Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays in U.S. at New High

Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays in U.S. at New High

by Justin McCarthy

Story Highlights

  • 60% are satisfied, up from 53% in 2015
  • For first time, majority of Republicans (54%) say they are satisfied
  • Sixty-seven percent of Democrats are satisfied

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new high of 60% of Americans say they are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S. — up from 53% in 2014 and 2015. As recently as 10 years ago, satisfaction was as low as 32%.

Trend: Americans' Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians in the U.S.

The latest data, from Gallup’s annual Mood of the Nation survey conducted Jan. 6-10, come after a landmark year in achievements for the gay rights movement. Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated state laws that banned same-sex marriage. Prior to the court’s decision last year, 60% of Americans supported gay marriages.

Gallup first polled on Americans’ satisfaction with acceptance of gays and lesbians in 2001, when about a third reported being satisfied. Over the next eight years, this figure hovered between 32% and 40%. The level of satisfaction climbed in each poll between 2006 and 2014 amid a state-by-state battle for marriage rights. During this time, the federal government also repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Supreme Court struck down much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Gallup asks Americans who say they are dissatisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians if that dissatisfaction stems from their desire to see more acceptance or less acceptance. Similar percentages currently choose each explanation. Both of these figures have declined over the years as overall satisfaction has climbed, with a much greater decline in the percentage who are dissatisfied and want less acceptance.

Trend: Satisfaction With the Degree of Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians

Majorities of All Party Groups Satisfied With Gay Acceptance in U.S.

The latest poll marks the first time that majorities of Americans from within the three major political identifications report being satisfied with acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S. Democrats remain the most satisfied (67%), as they have been since 2012. Meanwhile, 59% of independents and 54% of Republicans report being satisfied on the issue.

Trend: Satisfaction With Acceptance of Gays and Lesbians, by Party Identification

Over the past 15 years, Democrats were least satisfied — ranging between 27% and 38% in satisfaction — during the administration of President George W. Bush, a Republican president who called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as he campaigned for re-election in 2004. But as Democratic President Barack Obama completed his first term in office in 2012, Democrats’ satisfaction climbed to 48% and has gained 19 percentage points in the years since.

Satisfaction among the GOP has been a lot tamer, ranging from 32% to 41% from 2001 to 2013. Though Republicans were generally more satisfied than Democrats during the Bush presidency and the least satisfied group during the Obama presidency, the percentage of those who report being satisfied has climbed quite a bit over Obama’s second term.

Bottom Line

The past decade has seen significant progress for the gay rights movement in the U.S., and along with that, a greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in the country more generally. Now a new high of 60% of Americans are satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the U.S., nearly doubling the 32% from 10 years ago.

But despite being in the minority, there are many Americans who are unhappy with the advancements made in gay rights, and there are judges, religious figures and GOP presidential candidates who seek to undo what gay rights supporters have achieved. Meanwhile, another faction of Americans are dissatisfied because they seek more acceptance for gays and lesbians — perhaps in response to continued efforts to walk back newly achieved gay rights, hate crimes against LGBT people and other acts of intolerance directed at the community.

Still, a stronger majority than ever before is content with the current state of gay acceptance in the U.S. Given the generational differences Gallup has found among supporters of gay rights, it is likely that satisfaction will continue to grow as younger generations supplant older ones.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 6-10, 2016, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Complete Article HERE!

WATCH: Catholic Father Supports LGBT Community

Father Joe is changing his congregation’s stance on homosexuality. 

By Editors

fr joe

In Eric Kruszewski’s final video on the LEAD Ministry, a LGBT-friendly group within Saint Matthew’s Catholic Church, we meet Father Joe, the man who is helping to change his congregation’s stance on homosexuality. “I don’t think the institutional church realizes how hurtful they are to homosexual people,” he says.

Four years ago, Father Joe helped launch LEAD, which has since grown in numbers and visibility—even participating in Baltimore’s pride parade.

Watch Father Joe below:

Click here to see all the videos from this series.

Complete Article HERE!

