‘Darkest period of my life’

— Gay conversion therapy in Italy

Rosario Lonegro says his time in the seminary was “the darkest period” of his life

By Davide Ghiglione

Rosario Lonegro was only 20 years old when he entered a Catholic seminary in Sicily as an aspiring priest preparing to be ordained. But while he was there he fell in love with another man and his superiors demanded that he undergo conversion therapy intended to erase his sexual preferences if he wanted to continue on the path to the priesthood.

“It was the darkest period of my life,” he told the BBC, recalling his seminary experience in 2017.

Haunted by guilt and fears of committing a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Rosario said he “felt trapped with no choice but to suppress my true self”.

“The psychological pressure to be someone I was not was insurmountable. I could not change no matter how hard I tried.”

For more than a year, he was compelled to take part in spiritual gatherings outside the seminary, some over several days, where he was subjected to a series of distressing activities intended to strip him of his sexual proclivities.

These included being locked in a dark closet, being coerced to strip naked in front of fellow participants, and even being required to enact his own funeral.

During these rituals, he was tasked with committing to paper his perceived flaws, such as “homosexuality”, “abomination”, “falsehood” – and even more explicit terms, which he was then obliged to bury beneath a symbolic gravestone.

‘I thought I needed to be cured’

The World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1990. Subsequent scientific research has largely concluded that attempts to change sexual orientation are not only ineffective but also harmful.

In France, Germany and predominantly Catholic Spain, conversion therapies have been officially banned, and efforts are under way both in England and Wales to outlaw such practices.

Today in Italy, it’s nearly impossible to determine the precise extent of these practices, reported mostly by men, but some women too, and there is no standard legal definition of them.

In recent months, however, the BBC has conducted interviews with several young gay men across the country who have shared their experiences of being subjected to pseudoscientific group meetings or individual therapy sessions aimed at turning them into heterosexuals.

One 33-year-old man who attended this type of meeting for over two years expressed his initial motivation, saying: “I wanted to reconcile with myself. I didn’t want to be homosexual. I thought I needed to be cured.”

“I saw that as my sole path to acceptance,” said another. He was not trying to become a priest, but was simply seeking acceptance in his daily life.

Getty Images Priests make their way to wait in line to view the body of Pope John Paul II as it lays in state in the St Peter's Basilica April 5, 2005 in Vatican City
Experts say Italy is hesitant to ban the practices partly due to Italy’s strong Catholic influence

Gay conversion therapy is not limited to one specific region of Italy – group meetings and individual therapy sessions run across the country, some even run by licensed psychotherapists. In some cases, these gatherings and therapy sessions are unofficial and covert, often promoted through discreet conversations and secret referrals.

Other courses are publicly advertised, with known figures within Italy’s conservative circles actively seeking followers online and on social media platforms to promote their ability to change sexual orientations.

In Sicily, Rosario Lonegro was primarily subjected to meetings organised by the Spanish group Verdad y Libertad (Truth and Freedom), under the leadership of Miguel Ángel Sánchez Cordón. This group has since disbanded, having incurred the disapproval of the Catholic Church.

However, the Italian priest who originally pushed Lonegro into these practices was given a senior position within the Church, while others continued to draw inspiration from Sánchez Cordón’s methods in Italy.

Many of the people the BBC spoke to were referred to Luca di Tolve, a “moral/spiritual trainer” who gained recognition through his book titled “I was gay once. In Medjugorie I found myself”.

On his website, Di Tolve and his wife boast that they are a “contented couple” seeking to “aid anyone whose sexual identity is in turmoil, helping them to genuinely exercise their freedom in determining who they wish to be as a person”. When contacted by the BBC, Di Tolve did not respond.

Another active individual promoting ways to tackle perceived sexual orientation is Giorgio Ponte, a well-known writer in Italy’s ultra-conservative circles. He says he wants to help people overcome their homosexuality and be liberated, by telling his own story as a man with homosexual drives who is on his “potentially life-long” path to freedom.

