Love conquers all; let us, too, yield to love
– Virgil, Roman poet.
ROME: The Catholic Church has always been one of the major powers. For centuries, countries all over the world have been governed by the Catholic law. It has influenced our society and the way we live to a great extent: from defining what makes a good person to determining who and how to love.
Pope Francis has openly talked about love and its multiple ways of manifesting. For the first time in history, someone as important as the Pope for Christianity is not shy to talk about homosexuality. “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Those words pronounced by Pope Francis in 2013 went viral as he made one of the biggest turns in Christianity. Controversy is what describes present-day history.
Maria Chiara Giorda, professor of history of religion at Roma di Tre University, argues that the main issue of Catholicism for having problems accepting homosexuality is that they base their ideas in the Old Testament. Society has evolved and changes so much ever since the Bible was written. Nevertheless, it has never been reviewed.
She believes that the problem relies on the fact that the Catholic Church is not accepting the changes, it’s not facing modernity: “They see innovation as their enemy, instead of trying to accept it.”
As strange as it may sound at first, there are Catholic groups supporting the LGBTIQ+ collective and helping them rebuilding and embracing their identity: bonding faith and their sexuality again.
They are the protagonists of this story.
Never lose hope
Andrea Rubera is the spokesperson of the Italian Catholic LGBTIQ+ support group Cammini di Speranza, who has been part of the Catholic Church since he was just a child. He reckons the birth of Christian Catholic LGBTIQ+ groups were in the 80s. Unlike what usually happens in other European countries or in America, the groups in Italy started as a personal experience. People wanted to meet and pray without feeling judged or even excluded by the institution. Although these groups were starting to appear all over Italy it was always kept as a secret.
Problems started appearing when all these groups were in need of a place, a safe haven where faith and homosexuality could be reconciliated. The h Pride, celebrated for the first time in Rome in the year 2000, turned the tables. Christian Catholic LGBTIQ+ groups started creating a network and decided to be more active in the public sphere.
The creation of Cammini di Speranza came from the suggestion of Antonietta Potente, a theologist. Her words inspired Andrea and his crew to become more active in the community: “If you decide to stop hiding and being a secret, you have to start sharing your life, because your life can be a contribution to the whole community.”
Do you believe in life after love?
Andrea was just a teenager when he started being conscious about his homosexuality. He was studying in a Catholic school and he was quite involved with the activities at the parish, so his instinct was to keep it hidden, secret. “I found myself in a dilemma: I am gay, but I don’t want to be, but I am, but I don’t want to be… it was a complicated time.”
The school was very narrow-minded, so it was particularly difficult for Andrea to create a different image a more open image of God and faith. “I kept the image of God as a judge to myself, that, for me, was the easiest way to convince myself of how bad being gay was.”
Kids started to bully him because in some way they knew Andrea was gay. So, he made sure no one noticed. He started to be aware and in control of everything: his movements, his voice tone, everything. “I was super conscious and aware of what was happening around me, I controlled every single movement.”
Just a guess
Things changed when Andrea went to university. “Something booming” happened. He met Dario, who –spoiler alert– is his husband now. It was totally unexpected since Andrea was convinced that he was controlling his feelings and sexual passions. However, it was inevitable. “We tried to convince ourselves it wasn’t love that it was just a strong friendship, but in the end, we had to admit it was love, indeed.”
When they decided to start their love relationship Andrea excluded himself of the Catholic community: “I never lost my faith, but I thought people in the community would never accept me.” He felt he didn’t fit in the religious community because of his sexuality. Nonetheless, Andrea admits it was just something that was on his mind at the time. “I never asked, it was just a guess I was doing without any kind of evidence.”
In the year 2000, in coincidence with the World Pride Andrea had a dreadful motorbike accident. He remembers that when being at the hospital, just minutes before entering the surgery room, he started thinking about what would happen if he didn’t make it out of that room: “I remember wondering if I was going to end up in hell because of the relationship with Dario.”
In that moment, he started praying: “God you know who I am, you know what’s happening. So, if I die today please accept me as I am because I cannot be any different.” Luckily – as you may have already realized – he survived. The accident was the turning point for Andrea. From that moment on, he decided to change the way he was approaching life: “I started going towards life instead of trying to defend myself against it.”
Up until the tragic accident happened, Andrea and Dario had kept their relationship hidden from the public eye. Anyway, when they finally made it public, they happened to realize many of their friends already knew they were having a relationship. They both agreed on not making a huge deal out of the fact that they stopped being hidden and started to behave naturally as a couple. “Our parents started to be more confident with something they had already suspected. So, everything run smoothly with no problem at all.”
This new way of approaching life helped Andrea reconciliating himself with God and with the Catholic Church from which he had been away for thirteen years. A priest was his best ally: “He was very helpful, he helped me creating a new bond with God.” Andrea managed to stop seeing God and Catholicism as judges and so, he started to look for LGBTIQ+ Catholic groups and started attending.
This story has a happy ending for the ones involved: “Dario and I have been married for 30 years and now we are parents; we have three children.”
Eventually, not even religion can set boundaries for true love, whether it’s from parents to their sons/ daughters or between a couple. Love (always) wins. *