WATCH: A Catholic Mother Regrets Disowning Her Gay Son

“My husband got very angry and asked David to leave. I was torn between my husband and my child.”

Carolyn & David

By Jesse Steinbach

In part six of Eric Kruszewski’s documentary series on LEAD, an LGBT group within Saint Matthew’s Catholic Church, we meet Carolyn, a woman who was persuaded by her husband to kick their son out of the house after he came out. “My husband got very angry and asked David to leave,” she says. “I was torn between my husband and my child.”

Carolyn has since changed her views on homosexuality and has joined LEAD. “I don’t accept the fact that homosexuals are bad. I want the same opportunities for my gay and straight children in the Catholic Church.”

Watch Carolyn below:

Click here to see all of the videos from this series that we’ve post so far.

Complete Article HERE!

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Most U.S. Christian groups grow more accepting of homosexuality


Acceptance of homosexuality is rising across the broad spectrum of American Christianity, including among members of churches that strongly oppose homosexual relationships as sinful, according to an extensive Pew Research Center survey of U.S. religious beliefs and practices.pew research

Amid a changing religious landscape that has seen a declining percentage of Americans who identify as Christian, a majority of U.S. Christians (54%) now say that homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. While this is still considerably lower than the shares of religiously unaffiliated people (83%) and members of non-Christian faiths (76%) who say the same, the Christian figure has increased by 10 percentage points since we conducted a similar study in 2007. It reflects a growing acceptance of homosexuality among all Americans – from 50% to 62% – during the same period.

Among Christians, this trend is driven partly by younger church members, who are generally more accepting of homosexuality than their elder counterparts. For example, roughly half (51%) of evangelical Protestants in the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with a third of evangelical Baby Boomers and a fifth of evangelicals in the Silent generation. Generational differences with similar patterns also are evident among Catholics, mainline Protestants and members of the historically black Protestant tradition.

At the same time, however, a larger segment of older adults in some Christian traditions have become accepting of homosexuality in recent years, helping to drive the broader trend. For instance, 32% of evangelical Protestant Baby Boomers now say homosexuality should be accepted, up from 25% in 2007.

Regardless of age, seven-in-ten Catholics – whose church teaches that homosexual behavior is “intrinsically disordered” – say that homosexuality should be accepted by society, a 12-percentage-point increase since 2007. Similar jumps have occurred among mainline Protestants (from 56% to 66%), Orthodox Christians (from 48% to 62%) and members of the historically black Protestant tradition (from 39% to 51%).

Most Mormons and evangelical Protestants still say homosexuality should be discouraged by society – in line with the teachings of many of their churches – but 36% of both groups say it should be accepted. Among Mormons, there was a 12-point increase (from 24% to 36%) in acceptance since 2007, and among evangelicals there was a 10-point rise (from 26% to 36%). Jehovah’s Witnesses remain perhaps the most opposed of any U.S religious tradition toward homosexuality, with just 16% saying it should be accepted by society.

The trend of growing acceptance is evident across many specific Protestant denominations, including some conservative denominations with official teachings that remain strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. For example, among members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the share saying homosexuality should be accepted by society grew by 12 points (from 44% to 56%) between 2007 and 2014. And although Pentecostals who identify with the Assemblies of God remain largely opposed to homosexuality, 26% now say it should be accepted by society, up from 16% in 2007.

Members of many Protestant denominations now more accepting of homosexuality
Among members of the Southern Baptist Convention – an evangelical church and the nation’s largest Protestant denomination – the share saying homosexuality should be accepted increased 7 points, from 23% to 30%.

Members of several mainline churches – some of which have officially embraced same-sex marriage – have become even more accepting of homosexuality in recent years. For instance, 73% of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America now say it should be accepted by society, up from 56% in 2007. Members of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ also have become more accepting toward homosexuality.

