Interview conducted by Andrea Miluzzo.
Translated from Flavia Viglione.
“I want the Church and my community to know who I am: a gay priest, happy and proud of his own identity. I’m ready to suffer the consequences of this, but now it’s time for the Church to open its eyes to gay believers and to understand that the solution it propones to them, that is total abstinence from love life, is inhuman”.
With these words, last October 3rd, Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa revealed himself to the world. He came out and publicly declared to have a partner and to be happy: “Homosexual love is a family love. May they open their eyes”.
The Vatican, blown away by this event, on the eve of Synod of Bishops on family shakes feeling terror of a domino effect and shouts through father Lombardi’s voice: “He must relinquish his offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and at Pontificial Universities”. According to Bishop Pelplin this is a “serious and irresponsible media oppression on the eve of Synod”.
Charamsa was a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith official since 2003, a deputy secretary of International Theological Commission of the Vatican and a theology teacher at Pontifical Gregorian University and at Pontifical Faculty Regina Apostolorum of Rome. After his public coming out, on the eve of Synod of Bishops on family, has been forced to give up all his offices in the Vatican.
The means of communication in Poland, after his coming out, called him “demon in cassock”.
One month later LGBT News Italia has interviewed him and he said to Andrea Miluzzo: “On one point I agree with them: today the demon is effectively in the cassock, but it’s not my cassock. Mostly, my cassock is located in my office in the Vatican ( I couldn’t take it back anymore after my coming out): there the demon has to be looked for!”.
This interview is a very powerful casket of very precious theology and of great testimony.
Interview with Krzysztof Charamsa
Your public coming out must have been the final goal of a journey of acceptance and reflection, but was there a final straw that broke the camel’s back and determined your decision?
“Yes, my public coming out has been the final goal and the reaction to my experience of fear and homophobic hate imposed by my Church. Today the Church is one of the most powerful agencies of irrational hate towards sexual minorities, refusing any possibility of verification and discussion of its retrograde position, which has nothing to do with reality and with the state of modern science as regards homosexuality. The Church is stubbornly entrenched in its false position, and is not willing to inform itself of scientific progress that have been made in the last decades. Facing this ideology of catholic Church current propaganda (immoral and irresponsible, because false) has brought me to the act of release and denouncement associated with my coming out. I couldn’t in any other way tell the institution of my church to wake itself, to begin to inform itself and to stop offending the dignity of people not belonging to the heterosexual majority.
The accumulation of straws, which you mentioned before, is an appropriate image: there have been very many straws gradually weighing on my life and my faith, on my mind and my heart. The offenses, the mockeries, the disdain for homosexual people, the lack of humanity and sensitivity towards them, the falsehood, the lies and accusations (such as: “All of the homosexuals, or the majority of them, are pedophiles”), the teachings full of stereotypes and false images, the paranoid narrow mind by ignorant people who, on behalf of the Church, dare to impose their ignorance as authoritarian positions on millions of homosexual people’s lives.
In a model manner, this ignorance is summarized in the wretched words spoken at the last Synod, the words of a certain Sarah, who is a cardinal but who should be denounced for his “synodal” comparison between homosexuals and the Nazis. This was the true “gift” of the Synod, which no one has taken back, which no one apologized for. That’s how Church’s homophobic hatred works, the hatred which trains people in the Church.
These kinds of straws are daily stuff in Church’s and especially Vatican’s mentality, because Sarah’s position is the same as that of Muller’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That’s the conviction of dominant catholic mentality, or at least the reigning mentality in the Vatican. It’s a mindset which the institution of the Church shapes every day, inciting fear, disdain and in the end hatred of homosexuals, just like a straw after another one. All they need to do is instill in people’s mind this image of homosexuals as inferior beings to deplore, to feel sorry for and finally to hate, to eliminate, to leave outside the law, like miserable people who aren’t able to love and have no right to have their own family or their own children. That is the daily work of my Church, not only in the Vatican and in Italy. We know its results very well, in our societies which are permeated with homophobia. The more catholic a society, the greater the homophobia. Straw after straw: the perfect work of the catholic Church, that has created its own imaginary enemies”.