“In my experience, homosexual attraction stems from an injury to one’s identity that conceals needs unrelated to the sexual-erotic aspect but rather tied to a distorted perception of oneself, reflecting across all aspects of life,” he told the BBC.

“I believe that a homosexual person should have the freedom to try [to become heterosexual], if they want, knowing, however, that it may not be possible for everyone,” he added.

‘When I kissed her it felt unnatural’

In recent years, dozens of young men and women have sought guidance from the likes of Di Tolve, Ponte and Sánchez Cordón. Among them is 36-year-old Massimiliano Felicetti, a gay man who grappled with attempts to change his sexual orientation for more than 15 years.

“I started to be uncomfortable with myself from a very early age, I felt I would never be accepted by my family, society, Church circles. I thought I was wrong, I just wanted to be loved, and these people offered me hope,” he said.

Felicetti said he had tried different solutions, consulting psychologists and clergy members who offered to help him become heterosexual. However, about two years ago, he decided to stop. A friar who knew of his struggle encouraged him to start dating a woman, but it didn’t feel natural.

“When I kissed her for the first time, it felt unnatural. It was time to stop pretending,” Felicetti said.

Only a few months ago he came out as gay to his family. “It took years, but for the first time I am happy to be who I am.”

Despite attempts from previous governments to promote a bill to oppose conversion therapies, no progress has been made in Italy. Italy’s right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni has so far adopted a hostile stance toward LGBT rights, with the prime minister herself vowing to tackle the so-called “LGBT lobby” and “gender ideology”.

Such lack of progress comes as no surprise to Michele Di Bari, a researcher in comparative public law at the University of Padova, who says that Italy is structurally much slower to implement change compared with other countries in Western Europe.

“This is a very elusive phenomenon, given that it is a practice prohibited by Italy’s order of psychologists itself. Yet, in the Italian legal system, it is not deemed illegal. People carrying out such practices can’t be punished.”

Despite the complexity of the issue, experts believe that partly due to Italy’s strong Catholic influence, the country has been more hesitant to prohibit these controversial practices.

Getty Images A participant reacts next to a banner depicting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during the Pride March to show support for members of the LGBT community, in Milan on June 24, 2023.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government has adopted a hostile stance to LGBT rights in Italy

“This may be one of the elements that, along with a strongly patriarchal and male chauvinist culture, makes the broader understanding of homosexuality and LGBT rights more difficult,” said Valentina Gentile, a sociologist at Rome’s LUISS University.

“However, it is also fair to say that not all Catholicism is hostile to the inclusion of diversity and the Church itself is in a period of strong transformation in this regard,” she added.

Pope Francis has said that the Catholic Church is open to everyone, including the gay community, and that it has a duty to accompany them on a personal path of spirituality, but within the framework of its rules.

However, the Pope himself was reported to have used a highly derogatory term towards the LGBT community when he told a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops that gay people should not be allowed to become priests. The Vatican issued an official apology.

Rosario Lonegro has left Sicily behind and also lives in Milan. Following a nervous breakdown in 2018, he left both the seminary and the conversion therapy group.

While he still believes in God, he no longer wants to become a priest. He shares an apartment with his boyfriend, he studies philosophy and undertakes occasional freelance work to pay for university. However, the psychological wounds inflicted by such activities still run deep.

“During those meetings, one mantra haunted me and was repeated over and over: ‘God didn’t make me that way. God didn’t make me homosexual. It’s only a lie I tell myself,’ I thought I was evil,” he said.

“I will never forget that.”

Complete Article HERE!

The conflicted history of Pope Francis’ LGBTQ+ comments

— From ‘who am I to judge’ to ‘frociaggine’

What does Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, really think about the LGBTQ+ community?

By Emily Maskell

The Vatican is in hot water after Pope Francis is alleged to have recently used a homophobic slur during a meeting with bishops about allowing celibate gay men to train as priests.

