Editor's note: LSN’s intention in publishing the story below was to present the known facts about a public meeting between the pope and one of Italy’s leading Catholic dissidents – a newsworthy event in itself. However, in retrospect we recognize that in the absence of certain necessary clarifications and contexts the facts alone, as presented, unnecessarily lend themselves to misinterpretation. We have since published an explanation, which should be read in conjunction with this article. It can be found here.
ROME, May 23, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis raised eyebrows earlier this month by concelebrating Mass with and kissing the hand of a leading homosexual activist priest campaigning for changes in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. On May 6, Francis received the 93 year-old priest who has cofounded the homosexualist activist organization, Agedo Foggia, that is opposed to Catholic Church teaching.
Fr. (Don) Michele de Paolis concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Domus Santa Martha and then presented the pontiff with gifts of a wooden chalice and paten and a copy of his most recent book, “Dear Don Michele – questions to an inconvenient priest”.
In a previous book, Don Michele wrote, “homosexual love is a gift from (God) no less than heterosexual.” He also disparaged the idea of homosexual couples not having sex.
Francis closed the meeting by kissing the priest’s hand, a gesture that the far-left newspaper L'immediato called one “revealing the humility of a great man to another of the same stature.” De Paolis described the unusual papal gesture himself in a post to his Facebook page, saying that he asked Francis for an audience with the priest’s other organization, the Community of Emmaus: “Is that possible?”
He said that the pope replied, “Anything is possible. Talk to Cardinal Maradiaga and he shall prepare everything.”
“And then (unbelievably) he kissed my hand! I hugged him and wept,” de Paolis concluded.
The gesture has made something of a sensation in Italian media and ‘blogs since de Paolis is a well-known figure in Italy as a leading clerical apologist for the homosexualist ideology. He ostensibly met with Francis in his capacity as the founder of Emmaus Community in the southern Italian city of Foggia that assists the poor and those suffering from AIDS.
But it is for his cofounding of Agedo Foggia, an “association of parents, relatives and friends of homosexuals” (Associazione di genitori, parenti e amici di persone omosessuali) – that campaigns to promote the homosexualist and gender ideology in Italian society and the Church – that he is best known in this country.
LifeSiteNews asked Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi for clarification as to the nature of the encounter but received no reply by press time.
In addition to support from the City of Foggia, Agedo Foggia is funded by and working with the UNAR, the Italian government’s National Antidiscrimination and Racism Office (Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali) that has issued documents threatening journalists with prison if they fail to portray homosexuality in a positive light.
The website of Agedo Lecce carries an extensive quote from one of de Paolis’s books to help readers “get out of the quagmire of biblical precepts”. He wrote, “[W]e must overcome the letter of Scripture. It is the same St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6 who says, ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’”
“That this biblical letter,” de Paolis wrote, “killed and continues to kill, unfortunately, at times, not only morally but also physically, is a fact. The Bible ‘is’ not the word of God; the Bible ‘contains’ the word of God.”
“Instead of wasting energy in endless controversy the Church aims to build a Christian spirituality of joyous acceptance of self, gratitude to God in the knowledge that homosexual love is a gift from Him no less than heterosexual. A spirituality in which we dialogue and we compare to all, but obey God alone.”
Church people, he said, “completely ignore the phenomenon of homosexuality, which science has now clarified unequivocally: the homosexual orientation is not chosen freely by the person. The boy or girl will discover that it is an approach deeply rooted in personality, which is an essential aspect of his identity: it is not a disease, it is not a perversion.”
He lamented the “insensitivity” shown to homosexuals by the Catholic Church, saying, “Some church people say, ‘It’s okay to be gay, but they should not have sex, they can not love each other.’ This is the greatest hypocrisy. It’s like saying to a plant that grows, ‘You must not flourish, you must not bear fruit!’ Yes, it is against nature!’”
“We must have patience with our Mother Church,” he continues. “Her attitude towards homosexuals will change.” He praised the “numerous initiatives” that have already been founded throughout Italy in which “groups of homosexual Catholics have occasional contact with the diocese, usually marked by cordiality.”
De Paolis is a prominent member of an Italian clerical subculture on the extreme, Marxist-informed left that sprang up after the Second Vatican Council. One Catholic writer, Giuseppe Nardi, wrote that de Paolis is a promoter of the “anarcho-Catholicism” of the extreme left that has been dominant in the Church in Italy, as well as in the South American Church, since the 1970s.
De Paolis founded Agedo Foggia with the late Gabriele Scalfarotto, the father of the Italian Deputy Ivan Scalfarotto who sponsored the Italian parliament’s “anti-homophobia” bill that has been denounced by family activists as an attempt to shut down any moral criticism of the homosexual lifestyle. Recently pro-family and Catholic activists in Italy sought to secure Pope Francis’s aid in opposing the bill.