – that is the mystery of religion.
This God, who always kills whole tribes of nations, would not you weep for the dead of Sodom and Gomorrah?
It is impossible to understand how God can allow this. But I believe it is his respect for human freedom. His respect for our freedom. It is the limit of the action of God.
But the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah did not perish because they were fighting each other. God eradicated them.
In the Old Testament there is this image of God. Jesus corrects this. The relationship between God, suffering and freedom is the greatest question of religion. That is their secret. I took the liberty to first acknowledge my homosexuality before God. He accepted me. When I did it before the church, she rejected me.
Sodom and Gomorrah?
When you read the text in the Old Testament, it was not about homosexuality – the later tradition shifted the emphasis to the sexual – but about xenophobia and the refusal of hospitality. Lot receives the strangers, in truth God’s angels, with friendship and is attacked by his fellow citizens. It is – in this the story is quite topical – about the correct handling of refugees and migrants. The Sodom of today is my home country Poland. No one is willing to accept refugees. There is no place for a Syrian family in all Poland. Poland is Catholic, but no one opens strangers to his house. This is just one example of the terrible confusion in the Catholic Church.
At New Ways Ministyr’s Bondings 2.0 blog, Bob Shine has a useful review of 2016 as it affects LGBT Catholics. After a factual listing of assorted features of the year, both hopeful and disappointing, he adds:
Finally, I offer a concluding note from my own consideration of Pope Francis. More and more, I read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision. Pope Francis is clearly limited in his understandings of gender and sexuality, likely stemming from both his own lack of knowledge, and by relying on advisors at the Vatican with a more conservative agenda.
As many have observed, Pope Francis’ actions often speak far louder than his words. These movements to return to Jesus, in their firm commitment to more fully and fervently living out Christian discipleship, can only help the cause of LGBT equality in the long term. None of these positives, however, excuses or lessens the harmful impact of his LGBT negative comments in which he does real damage to people’s lives.
Most importantly for me, Francis has been far more faithful than his immediate predecessors to the teachings of Vatican II. He prioritizes a church of mercy and welcome, a church foremost committed to justice for marginalized and vulnerable people, and a church where honest conversation is practiced to strengthen the faithful’s unity amid tremendous diversity.
I think Shine is absolutely correct to “read his treatment of LGBT issues within the wider context of his papacy and his vision”. Too much of the analysis of Francis and these matters, on both sides of the argument, has been hampered by looking through too narrow a prism. Stepping back to take a wider perspective is instructive. In particular, the approach at the synods and in Amoris Laetitia to those those divorced and remarried, carries much hope for LGBT Catholics, because the broad principles are the same.
In terms of actual doctrine, not much has changed – but the pastoral approach has been transformed. This is key – a distinguishing feature of his entire papacy has been a downgrading of even the importance of doctrine, with a corresponding new emphasis on the primacy of pastoral accompaniment, conscience, and discernment in the interior forum. Although there has been virtually no sign of any immediate change in doctrine, on LGBT or any other sexual issues, there have been repeated acknowledgements that doctrine can and must change over time, in response to changing conditions in the world. This is light years away from Benedict’s repeated references to “the church’s constant and unchanging tradition”.
Reports of Pope Francis’ apology to the gay community drew extensive commentary in the press, with divided responses from LGBT sources. There many statements that this was welcome, but also many who pointed out that the statement was limited, and just didn’t go far enough.
On Sunday (3rd July) I had the privilege of participating in a live TV discussion about this, on BBC1 (available here on BBC iPlayer, at 30:41 from the start, to about 42:30).
For the benefit of readers unable to access iPlayer, here’s a summary of my contributions.
My first point was that this statement needs to be seen in a broader context. Coming from the pope, this attracted the attention, but there have been other apologies before, from both Protestant and Catholic leaders. When I was in Sweden for the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian organizations, the Bishop of Gothenburg said in his address to the opening ceremony that the Church should make an act of repentance to the LGBT community, for the past harm it has done to them. At the Family Synod in Rome last October, the entire group of German speaking bishops made a collective apology to lesbian and gay Catholics.
I went on to say that this apology was just one part of a much broader interview, which could explain why it was so brief – and so disappointed some LGBT Catholics. While welcoming the apology, some said that it should also have gone into some explanation of why the apology was needed, what needs to be done to prevent future harm, and how can we begin a process of healing. However, it’s important that the apology has been made, however limited it is at the stage.
