Oct 6, 2015

Vatican sends gay priests to convent to be 'cured', claims former priest

Nick Squires
The Telegraph
October 5, 2015

Claims by former priest who was thrown out of the Church three years ago for being gay stokes row over Vatican's attitude towards homoesexual priests

A row over the Vatican's attitude towards gay priests has been stoked further by a claim that priests with “homosexual tendencies” are packed off to a religious retreat in order to be “cured”.

The Holy See had already been embarrassed by a senior Vatican official’s decision to come out publicly as gay at the weekend, just as 270 bishops from around the world gathered in Rome to attend a synod on family issues.

“There exists a convent where priests who manifest inappropriate sexual tendencies are sent to reflect. It’s a place where they help you to rediscover the straight and narrow. They wanted to ‘cure’ me but I refused to go"

Krzysztof Charamsa, 43, a Polish priest and theologian who worked in one of the Vatican’s most influential departments, was summarily sacked after criticising what he called "institutionalised homophobia in the Church" and claiming that a majority of priests were gay.

As angry Vatican officials called his provocative gesture “very serious and irresponsible”, it was claimed on Monday that priests suspected of being gay are often sent to a convent in the northern city of Trento in order to “reflect” on their futures.

The Trento convent’s role in trying to “cure” priests of homosexuality was revealed by a former priest who was thrown out of the Church three years ago for being gay.

Marip Bonfanti holding a sign which reads "My name is Mario, I am your priest, I am gay and I ask for equal rights for everyone"

Mario Bonfanti was forced to leave his parish in a village in Sardinia by his superiors, despite the fact that he was not in a relationship and had maintained his vow of celibacy.

“There exists a convent where priests who manifest inappropriate sexual tendencies are sent to reflect. It’s a place where they help you to rediscover the straight and narrow. They wanted to ‘cure’ me but I refused to go,” the 44-year-old told La Repubblica newspaper.

In its official doctrine, the Catholic Church insists that homosexuality is an "intrinsic disorder", with conservatives continuing to maintain that it is a conscious choice, rather than something that people are born to.

The Venturini Convent was founded by Mario Venturini, a priest, in 1928.

According to its website, it can “accommodate a large number of priests, offering them an open and tranquil environment in which they can confront their problems.”

Psychiatrists and psychologists are on hand to help with “various types of therapy”.

Father Gianluigi Pasto, 71, the head of the convent, said: “Priests come to us for a period of formation and personal reflection. At the moment we have neither gay priests nor paedophile priests here. Certainly our job is to welcome everybody.”

The facility dealt with priests who suffered from depression, alcoholism and who had “problems connected to sex”, he said.

“We don’t speak of our work but it is well known to many bishops and dioceses. They know what we can offer.”

When contacted by The Telegraph, a spokesman for the convent said: “We have nothing more to say”.

“We also receive calls from people who are in homosexual relationships with priests and nuns. They are almost always secret relationships and people suffer greatly”  -- Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesman for the Gay Centre in Rome

The Vatican declined to confirm or deny whether the convent dealt with priests who were struggling with their sexuality.

The Church’s attitude towards gay Catholics is one of the subjects being discussed at the three-week synod, a quasi-parliamentary gathering in Rome which has the task of offering advice to Pope Francis on a broad range of issues.

It promises to become an ideological battleground between the progressive and traditionalist wings of the Church, with deep disagreements already emerging on sensitive issues such as divorce, abortion and homosexuality.

Pope Francis on Monday warned the cardinals, archbishops and bishops that the Church should not be a “museum” immune to change.

"It's a place where the holy people of God move forward," he said.

Monsignor Charamsa, who is in a relationship with a Spanish man, accused the Church of being paranoid and hypocritical over its attitude towards gay men.

He confirmed what is often rumoured in Rome but rarely addressed by the Holy See – that many prelates are either secretly or openly homosexual.

Gay and lesbian groups in Italy said they often came into contact with homosexual priests and nuns.

“We also receive calls from people who are in homosexual relationships with priests and nuns. They are almost always secret relationships and people suffer greatly,” said Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesman for the Gay Centre, a support group for gays and lesbians in Rome.

He said there had recently been a case in which two nuns had been caught having a lesbian affair. One of them was Brazilian and was sent back home by the Church.

Franco Grillini, the president of Gaynet, another rights group, said: “We would urge the thousands of homosexuals in the Catholic Church to follow the example of Monsignor Charamsa.”

In 2011 a book written by an Italian investigative journalist claimed that there was a flourishing gay scene for priests in the capital.

"Priests of all nationalities divide their time between Via della Conciliazione (the broad avenue that leads to St Peter's Basilica) and the party scene of Rome by night," wrote Carmelo Abbate in "Sex and the Vatican: a secret journey in the reign of the chaste".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/11912833/Vatican-sends-gay-priests-to-convent-to-be-cured-claims-former-priest.html

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