In the behind-closed-doors meeting, the pontiff is believed to have said there was already too much “frociaggine” in seminaries, an Italian word which roughly translates as f****t.

The Vatican released an apology, insisting that the pope is a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

A woman dressed as a clergywomen with rainbow umbrella
Are LGBTQ+ people accepted in the Catholic Church?

“As he stated on several occasions: ‘In the Church, there is room for everyone. Nobody is useless, nobody is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, all of us’,” a spokesperson said.

“The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologises to those who felt offended by the use of a term reported by others.”

This recent controversy has reignited discussion about the religious leader’s tenure and his relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. So, what has Francis actually said about LGBTQ+ people in the past?


Who am I to judge them?

Pope Francis waves to faithful gathered St.Peter’s Square for a Mass
Pope Francis’ has voiced both pro and anti comments on LGBTQ+ issues.

In 2013, the pope opened up a dialogue surrounding gay priests in what was a radical statement.

“If [gay priests] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalised. The tendency [same-sex attraction] is not the problem… they’re our brothers.”

However, he reiterated his support for Catholic Church’s universal catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

“The catechism explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this, but that they must be integrated into society,” Francis said.


Trans people can be godparents

Pope Francis
Pope Francis has confirmed that trans people can be baptised.

While 2013 marked a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ relations with the Catholic Church, a decade later the pope still vacillates between pro and anti-queer comments.

Just last year, Francis said trans people can take part in Catholic practices such as being baptised and acting as godparents or witnesses to marriage, under the same conditions as any other adult.

There was “nothing in current universal canonical legislation that prohibits” a transgender person, or any LGBTQ+ person, from serving as a witness at a Catholic marriage, he explained. However, a Vatican document, signed by the pope, highlights that for trans people, this is an honour not a right and should be avoided “if there is a risk of scandal, of undue legitimation or disorientation in the educational field of the ecclesial community”.

Nonetheless, this still marked a major stepping stone in the Church’s acceptance of transgender people.


Blessing same-sex unions

Pope Francis
Gay rights groups celebrated Pope Francis’s declaration that the Catholic church is open to blessing same-sex unions.

Late last year, in a reversal of the Church’s traditional stance, the pontiff – also known as the Bishop of Rome – announced that same-sex couples could have their unions blessed under certain circumstances.

But the Vatican also said that while same-sex couples could be blessed, such ceremonies should not be part of regular Church rituals or related to civil unions or weddings, and the Church continued to view marriage as between a man and a woman.

However, this message of acceptance marked a turning point for many LGBTQ+ Catholics.

In a letter explaining his stance, Francis said the clergy must use “pastoral prudence” and “pastoral charity” to guide their responses to same-sex couples who request a blessing.

GLAAD president and chief executive Sarah Kate Ellis hailed the decision as “both unprecedented and compassionate”.


Pope Francis will bless LGBTQ+ people but not their unions

Pope Francis presides over the meeting ‘Arena of Peace’ at the Verona's Arena on May 18, 2024 in Verona, Italy
Pope Francis clarified that he supports blessings for LGBTQ+ people despite being against same-sex marriage

A few months on from the news of the pope’s acceptance of same-sex union blessing, he clarified that he supported blessing LGBTQ+ people, but not their unions.

“That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament,” he explained. “To bless a homosexual-type union goes against the given right, against the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? Some people were scandalised by this. But why?”


Same-sex critics are hypocritical 

Pope Francis wears his white cassock while he sits on a white and gold chair during mass
Pope Francis said homosexuality is “not a crime” and stressed that “criminalisation is neither good nor just”.

The pope has denounced the criticism of same-sex blessings. Commenting on the backlash from conservative bishops and dioceses, Francis believed those who disagree with the decision [were] showing “hypocrisy.”

According to Vatican News, the pope said: “I do not bless a ‘homosexual marriage’, I bless two people who care for each other, and I also ask them to pray for me.

