It’s been ten months since I regularly wrote this blog and so much has happened in that time, I hardly know where to begin to catch up.
I’m fascinated by politics, and I was going to begin there, particularly since I didn’t cover the election or the rise of Jeremy Corbyn: both fascinating subjects. The death of Denis Healey also piqued my interest since I began to be interested in politics at around the time his eyebrows were a regular feature in the news.
I will return to all of those subjects over the days and weeks that follow, because it’s a good bet that politics are going to remain very interesting and increasingly adversarial over the next couple of years, not least with Brexit on the horizon.
|This is what the Independent reported
But it’s Sunday today, and I have a new hero. I’m not going to pretend, even this early in the piece that I’m not a little ambivalent about what he chose to do or how he chose to do it; nevertheless, I have a new hero this week, and I thought today might be the day to talk about him, because it’s Sunday.
I had not heard of Krysztof Charamsa until this week, and there was no reason why I should have. I am not a Roman Catholic. I generally do not partake of organised religion. Creed and doctrine are difficult for me, although morality and spirituality are not, and personal responsibility is an ideal that is very close to my heart.
Until very recently, Krysztof Charamsa was a very high-ranking member of the Roman Catholic church. He was a Monseigneur with responsibilities for Roman Catholic doctrine. He consulted within the church on the fundamental rules laid down for followers of the faith throughout the World. And that’s a big deal… That’s a very big deal.
This week the Pope leads a three week long Synod; cardinals and bishops will gather from around the World to talk about family issues, and the Synod will include a discussion on sexuality.
On the eve of the synod, Monseigneur Charamsa came out as gay. He was immediately relieved of his title and of his duties with regard to Roman Catholic doctrine by the church that he has served for his entire career, and, possibly, since his profession is also his vocation, for his entire life.
Mr Charamsa is Polish and he was, until he was sacked, a high-ranking Roman Catholic priest. He was not defrocked entirely, but his fate and his position in the church remains undecided and therefore uncertain. There are still places in the World and communities in which it is complicated to be gay and dangerous to share that status. Mr Charamsa stood up in front of the World’s press and declared that he was gay, that he was happy to be gay, and that it was his belief that, in his case, it was God’s will that he be gay.
Mr Charamsa is learned in Roman Catholic doctrine, in the laws handed down by God to his people, and he believes that it is God’s will that he is gay! I’m not sure I can iterate that statement strongly enough.
Mr Charamsa, as Monseigneur Charamsa was trusted by the Roman Catholic Church to consult on doctrine. He is the same man today that he was yesterday, last week or last year. His education and his knowledge are the same today as they were before he came out as gay. He was educated by the Roman Catholic Church and he has studied its doctrine; that has been his life. This is what he knows. When his status was unknown, or, at least, unacknowledged, his education and knowledge were trusted. Now, they are not.
Monseigneur Charamsa knew what he was doing, of course, when he stood before the World’s press and made his announcement. He understands the politics of the Vatican. He also knew that Pope Francis met with a gay former student and his partner during his visit to the United States of America last week. Pope Francis has also been reported as saying:
If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?
Mr Charamsa chose his moment, and he might have expected a less hostile outcome. He might have expected a more sympathetic hearing from the Pope who has been called the most liberal head of the Roman Catholic Church in history. Of course, he might simply have been spoiling for a fight.
My own feeling is that if the Roman Catholic Church really wanted to have a discussion about sexuality, even privately among its own higher echelons, who better to lead it than a gay Monseigneur learned in doctrine? And if the Roman Catholic Church really wanted to embrace its congregation and reassure it that the establishment was doing everything possible to be more inclusive, wouldn’t involving Monseigneur Charasma in that conversation have been an extraordinary first step?
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who will be at the Synod says,
Same sex relationships and same sex partnerships seeing themselves as a parallel or as an equivalent to a marriage and a family based on a man and a woman is not an equivalence that the church is ever going to recognise.
EVER is a very long time, but I can’t help thinking that this man was sent out by the Vatican to firefight. Surely, he is their current mouthpiece.
I said at the beginning of this piece that I wasn’t going to pretend I wasn’t a little ambivalent about my new hero, about what he chose to do and how he chose to do it. After quoting Cardinal Nichols, I might just have changed my mind.
Krysztof Charamsa had every right to stand in front of the World’s press and come out as gay, and he had every right to question Roman Catholic doctrine, more right than most, since he has actually made an in-depth study of it. My single concern is that Mr Charamsa chose to make his statement with his partner at his side, because he is in a relationship.
I have always thought that it is anathema for Roman Catholic Priests to be celibate, to be unmarried, and to live without families. It’s anathema to me, because the job of the priest is to minister to his congregation, and it seems to me that to do so he must understand the people he is ministering to and the vast range of circumstances they must find themselves in - circumstances the he is denied the chance ever to experience if he is never allowed to love romantically or paternally.
It would appear that, unlike his fellow priests, (and heaven help me, I know there are exceptions, both relatively innocent and appallingly exploitive), Mr Charamsa is not celibate. He has broken the rules. My support for him wavers only very slightly in this one regard. I believe that his impact on the press and on the Synod would have been greater if he had worked within the system, that he has diluted his own argument, and, while I absolutely do not deny him the right to love, I rather wish he’d played by the rules.
Mr Charamsa said the following,
It's time the Church opened its eyes and realised that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman.
And he’s right, of course. But given his own status, might he not also have said,
It’s time the Church opened its eyes and realised that offering priests total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman.
I guess that’s simply an argument for another day.