After inviting contributions from the rest of the panel, the moderator brought up the popular but mistaken idea that homosexuality is regarded as immoral in Catholic teaching, asking me directly, “Are you immoral?” My response was to point out that there is nothing in Church teaching against homosexuality – but only a few statements opposed to homosexual acts. The Church accepts that “homosexuality” as an orientation is entirely natural, and does not endorse attempts to change it.
There is of course, a great deal more than I could have said, given more time. Even this simple idea that homosexual genital acts are contrary to Church teaching, is not as straightforward as it seems. In a later discussion of the Anglican synod “Shared Conversations” process, I pointed out that this is not just about discussing “what the Bible says”, as one of the panellists had claimed, but also about hearing from the lived experience of lesbian and gay people themselves. To that, she quickly interrupted to talk about her second-hand experience of a gay man she knows, who she said had come to Christ and rejected his homosexual life. I deeply regret that I was not given the chance to reply that my own experience was the exact opposite: time had run out on us. Otherwise, I would have described how my attempt to live fully within the bounds of Church teaching on sex and marriage had left me steadily drifting away from all religious practice and belief. It was only later, after I had come to terms with my sexuality as an openly gay man in a committed, stable same-sex relationship, that I was able to return to the church. Since then, I have found, like many others, that fully embracing my sexuality in fact has enhanced my faith and my spirituality.
Looking back on my experience of how time severely limits how much one can say, I have more sympathy for Pope Francis’ failure to elaborate more fully in his apology. However, he has opened up a conversation. It’s now up to the rest of us, to keep that conversation going.
I’ve been expecting this for some time – I just didn’t think it would come quite so quickly, even though it is desperately overdue.
Pope Francis: Catholic Church should apologize to gay people and others it has marginalized
Pope Francis says gays — and all the other people the church has marginalized, such as the poor and the exploited — deserve an apology.Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Armenia if he agreed with one of his top advisors, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who told a conference in Dublin in the days after the deadly Orlando gay club attack that the church owes an apology to gays for having marginalized them.
Francis responded with a variation of his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being “a bit offensive for others.” But he said: “Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?”
Simply because there have now been a series of papal apologies to a wide range of groups previously attacked or persecuted by the Catholic authorities. Pope Benedict XVI apologised to Muslims for the Crusades, Pope Francis apologised to the indigenous people of South America for “ideological colonialism” (but not the the ideological colonialism in sexual and gender norms), and more recently to Protestants. LGBT people were at the back of the queue, but their turn had to come eventually. There are other examples too, which I do not now have time to enumerate.
As others have noted, a simple apology for “harm” is not enough, on its own. There needs to be an admission of how the harm was done, and how it is inextricably linked to core sexual doctrine. We also know from the theology of the sacrament of reconciliation, that simple confessing of sins is not enough to merit full forgiveness, unless it is accompanied by appropriate restitution for the harm done. In this context, restitution to those individuals already harmed is impossible – but restitution to the community would be possible, if it included an admission that the harm is a direct result of grievously disordered sexual doctrines, which need urgent reconsideration.
Now however, is not the time to carp. Let us first, offer profound thanks that Pope Francis has gone where none of his predecessors could – he’s asked of the entire Catholic community, “Who are WE to judge?”
This alone will enrage his many detractors on the orthotoxic Catholic right to height not previously seen. Let us for now, recognise his remarkable first step – and postpone for a later date, consideration in more depth, of what issurely required next.
A notable and extremely welcome feature of last year’s family synod was the apology offered by the entire German speaking bishops’ small group to the gay and lesbian community, for the harm done to them by the church. That call was later repeated by Bishop Doyle of Northampton, on his return to the UK.
Now, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who is chairman of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference and also one of Pope Francis’ group of cardinal advisors, has repeated his belief in the church’s duty of apology.
We’re going to hear more about apologies and calls for apologies to lesbian and gay Catholics for past wrongs to lesbian and gay people. That’s good news.
The need for an apology should be obvious from just the most cursory reading of LGBT history and the Catholic church, from the active persecution and burning of (alleged) “sodomites” under the Inquition, to the virulently homophobic language used by some Catholics in opposition to marriage equality, and even to civil unions. It is very much to be welcomed that Cardinal Marx has acknowledged at least some of this harm:
Until “very recently”, the church, but also society at large, had been “very negative about gay people . . . it was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible,” he told The Irish Times after speaking at a conference held in Trinity College.
What would be better, if we could also hear apologies the continuing harms done to LGBT people by the Church in many parts of the world in its language and in its pastoral practice – not least in Ireland, over gay marriage, and in Italy, over civil unions.