What did you do in the period between the moment of your decision and the press conference?
“In that period, as always, I carried out my priestly ministry properly. But maybe it’s right to explain that my decision was a process of development and, as we believers use to say, discernment. It would be hard to indicate the exact moment of decision. This decision was growing within me, as the hardest and the most demanding decision of my life. Generally, a homosexual terrified of an institution to which he offered all his life, has a battle raging inside him. He struggles alone with his fears in front of everything that a decision like this involves in his inhumanly homophobic world: the loss of job and means to live, the offenses, the disgust, the calumnies, the violence – thank goodness, only verbal – against him and his loved ones. I knew that my coming out would awaken in the institution of Church and in the catholic mentality all of its violence and hate, since their lack in sensitivity, peaceful human reflection, comprehension, and mercy. These Gospel ideals don’t exist in the Vatican, but they’re also unknown to the dominant violence in most of catholic cultures, such as in the Polish Church, and partly in the Italian one. Simple people permeated by this kind of hatred aren’t often even responsible for that: they subconsciously took this hatred from the catholic Church. The real responsible for a good part of homophobia is the catholic Church.
The decision to oppose to this social sin of a powerful international institution, as a single man, like I was, alone and with no help from anyone, except the help from my partner and a few loved ones, has been a process lasting until the very last moment before I said to the Church:
“Dear Church, stop your blind violence and hatred. Embrace, with sweet words, the respect that you’ve always pretended to have, and in which you have never believed. I’m gay and I demand that you, my Church, begin to respect me as I have respected and served you all my life. Wake up, because you’re becoming inhuman. You have no right to offend my life with your irrational and psychological terror anymore. As I took you seriously, so you, my Church, have to convert and start to understand reality, exactly the way that Pope Francis wants to”.
How do you reply to people who accuse you of having been an accomplice for 30 years to the system that you’re denouncing now?
“Let me first correct the numbers. I served the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 12 years, and I’ve been a zealous worker. I’ve been a priest for 18 years and I’m a good gay priest. I’ve always served the ideas and the true Christian values, the ones of love towards God and towards people, in attempting to know and serve the truth using what I learnt from Christianity, that is to say what God had revealed in his divine Word for men. It’s true that, in time, I began to understand that in the Vatican, as in many parts of the Church all over the world too, I was serving a system. A system which has to be denounced as false, ignorant and unable to rationally discuss the great human problems when it talks about sexual minorities and human sexuality in general. In the Congregation, which has the task of being sort of the doctrinal “brain” of the Church, ridiculous ignorance reigned. We never read anything about gender studies there, but we condemn them a priori. We never read anything about the things that we condemn, which we call “gender ideology”, ideology that simply doesn’t exist. In this area, the true “ideology” is the catholic blind position. I served the Church, but when I discovered that it was an inhuman system of anti-gay paranoia, I knew I had the moral duty to say to my Church who I am and demand that it stops being a “system of anti-gay paranoia”. I released a 10-point manifesto in which I push the Church to start respecting the human dignity, independently of sexual orientation. That’s my gay liberation manifesto, which I presented on October 3, 2015 and I’m relaunching in different languages these days”.
What is the role of homosexual people within the God’s project? Why, in the first centuries of Christianity, did saints and doctors of the Church theorize that homosexuals were comparable to a sort of enemy demonic force?
“The role of homosexual people within God’s project is the same as the one of heterosexual people, that is to say, realizing with love the image of God which we carry within us, accepting and realizing the gifts and the charisma peculiar to heterosexuals, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, intersexuals, etc. No one can be excluded from this project, because no one can be excluded from love. That kind of love is reflected in the divine plan of marriage and family, which concerns every human being, in consistency with their healthy sexual orientation. In God’s project there isn’t just heterosexual marriage. There’s though marriage and human family. These ones express themselves in the conquest of civil humanity, achieved by having obtained marriage equality. According to Christian values, civil marriage just like the religious one (also the Christian one) can’t exclude or discriminate homosexual people. Equal marriage respects the true values of Christianity. Currently, the Church thinks exactly the opposite. Because of that, today’s catholic Church – which has a conservative position that can’t be rationally defended anymore – is the true “defeat for humanity”, in the words of Vatican Cardinal Parolin, who deplorably spread these words talking about the Republic of Ireland great civil decision to approve equal marriage in the referendum this year. Irish people, as many other nations, they’re exemplary in their sense of humanity and in their Christian values.
