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 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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12 Responses to “Fired gay priest: Vatican has a retreat for gay priests to pray the gay away”

  1. Duke Woolworth says:

    Like “curing” pot users by showing them “Reefer Madness.”

  2. Indigo says:

    See there? All better again and good to go.

  3. 2karmanot says:

    There is also a Zen nunnery just down the road, maybe they expanded. That particular stretch of road is very unique. There is also so very old Franciscan ruins and ancient Indian sites in the area.

  4. 2karmanot says:

    Mea coupa, mea coupa, mea grievous coupa.

  5. 2karmanot says:

    “there are currently no gay priests at the Venturini Institute” They probably shipped them to the ‘retreat’ they maintain outside of Albuquerque. If Mr. Pope wants to fire all the gay priests then the Vatican will be down about 60%.

  6. Indigo says:

    It’s now a Zen Center. Still crazy, but a different brand of crazy.

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  8. Knottwhole says:

    New pope. Same ole.

  9. BeccaM says:

    The Paraclete monastery in Jemez Springs NM shut down some years ago because the RCC kept shipping pedophiles and sex offenders there, not gay priests.

  10. Kenster999 says:

    That’s terrible!

  11. Indigo says:

    The pray-away centers are easily accommodated, all you have to is embrace the Roman principle of double talk, lie, and misdirect. A healthy dose of lip service to dogma and the gay is all gone. Of course, it won’t do to have incriminating material hidden away. There are always inquisitor’s aids checking around. But you knew that, right?

  12. nicho says:

    These treatment centers are all over the place. There’s one in Baltimore. There was one in New Mexico, but I believe they had some issues.

    One major problem is that the Catholic Church doesn’t distinguish between being gay and being a child molester. So they send them to the same treatment centers.

    A seminary classmate of mine was gay. He was ordained and was pretty discrete at working out his sexuality. He wasn’t a child molester. He was into older, bear-type guys and not at all attracted to youngsters.

    A few years ago, he got extremely ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. He was in intensive care for weeks and almost died. While he was in the hospital, a nun went to his room to snoop — excuse me, I mean “clean.” She discovered his stash of adult, male porn in a bag in the back of his closet.

    When he got out of the hospital, he was removed from parish duty — in fact, all duties — the church seized his computer and sent him to a treatment center as if he were a pedophile. He spent two-plus years in the facility being treated and then another three years on probation, having to return to the pedophile treatment center on a regular basis for a “checkup.”

    The whole experience broke him. He never recovered physically and died three months ago.

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