He went on to say that the “gravest of sins” one could commit was not homosexuality, but being someone who “disguises themselves with a more ‘angelic’ appearance.


‘Gender ideology’ is ‘dangerous’

Pope Francis in Rome
Pope Francis has labelled “gender ideology” as “dangerous”.

His stance on gender is somewhat different.

The pontiff has described so-called gender ideology as one of the “most dangerous colonisations.”

Little more than a year ago, he said it “goes beyond the sexual” and “the question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike”, adding: “Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women, [it] is contrary to the human vocation.

“[Gender ideology] eliminates differences, and that erases humanity, the richness of humanity, personal, cultural and social.”


Banning surrogate pregnancies 

Pope Francis delivers a speech in Rome on June 13, 2016.

In 2008, the pope called for a blanket ban on surrogate pregnancies, describing them as “exploitation” and a “violation” of dignity.

“I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs,” he said.

“Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”


Welcoming trans people to the Vatican 

The Pope dines with trans women
The Pope dined with a group of trans women during lunch with the poor for the 2023 World Day of the Poor.

Last year, Francis welcomed trans women, along with 1,000 poor and homeless guests, to a Vatican lunch to mark the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor.

Trans former sex worker Claudia Vittoria Salas was seated at the same table as the pope.

He also met with a trans group in the Vatican in 2022. Sister Genevieve Jeanningros and local priest Andrea Conocchia reportedly said the meetings had given the group hope.


Sacking a conservative bishop over LGBTQ+ inclusion

LGBTQ+ advocates rally together in support of trans rights as Republican lawmakers in Texas try to push back on the trans community and access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth in the state
In 2023, human rights group teamed up to complain to the UN about Texas’s anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

Last year, in a move seen as aligning the pope as an LGBTQ+ ally, he “relieved” Bishop Joseph Strickland, from eastern Texas, of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler.

The decision came after Strickland said Francis was “undermining the deposit of faith” and was a “diabolically disordered clown”.

Strickland had also criticised the pope’s moves to make the Church more welcoming for LGBTQ+ Catholics, describing the plan as a “travesty.”< Complete Article HERE!

Vatican apologises after Pope Francis uses derogatory term for gay men

— Pope Francis allegedly used offensive slur during discussion about gay men

One bishop said the Pope might not have been aware that the term was offensive while others said he meant the term as a ‘joke’.

Bishops say pontiff made remark during closed-door debate on admitting homosexual men into seminaries

Pope Francis allegedly used an offensive slur during a discussion with bishops over admitting homosexual men into seminaries, several Italian newspapers have reported.

The pontiff, 87, is alleged to have made the remark during a closed-door meeting with bishops in Rome last week, where they were reportedly discussing whether out gay men should be admitted to Catholic seminaries, where priests are trained, a topic that the Italian bishops conference (CEI) is said to have been pondering for some time.

During the discussion, when one of the bishops asked Francis what he should do, the pope reportedly reiterated his objection to admitting gay men, saying that while it was important to embrace everyone, it was likely that a gay person could risk leading a double life. He is then alleged to have added that there was already too much “frociaggine”, a vulgar Italian word that roughly translates at “faggotness”, in some seminaries.

The story was first reported by the political gossip website Dagospia, before being covered by the Italian dailies La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, and the news agency Adnkronos.

La Repubblica, Corriere and Adnkronos quoted unnamed bishops, who said that the pontiff meant the derogatory term as a “joke”, and that those around him were surprised and perplexed by the alleged slur. One bishop told Corriere della Sera that the pontiff might not have been aware that the term was offensive.

La Repubblica and Corriere reported that there was a meeting among bishops in November during which it was decided that homosexual men could be admitted to seminaries, so long as they did not practise their sexuality, but that the move was ultimately stopped by the pope.

Since he was elected pope in 2013, Francis has sought to adopt a more inclusive tone towards the LGBTQ+ community in his public statements, much to the disdain of conservative cardinals.

