Fired gay priest: Vatican has a retreat for gay priests to pray the gay away

Last week, the Vatican fired Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a high-ranking priest in the Vatican, after he revealed that he was gay and in a relationship. The Vatican cited the timing of his announcement — coming during the run-up to the Pope’s second Synod on the Family, where he reiterated Catholic teaching prohibiting same-sex marriage — as the reason for his dismissal.

But according to another former priest, Mario Bonfanti, the story might not be that simple. As he told the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, before he was fired for being gay he was first asked to attend a Vatican retreat that would seek to “cure” him of his same-sex attractions, saying that “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.” According to the Daily Beast, the retreat, called the Venturini Institute:

…was set up in 1928 by Father Paolo Venturini to offer residential accommodation for clergy who suffer from any number of maladies from depression and addiction to pedophilic urges. But in the last few decades, according to [Bonfanti], they also offered “treatment” for homosexuality in an attempt to get gay priests “back on track” through any number of means.

Bonfanti, unlike Charamsa, had remained celibate. While the Vatican (and its defenders) can claim that Charamsa was fired for being in a sexual relationship of any kind — gay or straight — they can’t say the same for Bonfanti. He was a gay priest who was fired despite adhering to what the Catholic Church tells all of its gay members: We love you as a sinner, we just hate your sin, so as long as you go your entire life without sexual contact or any kind of intimacy, you’re fine.

It’s no wonder that Bonfanti elected to leave the priesthood rather than go to the Venturini Institute. As with most other forms of forced ex-gay “therapy,” their treatment sounds positively hellish. Again from the Daily Beast:

Pope

Pope via Shutterstock

The atmosphere could be extraordinarily sinister. In 1983, an elderly homosexual priest by the name of Armando Bison, who was there for “treatment,” was killed in a bizarre incident during which two men drove a wooden crucifix into his skull.

Of course the environment is more civilized now, but Bonfante says that priests who came out as gay in Italy before Pope Francis was elected in 2013 were sent to the Venturini institute to be treated with a type of multi-faceted “retraining” that mixes psychoanalysis with meditative prayer.

According to the Telegraph, there are currently no gay priests at the Venturini Institute. Pope Francis has reportedly stopped sending them, electing to fire them on the spot without attempting to “fix” them. Notably, none of the reports about the institute include success stories of priests actually being cured of same-sex attractions, which one would expect given the fact that their earlier versions of “therapy” sound more like vampire movies than counseling sessions.

Still, this all leaves the question as to why Pope Francis is firing gay priests at all, simply for the fact that they are gay. Setting Charamsa’s case aside, as he had broken his vows of celibacy, by Pope Francis’s own standard a priest who has same-sex desires and refuses to act on them has committed no greater sin than a priest who has opposite-sex desires and refuses to act on them.

Unless he still thinks they’re “intrinsically disordered,” in which case: Who is he to judge?

(h/t The New Civil Rights Movement)


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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