Via Integra

Fr Mark's progressive Anglo-Catholic take on European Christianity

  • This is my collection of material about the current state of the churches in Europe. I am interested in looking at how they are dealing with the pressing issues of our time: the issues of gay people and women in ministry/ leadership are particularly pressing at the moment, as is the area of declining church attendance.

    I would like to see how Europe's traditional religious institutions are coping with the new Europe currently being forged, in which public opinion and ethical attitudes are becoming inceasingly pan-European, and are evidently presenting a series of strong challenges for the churches.

Italy – the gay issue

Posted by Fr Mark on August 8, 2009

Italy-Emblemcoat_of_arms_of_the_vatican_citysvgRoman Catholic priests are performing blessings of same-sex relationships in Italy. Italian parish priest Don Franco Barbero claimed in 2003 that he had married 43 gay couples:

From The National Catholic Reporter, 21.03.03

In the wake of the American sex abuse crisis, the canonical issues surrounding involuntary laicization of priests have become a matter of unusually broad public interest. Some Catholics have forgotten, however, that these are not the only offenses for which the pope imposes the canonical equivalent of the death penalty. A reminder of the point came March 13with the forced laicization of an Italian priest named Franco Barbero. 

    The outcome was not a bolt out of the blue. Barbero, 64, has long been an irritant to ecclesiastical authorities. He is one of five well-known priests profiled in the March 2003 book Preti Contro by Italian journalist Corrado Zunino, all of whom have repeatedly found themselves in hot water. 

Barbero’s bishop, Pier Giorgio Debernardi of the Pinerolo diocese, announced last September that Barbero was “no longer in communion with the Church,” in part for his views on the Eucharist and the virginity of Mary, but above all for his practice of blessing gay unions. At last count, Bernardo has celebrated 43 same-sex marriages (three with lesbian couples, 40 with males). Debernardi said at the time that Barbero’s actions had already disqualified him as a priest, and did not rule out that the Vatican might take further action. 

    I met Barbero the evening of March 19 in Rome, where he spoke on the subject of gay marriage. The talk was held at the Waldensian church in the Piazza Cavour, ironically a frequent gathering spot for progressive Catholic activity in Rome. (I’ve often remarked that, if nothing else, you have to admire the Waldensian sense of humor. This tiny Protestant island in a vast Roman Catholic sea has as its logo the image of a single candle under the slogan, Lux lucet in tenebris: “A light shines in the darkness”). 

    Barbero is a diminutive, bespectacled figure with thinning gray hair and a constant smile, very much the image of a country Italian pastor. Unfazed by the drama of recent days, he told me he has no plans to appeal the pope’s decree, since it states specifically that it is “unappealable.” Instead, he said, he wants to pursue a “theological and ecclesiological reflection” on the grounds for his removal. 

    Barbero told his listeners that he does not believe “anyone can take from my heart the ministry to which God has called me,” indicating that he will continue to lead his small base community in Pinerolo. 

“I didn’t think I needed ecclesiastical permission to recognize a gift from God,” Barbero said. “Where there is love, God blesses it, and the church has no choice but to welcome it.”


Human Rights campaigner refers to Don Franco a good deal in his blog:


And Don Franco has his own blog:

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