Soon after becoming pope, he famously said in response to a question about gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”

He approved a ruling in December allowing priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples in what was a significant change of position for the Catholic church.

However, he has been clear about not allowing gay people to join the clergy. In an interview in 2018 he said he was “concerned” about what he describes as the “serious issue” of homosexuality and that being gay is a “fashion” to which the clergy is susceptible.

“In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable, and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church,” he said at the time.

The Roman Catholic church’s position is that homosexual acts are sinful. A decree on training for priests in 2016 stressed the obligation of sexual abstinence, as well as barring gay men and those who support “gay culture” from holy orders.

The Vatican has apologised after the Pope used a highly offensive word towards gay men.

In a statement, it said: “Pope Francis is aware of the articles recently published about a conversation, behind closed doors, with the bishops of the CEI.

“As he stated on several occasions, ‘In the Church there is room for everyone, for everyone! Nobody is useless, nobody is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, all of us.’

“The Pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologises to those who felt offended by the use of a term reported by others.”

Francis made the remark in a closed-door meeting with bishops, when describing priesthood colleges as already too full of “frociaggine” – a highly offensive Italian slur.

He is said to have reiterated that gay men should not be allowed to become priests.

The incident reportedly happened on 20 May, as first reported by political gossip website Dagospia, when the Italian Bishops Conference held a private meeting with the Pope.

“It’s all the fault of some bishop who broke his mandate of silence to report the gaffe that occurred last week,” reported Il Messaggero, a national paper based in Rome.

According to the paper, the Pope’s comments came during an informal Q&A session at the annual bishops’ meeting which was attended by over 200 members of the clergy.

The Pope, 87, has been credited with leading the Roman Catholic Church into taking a more welcoming approach towards the LGBT+ community.

At the start of his papacy in 2013, he said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Last year, he allowed priests to bless same-sex couples, triggering significant conservative backlash.

But in 2018, he told Italian bishops to carefully vet priesthood applicants and reject anyone suspected of being gay.

In a 2005 document, during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the Vatican said the church could admit into the priesthood those who had overcome gay tendencies for at least three years.

The document said those with “deep-seated” gay tendencies and those who “support the so-called gay culture” should be barred.

Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP on ‘LGBT+ Catholics in a Synodal Church’

Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP

Hello. I am so sorry that I cannot be with you today. I have such happy memories of the time when I was on the rota to celebrate Mass for our LGBT+ brothers and sisters in Soho before the Mass moved to the care of the Jesuits in Farm Street.

I have been asked to say something about the place of LBGT Catholics in a Synodal Church. I am sorry that my talk will be so short. I have just returned from a lecture tour in Italy and France and I am off in a couple of days to Israel, to be with the Dominicans in Jerusalem at the Ecole Biblique so, to be honest, I feel rather rushed off my feet.

A few days ago, the Vatican asked me to do something which was unimaginable a few years ago. I was asked to write a foreword for the English translation of a book by a young Italian, Luigi Testa. It is called Via Crucis di un Ragazzo Gay (The Way of the Cross of a Gay Lad). The Italian preface, which is marvellous, was written by an Italian bishop, the vice-president of the Italian Bishops’ conference. We follow Luigi’s sufferings as young gay person as he walks the way of the Cross, accompanied by Jesus. It is deeply moving. The book is part of a series promoted by the Vatican, of theology from the peripheries. It is a sign of the profound conversion which is taking place at the centre of the Church, as she reaches out to people who have been marginalised and rejected, and says ‘This is your home. We are incomplete without you.’

Before the Synod, Pope Francis frequently stressed that all are welcome. Last August in Portugal, he underlined this at the World Youth Day. ‘All, all, all; todos, todos, todos!’ The divorced and remarried, gay people, transgender people. He wrote earlier ‘The Church is called on to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open … where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems and to move towards those who feel the need to take up again their path of faith.’

When the Synod opened in October, many of the participants shared Pope Francis’ eagerness to affirm that the Church really is for us all! It is where we should all be at ease. It was this message of hope and love which led to the foundation of those Masses in Soho twenty-five years ago.