Today we realize that equal marriage is a value and an understandable precious good coherent with God’s Word.
It’s a good for humanity which is civilly developing and reflecting the Christian values of love, justice and equal personal dignity of men and women of different sexual orientation. It also reflects everything Christians know about the creation of men and women in the image of God, as the Bible describes it. Today we have this awareness thanks to the development of human knowledge. I’m talking about all the knowledge and experience of the healthy diversity of sexual orientations, that is not a thesis or an hypothesis of science among others, about which you can discuss or, even worse, ignore as the Church does.
It is equally certain that the Bible couldn’t know anything about it. It had no idea of sexual orientation, as, moreover, neither our great-grandfathers knew anything clear about it. There is nothing wrong in this: Word of God is continuously interpreted by the community of believers, which confronts with the continuous development of humanity. It is not surprising that in the past –as you properly mention – some of the Christianity theologians have demonized homosexual people, partly because of this human imperfect knowledge. Moreover, lots of them interpreted some passages from the Scriptures in manners that now we know to be wrong.
Just think of the passage of Scripture about Sodom, which at a certain point during the Christian story was adopted as the name for homosexual people ( called sodomites), whereas that biblical passage has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but rather with the laws of hospitality, which are very difficult to understand for today’s people, but were essential for the culture of biblical man.
The Bible never speaks about homosexuality as we know it today. We can say that it never condemned the love of two gays in Rome or in San Francisco, or the love of two lesbians in Milan or in Istanbul, who realize their love following their sexual orientation, who start a family and have kids, who are citizens openly living their sexual orientation, as a good and as the potentiality of love. The Bible never condemns homosexuals, just as it never condemns heterosexuals, on the basis of their sexual orientation. Also because the Bible doesn’t know anything about sexual orientation as healthy distinction between human beings ( not only between humans). Obviously, the Bible speaks about some acts which I and other theologians call homogenital acts, which is to say, sexual acts carried out by two same-sex people. But it doesn’t take into account the fact that this kind of realization of sexuality may be natural or not to the ones who act. The homosexual acts are natural to homosexual people and they reflect the order of their human nature. This is a knowledge that the Bible could not have, so it sees same-sex sexual acts as material acts, and it doesn’t distinguish whether or not such act may be the healthy expression of sexuality by someone who is not heterosexual. Moreover, homogenital acts (acts between two men who are not necessarily of the same sex) were tied to the sacred prostitution world of pagan religions, which the biblical Israel rejected. Paul follows this discourse with his complex texts, which need more time to be explained and understood in their historical and cultural context of the past and of today, in the light of new scientific knowledge, which can’t be ignored because the development of awareness is also a gift of God.
But in the nowadays Church, we have a problem: God has to open his Church’s mind which has never discussed this subject, but ideologically closed itself to such discussion, and it seems to be worried only about keeping its politic and financial control, rather than being the oasis of rational thinking for men and women believers.
The latest Synod has been the paradigmatic example of this irrational narrow-mind and disconnection with reality. In fact Sarah, instead of being denounced or at least being rebuked by the Synod, led the debate of the French language group, which he wound up on behalf of the others by saying: we haven’t had time to discuss the homosexuality. This is exactly the respect and the love which the Church has for the children of families formed by homosexual people: the Church doesn’t have time for this reality of daily love between people who in many countries, such as Italy or Poland, remain outlawed, despised and offended. Countries which have societies that, coincidentally, pride themselves on being the most close to the ideals of Christian love. We see the defeat for humanity, but not in Ireland or in the USA, in Argentina or in Colombia. No! We are the defeat for humanity, the catholic Church is, in the Vatican, because we keep convincing people that homosexuals are demonic and sadly, in many countries, these ideologies have a hold on people.
