“Homophobia is a problem in italy”

Flag and the Italian proverb "andra tutto bene" means "everything will be fine" © Florin Deperin (shutterstock)

Father Pino Piva devotes himself to pastoral care with homosexual people in Italy. The Jesuit also trains other chaplains on the subject. The "no" vote by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes the ie even more explosive than before.

CBA: Father Piva, you are involved in pastoral care with homosexual people and you offer training in this field. How great is the need for this in Italy?

Piva: I don't think that in Italy the need for training in pastoral care with homosexuals is different from other European countries.
CBA: Who takes advantage of what you offer?

Piva: Spiritual guides and pastors. The first module of our training on pastoral care with homosexuals – unfortunately only online due to the pandemic – was attended by almost 100 people; about 70 are priests, otherwise religious and lay people. Many bishops have been informed of the course and some have sent representatives.

CBA: What do you see as the most urgent task in this regard?

Piva: We speak of pastoral care with homosexual people; knowing that the protagonists of this pastoral care are homosexual people themselves and their families. Our concerns are: First, we try to help these people feel fully loved and wanted by God.

Secondly, we help the Christian community to welcome and integrate these sisters and brothers.

Third, we help homosexual people form their consciences in personal dialogue with God and in the teachings of the Church with a view to personal discernment.

Fourth: We encourage a responsible and creative presence of homosexual groups and persons in Christian communities. All this is not easy; it should be "normal pastoral care", but it is not.

CBA: Is homophobia a problem in Italy? To what extent and with what forms?
Piva: Certainly homophobia is a problem in Italy. Our homosexual sisters and brothers can tell you firsthand about this. From a cultural point of view, there is a certain ambivalence: on the one hand, an ancient capacity for implicit and benevolent integration of the "other" typical of us Italians; on the other hand, an ignorant, superficial phobia that such diversity endangers fundamental social institutions. This fear is sometimes exploited politically. The Church in Italy reflects this ambivalence.

CBA: How do gays and lesbians feel about living their Catholic faith?

Piva: In trouble, because of these ambivalent attitudes. In general, closeness and understanding are welcomed by priests and other pastoral workers. But this only shows in the confidentiality of personal relationships. In fact, it is as if there are no homosexual people in our parishes. This implicitly causes homosexual Christians to go into hiding. It happens that the same priests who privately welcome homosexuals publicly accuse the group of homosexuals of being enemies of the Church.

CBA: Are you and other pastors confronted with requests for a blessing?

Piva: Here in Italy, with a few exceptions, the people we accompany know that we priests cannot bless their union. This is why they avoid asking us. If at all, we bless people individually. It can be said: until now, this was an "imported" ie from other countries. However, with the latest response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the problem has exploded in Italy as well.

CBA: Are you disappointed by the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? How do you evaluate this?

Piva: Homosexual Christians we accompany, their parents, are very, very disappointed. They experience this as a rejection of their affection for the Church, their commitment to fidelity in relationships. This has caused much pain. For my part, I have not found anything new in this official position of the Church, and nothing changes for pastoral practice here in Italy.

In fact, reflection on this subject is now becoming more and more topical and we will be forced to face greater demand. Therefore, we will see what to do, talk to our bishops. On the other hand, this recent response does not have much authority: the usual phrase that the Pope "approved" the text has been replaced by: the Pope "was informed". The intention to mark the document as less significant is clear.

CBA: Have church officials in Italy ever spoken out in favor of blessings for homosexual partnerships?
Piva: Never before. Let's say that so far there has been no occasion. But now, after the responsum, the situation is changing also in Italy.

CBA: Do you know if there are such blessings in practice?

Piva: So far no, I don't know, except for very sporadic and very discrete cases. But as I said before, after the responsum, the situation will necessarily change.

CBA: In what way would Catholic teaching on marriage, family and especially sexuality have to evolve?

Piva: For me it is clear: the teaching on the "purposes" of sexual love – the love of spouses and the fertility of their relationship – needs to be deepened and better substantiated. What "otherness" does true love need? Only anatomical-physiological or rather a "personal otherness" that involves all other dimensions of the person? What do we really mean by "fruitfulness" or "generativity"?? True conjugal love is given only in a faithful and stable love relationship. Does it necessarily have to be a "sacrament" for that to happen, as the Church understands marriage to be today? Questions about which many theologians are thinking with great commitment.

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