The god effect

Religion spawns both benevolent saints and murderous fanatics. Could dopamine levels in the brain drive that switch?

by Patrick McNamara

The god effect

When I was 12, on family vacation in New Mexico, I watched a group of elaborately-costumed Navajo men belt out one intimidating song after the next. They executed a set of beautifully coordinated dance turns to honour the four cardinal directions, each one symbolising sacred gifts from the gods. Yet the tourist-packed audience lost interest and my family, too, prepared to leave. Then, all of a sudden, the dancers were surprised by a haunting, muscled old man adorned with strange pendants, animal skulls, and scars etching patterns into his body and face.

Because the dancers were obviously terrified of this man I, too, became afraid and wanted to run, but we all stood rooted to the spot as he walked silently and majestically into the desert night. Afterwards, the lead dancer apologised profusely for the tribe’s shaman, or medicine man: he was holy but a bit eccentric. My 12-year-old self wondered how one might become like this extraordinary individual, so singular, respected and brave he could take the desert night alone.

That question has fuelled much of my neuroscience through the years. As I studied the brain, I found that the right arrangement of neural circuitry and chemistry could generate astonishingly creative and holy persons on the one hand, or profoundly delusional, even violent, fanatics on the other. To intensify the ‘god effect’ in people already attracted to religious ideas, my studies revealed, all we had to do was boost the activity of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, crucial for balanced emotion and thought, on the right side of the brain. But should dopamine spike too high, murderous impulses like terrorism and jihad could rear up instead.

Evidence that religion can produce extraordinary behaviours goes back to the dawn of human history, when our ancestors started burying the dead and produced remarkable, ritual art on cave walls. One of the first signs of religious consciousness dates to the upper Paleolithic, some 25,000 years ago, when a boy, also about age 12, crawled through hundreds of metres of pitch black, deep cave space, probably guided only by a flickering flame held in one hand and some fleetingly illuminated paintings on cave walls. When the boy reached a cul-de-sac in the bowels of the cave, he put red ochre onto his hand and made a print on the wall. Then he climbed out of the cul-de-sac and – we can surmise, given his skill and the fact that his bones have not been found – made it out alive.

But where did this boy get his courage? And why leave a handprint on the wall of a remote cave deep in the bowels of the earth? Some experts in cave art think the boy was performing a religious obligation. He, like others who made similar treks into the caves, was leaving a votive offering to the spirit world or gods and becoming a holy man – much like the majestic and terrifying Indian man I had seen when I was 12.

Dopamine probably fuelled his braiin.

Throughout the centuries, bountiful dopamine has given rise to gifted leaders and peacemakers (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Catherine of Siena), innovators (Zoroaster), seers (the Buddha), warriors (Napoleon, Joan of Arc), teachers of whole civilisations (Confucius) and visionaries (Laozi). Some of them founded not only enduring religious traditions but also profoundly influenced the cultures and civilisations associated with those traditions. But dopamine-fuelled religion has also unleashed monsters: Jim Jones (the ‘minister’ who persuaded hundreds of his followers to commit suicide) and the cult Aum Shinrikyo, whose leader had his adherents release sarin gas on the subways of Japan. Think of the fanatic terrorists of al Qaeda, who gave their lives to attack New York’s twin towers and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.

The neurological line between the saint and the savage, the creative and the unconscionable, turns out to be razor-thin

As 9/11 suggests, the neurological line between the saint and the savage, the creative and the unconscionable, turns out to be razor-thin. Just look at the bounty of evidence showing that families of extraordinarily creative individuals often include members with histories of insanity, sometimes even criminal insanity. Genes that produce brains capable of unusually creative associations or ideas are also more likely to produce (in the same individual or in members of his/her family) brains vulnerable to loose or bizarre associations.

The medical literature abounds with descriptions of creative bursts following infusion of dopamine-enhancing drugs such as l-dopa (levodopa), used to treat Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Bipolar illness, which sends sufferers into prolonged bouts of dopamine-fuelled mania followed by devastating spells of depressive illness, can sometimes produce work of amazing virtuosity during the manic phase. Often these individuals refuse to take anti-dopamine drugs that can prevent the manic episodes precisely because they value the creative activity of which they are capable during these altered states.