Cardinal Marx would not be drawn when asked by The Irish Times for his view on Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Parolin’s description of the marriage equality referendum result in Ireland last year as “a defeat for humanity”.
Cardinal Marx said, “I don’t comment on others because that is not good.” As an outsider in the Irish context he was “hesitant” about making a judgment, he said.
It would also be good to hear this call for an apology, include the continuing wrongs to transgender people, with the recent Catholic paranoia over “gender ideology”, and for the continuing harms done to LGBT people by the Church by some elements of its core doctrine and language.
He (Cardinal Marx) said he had “shocked” people at the October 2014 extraordinary synod of bishops in Rome when he asked how it was possible to dismiss as worthless a same-sex relationship of years duration where both men had been faithful.
May I remind Cardinal Marx that the Catholic Church’s formal doctrine on homosexuality does not just “dismiss as worthless” committed, faithful same-sex relationships of many years, but declares them to be gravely sinful, if they include any physical expression of that love in sexual acts – which are described by the Church as “intrinsically disordered”? Or that the primary document on pastoral care of homosexual persons dismisses all sexual activity between gay people as mere “self-gratification”, but in marked contrast consistently refers to sexual intercourse between opposite-couples as “mutual self-giving”? The truth is, that heterosexual people can be just as guilty in their sexual lives of the pursuit of simple self-gratification, and same-sex couples in enduring, faithful partnerships equally capable of “mutual self-giving”.
Christmas. It’s the time of love, good will and John Lewis adverts. But lest we forget, for millions of Christians, it’s also the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Which segues us quite nicely into lifting the lid off of one of the biggest debates in modern times. Can you be gay and live within the teachings and values of Christianity?
Framing this a debate, they have published the responses of Rev Jeremy Pemberton, an openly gay, married Anglican priest, and of Matthew Parris, gay columnist, former MP, and self-proclaimed committed atheist.
Unfortunately, both these good men have it right in part – and completely miss the point Of course you can be both gay and Christian – as countless numbers of openly gay and lesbian Christians demonstrate. And of course, if one does believe in God, it’s more important to pay attention to what God wants of me, than to what I want of God.
What neither of these have pointed out, is that for one who is naturally gay – that is precisely what God wants. On the one hand, ideas of radical inclusion, justice and equality are at the core of the Christian gospels. So too, are ideas of honesty and personal integrity. The Catholic Church formal teaching accepts, for instance, that a same-sex orientation is entirey natural, and discourages attempts to change it. The Catholic Catechism also states clearly, that each of us should “accept” our sexual identity, and integrate it into our personality. Hence, if our natural orientation is towards the same sex, if we are in fact gay or lesbian, even the Catholic Church teaches that we should accept this – and furthermore, that others should, too. Catholics are officially told to treat gay and lesbian people with “respect, sensitivity, and compassion”, and should avoid any malice in speech or in words, or any form of unjust discrimination.
That is not of course, the end of it. The Church also teaches that while to BE gay is OK, to act on this in sexual expression is not – thereby contravening its own insistence on non-discrimination and the rest. It raises the alternative question, not “can one be gay and Christian”, but “can one be gay and celibate?”, Clearly, within the framework of Catholicisma and other mainstream Christian denominations, once can certainly be gay – as long as one refrains from sexual activity. I suspect that Matthew Parris (and many others) who believe that one cannot be both gay and Christian, really meant that one who is sexually abstinent, cannot be considered truly “gay”.
I’m not goning to go into that question, how do we define “gay”. Instead, I will pursue the much more controversial topic, can one be Christian, gay and also sexually active? I have no doubt at all that the answer is absolutely, yes.
There is nothing in either the Christian or Jewish scriptures that says anything at all against “homosexuality”, not even a single word – for the simple reason that neither the word nor the concept existed in Biblical times. At best, there are no more than half a dozen isolated verses which, taken out of context, appear to oppose sexual acts between men. Closer inspection shows that even these few texts may have been badly mistranslated, misinterpreted or incorrectly applied, and have no relevance at all to loving, committed sexual relationships.
Furthermore, although it is certainly true that formal Catholic teaching today, and that of most other denominations, is that any sexual acts between men are inherently sinful, this was not always so, and is probably the result of what Pope Benedict once described as the “distorted tradition” in Christian history, against which we must be always on our guard. It is more likely that the original proscription was not against relationships based on equality between the partners, but against exploitative sexual acts, in which a powerful man took advantage of his superior position to assuage his lusts on his social inferiors.
