Thursday, November 12, 2015

Homophobia and Hypocrisy at the Vatican

If one believes the Gospel stories, Christ challenged the hate, hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement of the  Jewish religious leader of his time and ultimately paid a high price on the cross. He rightly called out the self-anointed, falsely pious Pharisees and others who made the Jewish law into something ugly used to persecute and denigrate others, especially those who did not adhere to the legalism loved by the Pharisee crowd.  While by no means a Christ equivalent, Krzysztof Charamsa, a former official at Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a/k/a the Inquisition has played a similar role and been booted from his position and attacked by the bitter old men who inhabit the Vatican, many of whom are closeted gays (or in some cases closeted until behind closed doors).  I applaud Charamsa's actions, although many gay Catholics do not.  Gay Catholics who in my view cannot let go of their own self-loathing and masochism that keeps them in an institution that despises them and denigrates them.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Charamsa's journey with which I can identify having been brought up Catholic and having remained in the Church far longer than I should have.  Here are article highlights:
Charamsa is unbowed. The church, he said, has deployed “Nazi words” against gays, and the time has come to respond. Referring to the 1969 New York riots that became a milestone in the American gay rights movement, he said, “The church needs a Stonewall.”

When Charamsa was young, the church’s teachings on homosexuality — something it calls an “intrinsic moral evil” — led him to personal torment and self-hate, he said. Today, he blames the church’s grip on largely Catholic Poland for a powerful strain of homophobia that still lingers there.
“It was the horrible problem of my life,” he said. “It was like hell. I prayed for years for God to take away this illness.”

His thinking had not changed, he said, when he began working at the Vatican in 2003, laboring in a mid-level administrative post and analyzing doctrinal papers. There are regular, if unofficial, social meetings of gay priests in Italy, including those from the Vatican, according to one gay priest who has attended them. But Charamsa says he was never part of that crowd.

Instead, until meeting Eduardo, he led a highly closeted life that allowed him to observe homophobia close up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. 

Inside its halls, Charamsa said, the issue of homosexuality “is only spoken about in jokes.” He compares it to the macho climate of, say, a sports team. Modern textbooks on human sexuality are rarely, if ever, studied. He said he saw careers destroyed after clerics appeared to get soft on gays. Suspicion of being gay, meanwhile, was reason enough to bar the promotions of priests to higher ranks.

Any move toward a more accepting stance, he said, was routinely stamped out. He recalls, for instance, an “internal persecution” of Bishop Piero Marini in 2013 after the Vatican official openly called for recognition of the moral value of same-sex unions. The Congregation, Charamsa said, insisted the bishop clarify true church teachings.

On the day in July 2013 when Pope Francis responded “Who am I to judge?” after being asked a question about gay priests, Charamsa said, there was an uproar within the Congregation. Its conservative prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, had “only bad things” to say about the pope in response, Charamsa said.  The Vatican declined to comment on any of Charamsa’s allegations.

Today, he calls his highly public coming out a form of “protest,” one that came together recently after he accepted himself and came to feel that the church, not his sexual orientation, was the problem. He is now on a one-man mission to challenge its teachings — something he is doing in regular media interviews, a book he is penning, even a blunt letter to the pope in which he derided the church for its “diabolical instruction.” It is a series of decisions that have come with a high price.

Charamsa was evicted by the nun running the Rome convent where he had lived for years as a chaplain, he said. His brother’s children are being bullied at school, and his mother is facing pressure at her church in his native Poland, he added. The Vatican fired him on the spot, leaving him unemployed. And his bishop in Poland suspended him, stripping him of the right to wear the Roman collar and celebrate Mass.

Charamsa says that gay Catholics advocating less confrontational methods have thus far failed to produce results. He welcomes Francis’s more inclusive approach but also describes it as mostly “words.” Rather than being a product of his coming out, the lack of a new approach at the synod is the product of entrenched church thinking that needs to be more boldly challenged, he said.

I agree with him.  The Vatican needs to be strongly and aggressively challenged and efforts need to be made to convince gay Catholics, their friends and families to leave in droves, making it clear why they are leaving.  Similarly, any and all financial support of the Church and its affiliated entities needs to cease.  All of this will take time, but if one looks at the Vatican, one thing alone gets its attention and prompts change: loss of members and loss of revenues. The Millennials are leaving the Church in droves.  Others need to do likewise. The condemnation of the Church and its lies and hypocrisy also must not cease.

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