Hallucinogenic drugs such as Psilocybin and LSD, which indirectly stimulate dopamine activity in the brain’s frontal lobes, can produce religious experience even in the avowedly non-religious. These hallucinogens produce vivid imagery, sometimes along with near psychotic breaks or intense spiritual experience, all tied to stimulation of dopamine receptors on neurons in the limbic system, the seat of emotion located in the midbrain, and in the prefrontal cortex, the upper brain that is the centre of complex thought.

Given all these fascinating correlations, sometime after the attack on the twin towers in New York City, I began to hypothesise that dopamine might provide a simple explanation for the paradoxical god effect. When dopamine in the limbic and prefrontal regions of the brain was high, but not too high, it would produce the ability to entertain unusual ideas and associations, leading to heightened creativity, inspired leadership and profound religious experience. When dopamine was too high, however, it would produce mental illness in genetically vulnerable individuals. In those who had been religious before, fanaticism could be the result.

While pursuing these ideas, I had a lucky break during routine office hours at the VA (Veterans Administration) Boston Healthcare System, where I regularly treat US veterans. I was doing a routine neuropsychological examination of a tall, distinguished elderly man with Parkinson’s Disease. This man was a decorated Second World War veteran and obviously intelligent. He had made his living as a consulting engineer but had slowly withdrawn from the working world as his symptoms progressed. His withdrawal was selective: he did not quit everything, his wife explained. ‘Just social parts of his work, some physical stuff and unfortunately his private religious devotions.’

When I asked what she meant by ‘devotions’ she replied that he used to pray and read his Bible all the time, but since the onset of the disease he had done so less and less. When I asked the patient himself about his religious interests, he replied that they seemed to have vanished. What was so striking was that he said he was quite unhappy about that fact. What appeared to be keeping him from his ‘devotions’ was that he found them ‘hard to fathom’. He had not stopped wanting to believe and practise his religion but simply found it more difficult to do so.

This was a man whose intelligence was above average, who apparently had been religious all his life and who could easily answer questions about religious ideas and doctrines. It was not an intellectual deficit that was the problem. When I asked him directly whether he had now rejected religion as false he said: ‘By no means!’ The difficulty he had was accessing his religious memories, feelings and experiences, in particular. Other equally complex ideas were still easily available to him, but religion as a sphere of interest for this man was nearly impossible.

The primary pathology associated with PD is a loss of dopamine activity, hypothesised for years to drive ‘hedonic reward’ or pleasure – that sense of well-being we all feel when we indulge in an experience like good food or sex. Whenever dopamine release occurred, proponents held, we would get a small hit of pleasure. That story made sense because many drugs of abuse, such as cocaine or amphetamine, stimulate dopamine activity in the midbrain.

But recent research had revealed something more complex. A Cambridge University neuroscientist named Wolfram Schultz had shown that dopamine was not a simple pleasure molecule, delivering a simple reward. Instead, it alerted us only to unexpected rewards, spiking when the prize delivered far exceeded the expected result.

Unexpected visions can define the most innovative artists, the most divergent philosophers and anyone who finds a sense of ecstasy in the beauty and strangeness of the world

To tease out this nuance, Schultz used a simple experimental design: he delivered varying quantities of fruit juice to monkeys while simultaneously recording activity in the monkey’s midbrain, the seat of emotion, where dopamine neurons were dense. He found that the neurons fired most intensely not when the monkey got a juice reward but when that reward was unexpectedly large. In short, dopamine neurons were oriented towards the pickup of new and significant rewards, novelty of the highest order for the individual. Since Schultz’s pioneering work in the midbrain, others have mapped out similar signalling patterns when dopamine activity moves into the prefrontal lobes, which mediate the most complex of thinking and creative processes, unique to humans.

But how would these new findings explain my PD patient’s difficulty in accessing religious ideas? Suppose religion created spectacular individuals because it pushed them into looking for unexpected rewards – a sense of transcendence or the pleasure of doing good – rather than all the usual rewards such as money or sex that the rest of us constantly pursue. Pursuit of unusual ideas could likewise be facilitated by dopamine, heightening creativity, too.

