Gay Believers No Longer Sinners, but Persons
Article by Delia Vaccarello. Published in “l’Unità” Italian newspaper p.18 on September 25, 2013. Translated by Peter Luntz
Hope is mounting. In June, gay believers wrote Pope Francis a letter asking to be considered persons and not a “category.” They expressed their wish for the Catholic Church to open up to welcoming gays and lesbians.
On July 11, the Vatican Secretariat sent the Pope’s response. Bergoglio had already gotten letters from gays in Buenos Aires expressing their hurt for the Church’s condemnation and now Italian gay believers had written their own letter.
“The Pope’s openness to gay people was evident in this new move,” said Innocenzo Pontillo of the Gionata Project. “We had written to Ratzinger twice but received no response.
After one letter to Pope Francis, he wrote back. The Pope’s response revealed that he appreciated our letter. He called it a gesture of ‘spontaneous confidence’ and he assured us of his ‘benedictory greeting’.”
Some days ago, the Pope gave a long interview to Civiltà Cattolica that confirmed this new move. In the interview, the Pontiff’s message comforts gay believers: no longer are they categories, sinners or individuals who are contrary to nature, but they are “persons”. The Pope’s words in Civiltà Cattolica are clear: «Someone provokingly asked me once if I approved of homosexuality.
I responded with another question: “Tell me: When God looks upon a homosexual person, does He approve of their existence with affection or does He reject and condemn this person? The person must always be considered. For here we enter into the mystery of humankind.” Furthermore, “If a homosexual person is of good will and is searching for God, I am no one to judge them.”
Also because “God has set us free”. Pontillo added that, “the letter we wrote asked for concrete actions. We stressed how gay men and lesbians suffer daily due to how they are relegated to a sort of exile within the Church. We see something of ourselves in the Pope’s words. We finally see a Christian viewpoint. Many times we have seen how important it is for bishops and priests to get to know gay people for them to stop judging them in abstract terms.
Pope Francis has shown that he knows us.” Many times we have heard how words from the Pontiff about respect for the mystery of each human being would greatly influence the struggle against homophobia. And in this case the words themselves explicitly referred to homosexuals. Indeed, the Church’s attitude has an anthropological sort of ‘influence’ on society as a whole, not just on faith communities. Now the words have arrived.
Gay men and lesbians from the Nuova Proposta group said, “We believe these words can have a positive effect on young people who experience their homosexuality with fear and anxiety, often due to interiorized and society-imposed homophobia. Until now, they have frequently heard words of exclusion and condemnation from Catholic insititutions.
We like to believe that the Pope’s words will make many parents’ hearts skip a beat, especially those that are still unable to understand their children’s diversity. Perhaps these words will allow them to open up to dialog, to overcome their fears and to rediscover loving relationships.”
Gay believers hope this new attitude will expand and trickle down to those pockets of harmful conservative thinking that are difficult to uproot. The Adista press agency reported an example of attempts to obscure these issues.
A group called Lot-Regina della Pace held a summer seminar called ‘Adam, Eve, Where are you?’ in the town of Angolo Terme (Bs) in the Val Camonica. The session was aimed at “all men and women who want to undertake a path of inner healing in their own sphere of emotions, relationships and sexuality.” In other words, it was aimed at curing homosexuality. The ‘scientific’ base of ‘reparative therapy’ by American clinical psychologist Joseph Nicolosi has been refuted in the USA and also by the Italian Order of Psychologists.
Will Bergoglio be able to make the Gospels triumph? “The Pope is saying that people come first and then come the rules. If the Church stops behaving like a government, then that would be an important change,” said Giovanni Bachelet. “Certainly those who treat the Pope’s words as a grand new element exaggerate. However, it is true that when the Church uses ‘the medicine of mercy instead of taking up weapons of severity,’ as Pope John XXIII said when opening the Second Vatican Council in 1962, then joy and hope are reborn in many.
After all, the Gospel declares that ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’. Like all great revolutions in the Church, the Pope’s new stance is the return of Jesus.”