By Emily Moran
Elm Staff Writer
Last month, a letter from Rev. Krzysztof Charamsa, a Roman Catholic priest, to Pope Francis went public after said priest was fired from his position as a Vatican official for coming out as a gay man, in a relationship with a man. According to The NewYork Times, Charamsa made this announcement at the eve of the synod (the Church’s assembly of bishops from around the world) to both Italian and Polish media. The Vatican promptly dismissed him from his position and released a statement condemning Charamsa’s decision as “irresponsible.” He was also suspended indefinitely from his diocese in Poland, who urged him to someday return to the “true teaching of the Church and Christ’s priesthood.”
The Roman Catholic Church has been no stranger to criticism over the years. It is true that the Catholic Church has come a long way in its stance on homosexuality over the years, however, many believe that their position on homosexuality and gay marriage is archaic and outdated. The Church’s official position on homosexuality is to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” so to speak. They claim to love people regardless of their sexuality, but they refuse to accept the concept of same-sex marriage as valid.
One could argue that Charamsa’s terminations was justified because he had a partner. When one becomes a Catholic priest, they take a vow of celibacy in which they promise not to have any sexual partners or get married because they are supposed to be “married” or completely committed to the Church. The Vatican also stated that Charasma’s termination had nothing to do with his sexuality. While I think that Charamsa’s sexuality might have had a small part in his termination, it is true that he broke a vital rule of priesthood in the Church. There have been other (straight) priests that have lost their jobs for being found in a sexual relationship. Charamsa raises an important point in his letter, stating that the Catholic Church, as it stands now, is “homophobic and very difficult and harsh [towards gays].” For instance, BBC News wrote that Charamsa mentions a document signed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 that prevents men with “deep-rooted homosexual tendencies” from becoming priests. He also mentioned Pope Benedict’s statement that homosexuality was “a strong tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil.” Given these two instances of blatant homophobia, it would not be completely unfounded to assume that Charamsa’s sexuality may have factored into his swift termination. Even though much has changed in the last 10 years, this incident makes it obvious that the Catholic Church still has some prejudices towards the LGBTQ+ community.
According to The New York Times, Charamsa put the spotlight on the words of Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, who said, “What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexuality and abortion ideologies Islamic fanaticism are today.” To Charamsa (and likely many others as well), the fact that the Church did not address or even attempt to refute these remarks signaled a tacit approval by the Church of such harmful and offensive ideas. The Catholic Church has done nothing to correct instances of homophobia and general intolerance towards other marginalized groups, even though they claim to “love the sinner.” In order to truly love those “sinners,” it is necessary for the Catholic Church to re-examine their teachings in order to promote acceptance and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
Some may applaud the Catholic Church for the great strides it has made in accepting homosexuality and generally becoming more progressive overall in recent years. However, I would not agree with this claim. While it is true that the Catholic Church is certainly more progressive than several other Christian sects, it is definitely not worthy of praise. Simply tolerating gay people’s existence is not enough to improve LGBTQ+ rights. In order for the Church to truly claim tolerance, they must actually put that claim to practice and end the era of denying equal rights to LGBTQ+ individuals.