Here, I thought, was where science and religion actually meet. Like the most creative scientists, the most consistently religious individuals would be motivated only by things that consistently triggered surging dopamine and the unexpected rewards circuits in the prefrontal lobes of the brain: awe, fear, reverence and wonder. Such unexpected visions would define the most innovative artists, the most divergent philosophers and anyone who could find a sense of ecstasy in the beauty and strangeness of the world. In the genetically vulnerable, it would take just a little more juice to activate homicidal fanatics like the terrorists of 9/11.

Again, I tested these ideas on my PD patients. After screening for ‘religiousness’ through a questionnaire given to 71 vets in all, I found that a pattern was emerging. Of those with religious leanings prior to getting sick, only a subgroup lost religious fervour after illness set in. These were patients with ‘left-onset disease’ – meaning that their muscle problems had begun on the left side of the body, correlating with dysfunction in the right prefrontal regions of the brain. Those with left-onset disease reported significantly lower scores on all dimensions of religiosity (spiritual experiences, daily rituals, prayer and meditation) compared to those with right-onset disease.

How could I explain these results? I surmised it was loss of dopamine in the right half of the brain. To test that hypothesis, my team devised a ‘priming’ experiment to see if PD patients could access religious concepts as easily as other, equally complex ideas. To conduct priming experiments, you typically ‘prime’ or briefly present, a person with a word semantically related to a second, target word. For instance, the word ‘rose’ can be used as a prime for ‘violet’. The target word, ‘violet’, will be more quickly recognised following a prime with ‘rose’ than it would be if the prime had been something unrelated, such as ‘stamp’.

In our priming experiments with religious words we found that healthy volunteers were much quicker to recognise ‘worship God’ as a valid phrase when they were first presented with ‘pray quietly’ as compared with a control phrase. But this did not hold for PD patients with left-onset disease and damage on the right side of the brain! Relative to both right-onset PD patients and healthy volunteers, patients with left-onset disease did not benefit from subliminal presentation of the religious phrase, although their priming patterns for non-religious control phrases such as ‘pay taxes’ and ‘serve jury’ were normal in every way. These findings convinced me that my theory was at least partially correct: the dopamine receptors responsible for that transcendent, outsize sense of reward were dysfunctional on the right side of the brain.

But I still had to rule out competing ideas. One long-standing theory, suggested most prominently by Freud, ascribes religious commitment to anxiety. Put simply, the theory says that religion with its promise of an afterlife quells the free-floating anxiety caused by fear of death. This was a problem for me, given that my unexpected rewards theory of religion predicts the exact opposite: rather than eschewing fear, the religious would seek it out as one of the most novel, exciting and intense emotions served up by the brain.

I therefore attempted to pit the two theories against one another in another priming experiment. Over the course of several interview sessions, I told my PD patients a short story about a person climbing stairs in a hospital, ultimately coming across a surprise. Only the last sentence differed from one version to the next. In one ending the person witnessed a death; in a second he witnessed a religious ritual; and in the third, he saw a breathtaking view of the ocean. After participants were presented with each of these primes, they were tested for subtle changes in attitudes to religious belief by rating agreement with the statements ‘God or some supreme being exists’ and ‘God is an active agent in the world’.

In healthy volunteers and right- but not left-onset patients, religious belief-scores significantly increased following the aesthetic prime consisting of the ocean view (a wonderful reward) but not the death prime. (The religious ritual prime increased religious belief only inconsistently, with little impact compared with that of the ocean view.) The results directly refuted the anxiety theory of religion while supporting the notion that religiosity was spurred by the quest for unexpected reward.

What does all this say about how religion can produce both extraordinarily life-giving and generative human beings (holy men and women) and extraordinary monsters? The same mechanism that enhances our creativity – juicing up the right-sided limbic and prefrontal brain regions with dopamine – also opens us up to religious ideas and experience. But if these brain circuits are pushed too far, thinking becomes not merely divergent but outright deviant and psychotic.

