A gay Polish priest who came out earlier this month on the eve of a meeting of Catholic bishops to discuss the family on Monday described his decision as his “liberation.”
“[It was a] liberation for a priest who is gay and who was gay for all of his life in a homophobic society like the Catholic Church,” Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa told the Washington Blade during a Skype interview from the Spanish city of Barcelona.
Charamsa spoke with the Blade less than three weeks after he came out to newspapers in Italy and his native Poland.
The Polish monsignor in 2003 began working for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which implements church teachings on homosexuality and other issues. Charamsa in 2011 became the second secretary of the International Theological Commission that prepares studies for the doctrinal body.
Charamsa and his boyfriend Eduard, who is from the Catalonia region of Spain, had planned to hold an Oct. 3 press conference outside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The two men moved the event to a restaurant after the Vatican removed him from the post.
“For me Eduard was a gift for God,” Charamsa told the Blade.
Monsignor ‘suffered’ because of church teachings
Charamsa, 43, became a priest in 1997. He began working at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith six years later.
Cardinal Angelo Amato in 2007 as the then-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith described marriage rights for same-sex couples as “evil.” The doctrinal body in a letter more than two decades earlier said homosexuality “must be seen as an objective disorder.”
Pope Benedict XVI, known colloquially as “God’s Rottweiler” as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981-2005, said before he became pope that those who “practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’” cannot become priests.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last month said transgender people are unable become godparents. A Chilean newspaper on Sept. 9 published emails between two cardinals that showed they conspired to prevent a gay man from being named to a sex abuse commission that Pope Francis created.
Catholic bishops on Oct. 4 began their three-week gathering during which they will vote on a document that specifically addresses the family. LGBT advocates and their allies have criticized the Vatican over leaked drafts of the documents that reiterate its opposition to unions between gays and lesbians.
“I suffered for what the church taught about persons like me,” Charamsa told the Blade. “It offended my dignity and kept no fundamentals in the reality, which I can know from my experiences, from my sentiments, my desire to love, my capacity for relationships with others.”
Charamsa told the Blade he took particular issue with the 2005 edict against gay priests.
“It was a real offense to me,” he said. “I am a good priest with my homosexual sensibility, with my homosexual outreach, with my homosexual capacity to sacrifice me to other people.”
“We have horrible language of hate, language of violence, stigmatization, marginalization, discrimination of homosexual people,” added Charamsa. “We judge in the congregation.”
Vatican: Decision to come out ‘irresponsible’
Charamsa was teaching theology at Gregorian University and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome when he came out.
The Vatican in its announcement that revealed Charamsa’s termination from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said he could no longer teach at papal institutions.
“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,” said Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, in a statement to CBS News.
Charamsa described the church as “irresponsible” when the Blade asked him about Lombardi’s comments. The gay monsignor also criticized Bishop Ryszard Kasyna of the Diocese of Pelplin in Poland over his decision to suspend him from his duties as a priest.
“This is in my conscience, this is in my relation with God and also with the church,” Charamsa told the Blade. “It was very responsible. The church is irresponsible.”
Advocating for LGBT Catholics would be ‘dream’
LGBT Catholics and their supporters have welcomed the Vatican’s more moderate tone on homosexuality, marriage rights for same-sex couples and other issues since Francis became pope in 2013, including his comments that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized.
Church teachings on homosexuality and other issues have not changed.
Charamsa noted to the Blade that Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires who was then known as Jorge Bergoglio, in 2010 described marriage rights for same-sex couples in Argentina as “demonic.”
“When the pope asks who am I to judge…he must cancel this instruction to be tolerant,” said Francis, referring to church teachings. “It is only cosmetic in the church for the media, for journalists, for people who hear these words and say ‘oh this is a great man who is very open.’” But no, in the church we have the persecution of homosexual persons.”
Charamsa repeatedly stressed to the Blade that he is a “good priest,” even though he has come out as gay and acknowledged he is in a relationship with another man. The Polish monsignor said he plans to advocate on behalf of LGBT Catholics.
“It’s my dream,” said Charamsa. “I began to study these questions, these problems a few years ago. Of course it was my private study and nobody knew that and I didn’t publish anything because it was impossible to say something. Yes, yes, my dream is to do something a little to repair, to correct these years of silence.”