If the Vatican wanted to bury the question of homosexuality during the Synod of Bishops that begins tomorrow, those plans were upset today when a longtime official of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation came out as gay.
Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa did not come out quietly, either. He held a press conference (at which he hugged his partner), gave interviews and announced that a book on his experience is imminent.
Saying he was “happy and proud” to be gay, Charamsa said his (soon to be former) workplace at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was homophobic and paranoid. He said he was asking Pope Francis to change the Catholic catechism, which calls homosexuality “disordered.”
That gay priests work at the Vatican will come as no surprise to those who have read my book, “The Vatican Diaries.” But this kind of public revelation represents a real challenge to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude that reigns there.
Keep in mind that for church officials, there are two kinds of public admission here. First is Charamsa’s sexual orientation. The second, and probably more serious in the eyes of the Vatican, is that the priest is in a sexual relationship, violating the promise of celibacy he made when he was ordained.
Most objectionable of all, for the Vatican, was the publicity he sought out, with the expressed desire to influence the outcome of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which begins Sunday.
A Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said there was no way Charamsa could continue in his position at the CDF. Lombardi saw it as a move to manipulate the synod.
“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,” the spokesman said.
For his part, Charamsa said in an interview that he wanted the synod to take note: “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.”
The Synod of Bishops is discussing the family, and at its first session last fall homosexuality became one of the hot-button issues that quickly drew the attention of bishops and the media.
This month’s session will feature a more controlled, point-by-point discussion of family issues, with less public reporting on the proceedings.
Charamsa called Pope Francis “fantastic” for his emphasis on dialogue. The pope recently met with a former student who is gay, along with the man’s partner.
The pope, however, has also made it clear that he opposes outside efforts to manipulate the debate during the Synod of Bishops.