Since at least the upper Paleolithic, religious cultures have been shaping, channelling and nourishing the quest for unexpected rewards. Today, such cultures as science, art, music, literature and philosophy confer the same sense of transcendence that religion has done in the past. The trick is tapping the god effect, inducing that altered state of wonder and making the breakthrough to greatness without going over the edge.

Complete Article HERE!

40 years ago today!

This happened.

Well that didn’t turn out like I hoped or imagined it would.

I wanted to be a priest ever since I was a little boy and I overcame the greatest of odds to achieve my life’s goal.  On Saturday, November 22, 1975, I was ordained a Catholic Priest at the Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales in Oakland, CA.

Sadly, it all came crashing to a halt only 6 years later with the publication of my doctoral dissertation.ordination

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, my religious community at the time, assigned me to post graduate studies in San Francisco in 1978.  I completed that assignment in January 1981 with my dissertation, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance.  A media firestorm erupted shortly there after when I publicly identified myself as gay. (I had come out to my provincial superiors before I was ordained six years earlier.)

When word got to Rome, however, the Oblates began a process to dismiss me from the community.  They erroneously accused me of “living a false lifestyle” because of my public declaration a month earlier.  The community leadership claimed that anyone who would self identify as gay must also be sexually active.  In their defense, it was 1981, and I had just studied a population of gay priests in the active ministry, years and years before the Church could even bring itself to admit that there were such a thing as gay priests in their midst. Nonetheless, my efforts to explain myself and the nature of self-identification fell on deaf ears.  I was to be made an example of how others would be treated if they came out.

Priesthood was my whole life.  To be cut off from the community and ministry in an instant, without due process nearly killed me.  And thus, began a grueling 13-year battle with the Church to save my good name, my priesthood, and my ministry.  I chronicled this odyssey in a book published in 2011, Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church.

1976I lost the battle in 1994; I was dismissed from the Oblates.  But I believe I won the war.

Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  Looking back on the last 40 years, I can see clearly that Dr King was right.  LGBT people have gone from pariah status to having their relationships granted the same legal and socitial status as straight people.  Acceptance of LGBT people is at an all-time high in this country and throughout most of the world.  And young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accept LGBT people.

Unfortunately, Church leadership continues to drag it’s feet.  While there are some enlightened bishops, and certainly the Pope is pointing the way, most of the otherbishops have their head in the sand.  The rear-guard action of trying to defend the indefensible continues unabated.  Gay priests are still persecuted for coming out and the clerical closet continues to make Catholic priest sick, sometimes even to death,  One has to ask; how can anyone preach the Good News while living a lie?


Forty years after ordination, I believe that I now know the real meaning of priesthood and ministry.  And I can safely say that it has nothing to do with the ritual depicted in the photos above.  My priesthood and ministry are rooted knowing who I am and knowing that God called me as I am.  My priesthood is to the people on the margins and the sexual fringe.  And my priesthood means speaking truth to power and supporting others to do the same. I continue to stand against the fear, ignorance, and repression that destroys God’s people and if I have to do my priesthood standing this distance from the altar, then I’m ok with that.


Not all gay Catholics are pleased about how Vatican priest came out of the closet


Krzysztof Charamsa, left, who worked for a Vatican office, appears at the news conference with his partner, Eduardo, on Oct. 3 in Rome.


Two days before a longtime Vatican official burst from his stained-glass closet last month, he was dining with an Italian media consultant inside an elegant restaurant on the right bank of Rome’s Tiber River. The topic of conversation: How should the official come out?

Krzysztof Charamsa was still employed at one of the Holy See’s most powerful offices, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But after decades of hiding, the 43-year-old gay Polish priest wanted to come out with a flourish. He was no longer afraid to confront a church he saw as intrinsically “homophobic” and proposed a symbolic news conference outside the headquarters of the Congregation — the very institution charged with defending and disseminating Catholic teachings around the globe.