Finally and above all, even if we accept the dubious proposition that Church opposition to same-sex relationships may be justified by scripture and tradition, we must always bear in mind that the sexual rules are only one small part of Catholic teaching – and in the hierarchy of “levels” of Church teaching, occupy the bottom rung, which does not require assent. Catholic teaching has always insisted on the primacy of conscience, and accepts that a Catholic may in good conscience, simply disagree with the teaching on sexual rules, and ignore it. Other denominations demonstrate this respect for conscience even more explicitly, in the increasing acceptance of openly gay or lesbian, partnered pastors, bishops and moderators.
Parris is absolutely right in saying that Christians should be asking what does God want of us? It is in fact a commonplace in Christian theology, that what God wants of us, is precisely what is best for us. For gay and lesbian Christians, that must include accepting our sexual identity, exercising it responsibly, and living lives of integrity and honesty.
The really important question for Christians, gay or otherwise and for gay people, Christian or otherwise, is not can one have a sexual life with integrity – but what does that mean? Does responsible sexual ethics require that we restrict sexual activity to expression within loving and committed, mutually faithful monogamous partnerships? Is there a place for sex during courtship, before making a permanet commitment, or for simple recreational sex? If so, how do we guard against harmless but regular recreational sex crossing over to irresponsible sexual addiction?
These are the really important questions that should be occupying us – not the simplistic non-question of “can one be gay and Christian?”
For years, Italy has been a major, conspicuous anomaly on the Wikipedia map of same-sex unions in Europe: the only country of Western Europe to have neither same-sex marriage, nor any other legal recognition for same-sex couples. Up to now, this has come about with the implacable opposition of the Italian bishops to any form of legal recognition.
With the passage this week of a civil unions bill in the Italian senate, by a comfortable majority, that’s about to change. More remarkably, this has come about with the de facto acquiescence of the Italian bishops. This is a truly remarkable turnaround, in just a few years!
Cardinal Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:
Homosexuals cannot be criminalized.
We are all growing in this regard.
These are important statements, coming from one of the two most senior African officials at the Vatican, Cardinal Turkson made them in an interview with Frank DeBenardo of New Ways Ministry, who is in Rome for the Family Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
It won’t be possible to evaluate the synod Assembly on the Family until it’s all over, and Pope Francis has given his own judgement, but buried in the detail are some fascinating titbits. Here’s one that must not be overlooked, from the small-group report of the German bishops: they acknowledge the hurt caused by pastoral practice to “homosexually oriented people” and other groups, and offer an historic apology.
An dieser Stelle war uns ein Bekenntnis wichtig: Im falsch verstandenen Bemühen, die kirchliche Lehre hochzuhalten, kam es in der Pastoral immer wieder zu harten und unbarmherzigen Haltungen, die Leid über Menschen gebracht haben, insbesondere über ledige Mütter und außerehelich geborene Kinder, über Menschen in vorehelichen und nichtehelichen Lebensgemeinschaften, über homosexuelle orientierte Menschen und über Geschiedene und Wiederverheiratete. Als Bischöfe unserer Kirche bitten wir diese Menschen um Verzeihung.
At this point a confession is important for us: In a false interpretation of the attempt to uphold the doctrine of the church, it frequently happened that hard and merciless attitudes appeared in pastoral ministry, that has brought suffering to people, especially to unmarried mothers and children born outside of marriage, for people living in premarital and non-marital cohabitation, for homosexually oriented people and for divorced and remarried people. As Bishops of our Church we are asking these people for forgiveness.
This is huge.
For some people in North America and Western Europe, the most notable harm done by the Church to LGBT people has been the opposition to marriage equality, and in some case the resultant exclusion of married gay men and lesbians from church employment or pastoral ministry. In fact, the extent of the harm is far greater. In Africa and in history, this has included active persecution, criminalization, and death. Even in Europe and North America, it can remain a major contributing factor to adolescent suicide and homelessness.
Previous popes have issued apologies to the Jews fo r inciting anti-Semitism, and to Muslims for the crusades. Pope Francis has apologized to the indigenous people of South America for the colonial imposition of European ideology and destruction of cultural patterns. What that apology did not acknowledge, was that the colonial ideology that was imposed, included Western European understanding of sex, gender and family structure, with the resultant active persecution of all those whose sexual or gender behaviour did not fit those European norms.
Just as the Catholic Church has formally apologized for the historic harm done to the Jewish and Muslim communities, to the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, Africa and Asia, and for the medieval persecution of religious dissidents, an apology is due to the LGBT community for the persecution in so many ways, large and small, in history and to the present day.
This is the first such apology I have seen from any significant group of Catholic bishops. I applaud the German bishops for their courage and honesty.