A priest has resigned as a parish pastor after he performed a same-sex civil union ceremony in the town hall of the Italian town of Sant’Oreste. The priest is not expected to return to ministry for at least a year.
On July 11, Fr. Emanuel Moscatelli officiated at a ceremony in which two women, friends of the priest, contracted a civil union, in a ceremony described in the Italian media as a wedding.
The priest did not wear liturgical vestments, wearing instead a red, white, and green ceremonial sash, often worn by mayors and other Italian civic officials when conducting government business. Moscatelli was delegated by Valentina Pina, the town’s mayor, to perform the ceremony.
News of the ceremony was first reported by Italian news agency ADN Kronos July 20. On the same day, Bishop Romano Rossi of Civita announced that the priest had resigned as pastor of St. Lorenzo’s Parish in Sant’Oreste, of his own free will.
In a statement published July 20, Rossi said he had met with Moscatelli July 14, and the priest had agreed to resign his ministry, and to “take a reasonable period of reflection to recover clarity and the joy of his priestly ministry in the concrete reality of the world of today.”
“Fr. Emanuel expressed his full trust in the Church as mother, and in his bishop, and is fully accepting of the plan that I will propose.”
“I made him understand the mess he made, I can understand that in certain circumstances of weakness, friendship or the spirit of the time comes into play, but celebrating a civil union is too much,” Rossi told Italian news site La Nuova Bussola.
“Now I have the duty of helping this priest of mine to see clearly inside himself. And relaunching his priestly life on new foundations, I believe there is room for recovery after the mistake he made. Anyway, let’s take a year and let’s see,” the bishop added.
In his initial statement, Rossi said that he aims to convey to Moscatelli “clarity on a doctrinal level, and communion on a pastoral level” during his period outside of active ministry, which the bishop said will take place in Milan, north of Sant O’reste.
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Italy, but same-sex civil unions have been legal since 2016, and are often contracted in ceremonies resembling wedding celebrations.
It is not clear whether the priest will face a canonical penalty or process in response to his actions. Canon 1369 of the Code of Canon Law says that “A person is to be punished with a just penalty who, at a public event or assembly…gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.”
The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexual acts are “sins gravely contrary to chastity,” it teaches also that those who identify as gay or lesbian should “be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
On the question of civil unions, in 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith taught that “respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
“In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection,” the CDF added.