But Emilio Sturla, a public relations consultant who worked closely with gay Catholic groups and was helping Charamsa, strongly suggested he reconsider, both men recalled. The public and the church, Sturla insisted, would see such a move as too incendiary.

“But that’s what he wanted,” Sturla said. “To be provocative.” And that’s what he did.

Their conversation suggests how even before it happened, Charamsa’s high-profile debut — including its timing right before a major Vatican meeting of the church hierarchy — was already controversial among the small group of gay Catholics aware of his plans.

Charamsa’s move brought the expected denunciations from the church and religious conservatives, who pointed out that he had violated his vow of chastity and the church’s teachings on homosexuality. More surprisingly, his actions have also sparked a split among gay Catholics.

The church officially teaches that homosexual desires are not sinful unless acted upon and calls on gays and lesbians to live lives of chastity. It teaches that gays are deserving of human dignity. But it also describes homosexual acts as a sin that is “intrinsically disordered” and a “grave depravity.”

As Pope Francis opens the door to more inclusion of gay people, Charamsa’s coming out — and the reactions to it — cuts to the heart of a debate raging among gay Catholics worldwide: Should they use gentle dialogue or open confrontation in pushing for change?

Many gay activists are cheering Charamsa’s action, heralding him as a Vatican whistleblower. In two days of extensive interviews with The Washington Post, for instance, Charamsa said the Vatican office where he worked routinely shut down priests and bishops calling for more acceptance of gay people. He describes an angry uproar in its halls on the day in 2013 when Francis, responding to a question about gay priests, famously declared, “Who am I to judge?”

Yet at a time when they can almost smell what they call the sweet scent of change, some gay Catholics counter that Charamsa’s “theatrical” coming out may have done more harm than good. It could, they say, embolden church hard-liners and have a chilling effect on the slowly thawing relations between gay people and the Catholic Church.

Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, right, reads a newspaper showing a picture of gay bishop Krzysztof Charamsa and his partner Eduard before the start of the morning session of the Synod of bishops on family issues, at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Last week the Vatican fired Charamsa who came out as gay on the eve of the meeting of the world's bishops. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, right, reads a newspaper showing a picture of gay bishop Krzysztof Charamsa and his partner Eduard before the start of the morning session of the Synod of bishops on family issues, at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Last week the Vatican fired Charamsa who came out as gay on the eve of the meeting of the world’s bishops.

Charamsa is unbowed. The church, he said, has deployed “Nazi words” against gays, and the time has come to respond. Referring to the 1969 New York riots that became a milestone in the American gay rights movement, he said, “The church needs a Stonewall.”

From closet to stage

“Here I go,” Charamsa said with a grin, walking down the center aisle of the Morality Theater on a recent evening in Arenys de Munt, Spain — a small town 28 miles northeast of Barcelona. He is a tad nervous. Laughing a little too hard. His hands perspiring. It is his first major public appearance since his big splash on Oct. 3, and he wants it to be good.

Charamsa doesn’t get far before 72-year-old Jaume Torrent grabs his arm. Torrent’s bear cub of a husband, a 39-year-old bearded construction worker, is standing close, wearing a tight T-shirt and a smile of admiration as the two gush praise at Charamsa.

“You!” beams Torrent, a self-described gay Catholic. He’s one of a crowd of more than 100 — a good chunk of them gays and lesbians — who have turned out to hear Charamsa speak. “You brave man. You did not hide. We are so proud of you.”

Charamsa is living a sort of self-imposed exile now, in an apartment in Barcelona he shares with his Spanish boyfriend, Eduardo. He refuses to say when or where they met, though people familiar with the couple say it was at least a year ago. Yet Charamsa is not focused on telling his own story — he’s still guarded about his childhood, his partner, his gay life as a priest. Instead, he’s focusing on what he feels is the big issue: homophobia within the Catholic Church.

He grew up in the Baltic port city of Gdynia, the son of an economist father and a mother who was a devout Catholic. At a young age, he became an altar boy, and then, a priest, at a time when the priesthood in Poland was a convenient place for gay men to remain unmarried and yet still obtain a measure of social standing. In fact, some studies have suggested that homosexuality is more prevalent in the priesthood overall than in the general population. But Charamsa describes his calling from God as genuine.