‘Demon who wears the cassock’: that’s how the Polish social media called me after my coming out. On one point I agree with them: today the demon is effectively in the cassock, but it’s not my cassock. Mostly, my cassock remained in the wardrobe of my office in the Vatican ( I couldn’t take it back anymore after my coming out): the demon should be searched for there!”.
What are the preconditions that will allow ecclesiastical hierarchies to reformulate the doctrine accepting homosexuality as conceived by God? When will the Church get to bless same-sex unions and adoptions, asking for forgiveness as it did in 2000 solemnly pronouncing the ‘mea culpa’ during the Ash Wednesday liturgy?
“I would say: undoubtedly the Church will get to the point where it blesses equal marriage, which also includes homosexual people with their wish to love and offer their own life to their children day after day, in the same exemplar way as the “rainbow families” (as usually called in Italy) do. These are the families which today are left outlawed, or aren’t respected by civil or ecclesiastical law, as if they don’t exist at all. And, just like any other family, they love, suffer, give and protect the life of their children, struggle for a better life and world, contribute to the common good and, if they’re believers, offer their charismas and gifts to the church community. To refuse to acknowledge them is the defeat for humanity and for Christianity . For that, catholic people’s delay is extremely to blame.
Nowadays delay of the Church system, is shamefully serious because it doesn’t concerns the theories, but people’s concrete lives, in which they’re discriminated, stigmatized and marginalized. There’s something demoniac in this delay. It is the delay that day after day I used to observe in the Congregation, ignorantly and insensitively unable to study reality.
I undoubtedly know that the time will come when the Church will ask for forgiveness, but only God know the times.
To return to your first question, I would say: I’m sure that charismatic people will be needed, but we also need a serious theological and philosophical study, free from any prejudice, and which today the Church lacks in. Also, theologians who, especially in the anglo-saxon and german area, think about reality, are torn apart by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Then, I also think that together with an opening of minds, a discovery by experience of reality is needed: we need “coming out” of priests, good priests who are gay. Because staying in the closet, keeping silent about the taboo of homosexuality, and for many, the double life constitute a system that allows doctrinal falsity about homosexuality. But, as I was saying, the concrete program of the work that the Church has to do in this setting is indicated in my manifesto, which I called ‘the new manifesto of gay liberation’, tailor-made for the catholic Church”.
What’s the most painful episode that you remember, in your experience in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, connected to homosexuality?
“The most painful event…was the inhuman education which forbade the admission of homosexual people to the priesthood. It reminds me of the worst racial laws which freely stigmatize and discriminate an entire social group. It is inhuman and based on a bunch of ridiculous lies about homosexual people. This law offends and discriminates homosexual people, to use the words of Pope Francis – the Pope uses them to say that his Church should never stigmatize and discriminate anyone. This Church does it in an irrational and unashamed way. This is a church law, which presupposes that homosexual people are inferior to the heterosexual people, that they are a secondary category of individual who have to be deplored and pitied. It is a law which forms a judgment on the entire homosexual community. Therefore, if the ecclesiastic lawmaker says: “Who am I to judge a gay?”, then he has to eliminate this ecclesiastic law since it is an institutional judgment and generalized on all the gay people. It is a true offense against humanity”.
Before you came out, did they know in the Vatican about your relationship with your partner?
“I think they didn’t, but I doesn’t interest me. We, Eduard and I, never thought to spend our lives in a hidden stable romantic relationship, as many of my colleagues in the Church do. I don’t judge them and I wish them the best, because love is the best thing that can exist and it is fully coherent with the love and the service of the priest to God and to the Church.
The Vatican must open its eyes to its own various moral crimes and to the stable and otherwise relationships which exist within the Church and for which it closes its eyes. The Church has to start dealing with its repressed sexual life”.
What does your book deal with?
“But which book? I have published several. Maybe you mean my future publications. I hope I can present a new book soon and then talk about it”.