On the day before the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family (a fancy way of saying a gathering of Catholic bigwigs to discuss their attitude toward gays and divorcees), Monsignor Kryzysztof Charamsa, a 43 year old Polish priest, stirred controversy by announcing his homosexuality. As expected, The Vatican’s reaction was swift; Monsignor Charamsa has been “fired,” stripped of his doctrinal duties.
The Vatican spokesman, Reverend Frederico Lombardi, said, “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.”
Whether the synod will experience “undue media pressure” as a result of Monsignor Charamsa’s declaration remains to be seen, but the Catholic Church’s concern with the media is not at all surprising. After all, it’s this preoccupation with image that compounded the Church sex scandals and continues to close the door on homosexual Catholics like Charamsa. Predictably, some Catholics are aghast at the Polish priest’s lifestyle and involvement in a same-sex relationship; others applaud the man for taking a stand and shining light on what may be considered the Church’s outdated position on homosexuality.
Understandably, Charamsa has called the Church’s attitude on homosexuality “backwards” and intended his announcement “as an enormous noise for the good of the Church.” Apparently, Monsignor Charamsa wanted to stir stagnant waters. Mission accomplished...sort of. Though the Monsignor has shaken things up a bit, it is doubtful he has advanced the cause of his homosexual peers. It will take far more than an errant priest to uproot the stubborn tree that is the Catholic Church.
While Charamsa has every right to live his life unapologetically (though one could argue he shouldn’t have chosen the priesthood in the first place if he couldn’t abide by present Catholic doctrine), the manner he chose to declare his independence is, in my opinion, irresponsible and conveys a spiteful “I’ll show you” message. Whether Monsignor Charamsa has advanced the cause of homosexuals in the Catholic Church is debatable; that he showed poor judgment in the timing of his announcement is not. If Charamsa wants respect, he must show respect. Defiantly and publicly declaring his homosexuality on the eve of the synod of Bishops is hardly respectful toward his fellow priests or the institution Charamsa has served for so many years.
Respect, of course, is a two way street. While the “old boys’ club” gives lip service to Pope Francis’ message of diversity, it does not exercise respectful inclusion. However, respect has to begin somewhere. Somebody has to step up and make a difference. Monsignor Charamsa believes his coming out did just that and made a favorable difference in the Catholic Church. I’m not so sure he’s right.
Those who support Monsignor Charamsa and those who do not will agree, however, the man's career as a priest is over, and he bravely, or perhaps naively, “took one for the team.”