The Vatican fired a prominent priest on Saturday after he came out as gay, just one day before a high-level meeting of Catholic leaders to discuss family issues such as divorce and same-sex marriage.
Through a series of interviews published in Italian and Polish newspapers, Catholic priest and mid-level Vatican official Monsignor Kryzstof Charamsa announced this weekend that he is gay and in a relationship with another man. Charamsa, who is Polish, told reporters he is happy and proud to be gay.
“My name is Kryzstof Charamsa,” he said, according to a translation of a video interview obtained by FB Newswire. “I am an officer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the second secretary of the International Theological Commission, a theologian, philosopher, bioethics lecturer at the Pontifical Gregorian University. I am gay.”
Vatican officials responded quickly to the news, removing the priest from his job at the Vatican and forbidding him from teaching at pontifical schools. Officials also appeared unsettled by the timing of Charamsa’s revelation, which comes the day before the beginning of Pope Francis’ second Synod on the Family, a major meeting to discuss the Church’s various positions on so-called “family issues” such as contraception, divorce, and homosexuality.
“With regard to the declarations and interview given by Msgr. Krzystof Charamsa it should be observed that … 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,” read a statement from Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. “Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary.”
Charamsa’s announcement is particularly eye-catching given his position as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body traditionally tasked with rooting out heresy and defending Catholic doctrine. The Congregation has long maintained the church’s opposition to LGBT relationships, and published a pastoral letter in 1986 that called homosexuality “an objective disorder” and described homosexual people as “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” That document was penned by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, former head of the Congregation, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI — Francis’ predecessor. Benedict decried homosexuality throughout his papacy, once implying that same-sex marriage constitutes a threat to “the future of humanity.”
The firing adds a dramatic coda to an already complicated week for the Vatican regarding LGBT issues. On Tuesday, news broke that Pope Francis had met with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis during his recent visit to the U.S., a move some saw as support for the Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Vatican later clarified that the meeting should not be seen as an endorsement of Davis, and reports emerged on Friday that the pope also met with a same-sex couple that same day, whom he embraced as friends.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in the United States has shown an increasing willingness to fire employees of Catholic schools and institutions who are openly gay, terminating the jobs of several LGBT teachers, music directors, and food pantry workers over the past three years.
The escalating tension highlights the difficult line Pope Francis has attempted to walk during his papacy. He has maintained the Church’s historic opposition to homosexual relationships, but struck a more conciliatory tone towards LGBT people, often avoiding the subject and diverting the Church’s attention to other issues such as the poor, climate change, and immigration.
Charamsa joins a growing number or priests who have come out as gay. A Jesuit priest-in-training came out in April and called for the the church to be more welcoming of LGBT people, and a priest in Dublin, Ireland told his congregation he was gay in January, after which he received a standing ovation.