At the Synod, this message was repeated, but it was evident that many people were nervous of it. Some participants felt uneasy at even sitting next to Father James Martin SJ, who has been for many years a brave champion of the warm inclusion of gay people in the Church. One person even refused to sit next to him. Others of us too felt the chill as I did. During the Synod, Pope Francis again signalled his welcome by publicly inviting to lunch Sister Jeanine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo, founders of the New Ways Ministry. I had lunch with them the next day and they felt enormously affirmed.

But in the document produced at the end of this first session, the Synthesis, the term LGBT+ was dropped although it has been used in other Vatican documents and by the Pope. So there seemed to be a certain retreat from the openness we had hoped for. Still the Assembly did vote almost unanimously for this proposition: ‘In different ways, people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality also ask to be heard and accompanied. There was a deep sense of love, mercy and compassion felt in the Assembly for those who are or feel hurt or neglected by the Church, who want a place to call “home” where they can feel safe, be heard and respected, without fear of feeling judged. Listening is a prerequisite for walking together in search of God’s will. The Assembly reiterates that Christians must always show respect for the dignity of every person.’ (Synthesis, 16. h)

Given that in so many countries, homosexuality is still criminalised and despised, this was encouraging. But here the Church faces a challenge to which I hope that you will be able to help us respond. The Church is called to be open to all people, whatever they love and live, and to all cultures. What if some cultures are not open to gay people? How can we embrace in the universal Church cultures which exclude people?

This issue exploded last year. On December 18th, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document called Fiducia Supplicans. I confess that, to my shame, I have not studied the text closely. It gives permission for priests in specific situations to bless people in what are usually called “irregular situations”, the divorced and remarried, gay couples. Pope Francis stressed that we all need to be blessed as we seek to find our way forward in love.

Every attempt was made to play down the crisis. The Pope accepted the document. Cardinal Ambongo maintained that the African exceptionalism was a good example of Synodality. Unity does not mean uniformity. The gospel is inculturated differently in different parts of the world.

But it is more complex than that. After the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Francis Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man arguing that we had entered a new era, the triumph of Western liberal democracy. Every nation seemed destined to ‘evolve’ into our way of life. Some countries, especially in the global South, just had to catch up. If they did not agree with us on, for example, the welcome of LGBT people, they would surely do so eventually.

We were wrong. We have not the time and nor I have the expertise to analyse where we are now, but we seem to be entering a multipolar world, with the rise of Russia, China and India, and all of the BRICS countries. Many people in the Global South think of the West as having a morally decadent culture, doomed to collapse. Cardinal Ambongo of Kinshasa said a couple of months ago:

Cardinal Ambongo of Kinshasa, President of the organisation which represents all of the Catholic bishops of Africa, came to Rome to present their firm rejection of the proposal. He recognised that it was not the intention of the document to change Church teaching on sex but, he said, ‘The episcopal conferences across Africa… believe that the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the declaration Fiducia Supplicans cannot be carried out in Africa without exposing themselves to scandal… The language of Fiducia Supplicans remains too subtle for simple people to understand.’ Never before have almost all the bishops of a continent rejected a Vatican document.

[the Westerners] will disappear. I wish them a good demise’ Putin is weaponizing the gay issue as emblematic of all that traditional culture opposes, as he seeks to spread Russian influence in other parts of the world, along with the Wagner militia. Putin is always showing his virility, taking off his shirts. He has been described as the most topless leader in the world! But this issue is also being used by Islamicist

“Little by little, they groups with Middle Eastern money, by Evangelical groups with American money “and so on.

As I said, I am no expert on this cultural battle which is being fought out everywhere, whether in the USA or Africa. I just wish, ever so briefly, to signal that the Synod faces this double challenge, of a proper gospel openness to all with an openness to all cultures. How are we to live both? This will be a major challenge for the next session of the Synod. It is not about how does our side win. That is the game of competitive politics. It is how can the Church fulfil her vocation to be the place in which all of humanity finds home and joy. Here, as St Paul says, ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3.28).

My favourite image is of St Peter in John 21. They have fished all night without catching anything. Then they see a stranger on the shore who tells them to cast the net on the other side, and the net is full almost to bursting. Peter hauls the net to the shore and it contains 153 fish. This probably represents all of the nations of the world. The net is not broken. Jesus said before his death, ‘When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people to myself.’ Peter helps in this with his drawing the net to the shore to present it to Jesus.

So how are we to haul in the net without it being broken? The Church is just at the beginning of thinking about this and I hope that you will help us. A starting point is a fascinating lecture by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope. He gave it in Hong Kong in 1993 on what he called Interculturality. He argues that every culture is potentially open to the fullness of the truth. When cultures encounter each other, ideally they should be able to correct each other’s biases and share the truths they embody. So when

African and Western cultures meet, ideally both should be challenged and enriched. In one of his lectures, Albert Nolan, OP of South Africa remarked: “Our question about the impact of Christianity upon Africa will always be incomplete unless we also ask `what is the impact of Africa upon Christianity?”‘

It has been argued that if Western cultures bring a deep sense of the dignity and freedom of the individual, African cultures bring a sense of how being human is rooted in our relationships: Ubuntu. I am because we are. Asian Catholics invite us to learn the value of harmony as Latin American cultures invite us to hear the voice of the poor.

Every culture offers gifts and is challenged. The gospel is to be inculturated in every culture but it challenges every culture. So some people, like Cardinal Ambongo, will argue that homosexuality is foreign to African cultures and so cannot be welcomed. I would say that here the gospel offers a challenge.

So the encounter of cultures is at the heart of many debates in the Synod, and above all the embrace of gay people. And we have to be aware that the encounter of cultures is never just innocent. Other cultures come to Africa, for example, with guns and money. Power dynamics are at work. African bishops shared with us how deeply they feel the humiliation of aid being tied to the acceptance of Western values. Multinationals corrupt and destroy local cultures. Foreign powers do so too. Just as the hunger for gold, led to the destruction of Caribbean cultures in the sixteenth century, so does the search for rare earths and diamonds today. Remember, the strange who stood on the beach had been executed by the Imperial power of his day.

So working for a Church which truly has open doors is inseparable from addressing the ways in which countries in the Global South face unjust economic exploitation, ecological devastation and cultural destruction. No wonder we of the North are thought of as decadent. We all advance on the path to liberation together or not at all.

Forgive this short and superficial presentation. I do so wish that I could have been with you to hear what you think on these complex issues. May you have a wonderful joyful day. And pray that the Synod may open all of our hearts minds and challenge all of our prejudices.

Complete Article HERE!

Blessings for same-sex couples?

— Going, going, gone…

By

CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell asked Pope Francis on Sunday about the blessings for same-sex unions he seemed to sanctify last year.

In his latest explanation, the Pope said the church can only bless individual homosexuals. In other words, there is now and never was a blessing for same-sex unions!

Norah O’Donnell posed a straightforward question the the Catholic leader.

“Last year, you decided to allow Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples,” O’Donnell That’s a big change. Why?”

“No, what I allowed was not to bless the union. That cannot be done because that is not the sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone. To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the Church’s law. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all.”

Why the subject ever arose then, who knows?

There was a widespread belief at the time that Francis supported the blessings of same-sex unions. The statement prompted celebration among same-sex Catholics at what they perceived as progress in the church. Meanwhile, conservative Catholics attacked the Pope openly for his perceived support of same-sex unions.

Responses to questions about blessings and same-sex unions have been ambiguous in the months since.

Francis continually criticizes conservative bishops, recently, for example, calling conservatism a suicidal attitude.

But he also regularly reminds everyone that same-sex unions go against Church law.

Which is the bit in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt have thy cake and eat it too?”

Complete Article HERE!