When Charamsa was young, the church’s teachings on homosexuality — something it calls an “intrinsic moral evil” — led him to personal torment and self-hate, he said. Today, he blames the church’s grip on largely Catholic Poland for a powerful strain of homophobia that still lingers there.

“It was the horrible problem of my life,” he said. “It was like hell. I prayed for years for God to take away this illness.”

His thinking had not changed, he said, when he began working at the Vatican in 2003, laboring in a mid-level administrative post and analyzing doctrinal papers. There are regular, if unofficial, social meetings of gay priests in Italy, including those from the Vatican, according to one gay priest who has attended them. But Charamsa says he was never part of that crowd.

Instead, he said, until meeting Eduardo, he led a highly closeted life that allowed him to observe homophobia close up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

Inside its halls, Charamsa said, the issue of homosexuality “is only spoken about in jokes.” He compares it to the macho climate of, say, a sports team. Modern textbooks on human sexuality are rarely, if ever, studied. He said he saw careers destroyed after clerics appeared to get soft on gays. Suspicion of being gay, meanwhile, was reason enough to bar the promotions of priests to higher ranks.

Any move toward a more accepting stance, he said, was routinely stamped out. He recalls, for instance, an “internal persecution” of Bishop Piero Marini in 2013 after the Vatican official openly called for recognition of the moral value of same-sex unions. The Congregation, Charamsa said, insisted the bishop clarify true church teachings.

On the day in July 2013 when Pope Francis responded “Who am I to judge?” after being asked a question about gay priests, Charamsa said, there was an uproar within the Congregation. Its conservative prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, had “only bad things” to say about the pope in response, Charamsa said.

The Vatican declined to comment on any of Charamsa’s allegations.

Today, he calls his highly public coming out a form of “protest,” one that came together recently after he accepted himself and came to feel that the church, not his sexual orientation, was the problem. He is now on a one-man mission to challenge its teachings — something he is doing in regular media interviews, a book he is penning, even a blunt letter to the pope in which he derided the church for its “diabolical instruction.” It is a series of decisions that have come with a high price.

In fact, by Oct. 3 — the day that Charamsa held his news conference — he had already come out in interviews published over the previous 24 hours in the Polish and Italian media. But it was only that day, as he faced reporters, that his story truly went global.

Sturla, the media consultant, ultimately persuaded Charamsa to move his news conference to a lower-key setting at the Rome restaurant where the two had dined two days earlier. As the cameras rolled, Charamsa held hands with, and hugged, Eduardo while vowing to make “an enormous noise for the good of the church.”

Soon after, Charamsa was evicted by the nun running the Rome convent where he had lived for years as a chaplain, he said. His brother’s children are being bullied at school, and his mother is facing pressure at her church in his native Poland, he added. The Vatican fired him on the spot, leaving him unemployed. And his bishop in Poland suspended him, stripping him of the right to wear the Roman collar and celebrate Mass.

Technically, Charamsa said, he remains ordained. In a statement, his bishop left the door open for Charamsa’s return to the practicing priesthood should he repent. But it’s an offer, Charamsa told his applauding audience in Spain, that he has declined.

“I’ve come out of the closet,” he said, “and I’m not going back.”

Strategic differences

Critics of Charamsa’s public protest also question his timing. On Oct. 3, the day of the news conference, Andrea Rubera was across town helping manage a major meeting in Rome of gay Catholics. Rubera, the spokesman for an Italian gay group advocating a gentler approach toward change in the church, was hopeful about the major Vatican synod starting the next day. Bishops were set to discuss, among other issues, the church’s approach toward gays and lesbians. His group had even managed to secure a Catholic bishop — the Rev. José Raúl Vera López of Saltillo, Mexico — to speak at the meeting.

Then Charamsa dropped his bombshell.

“We spent a year organizing that conference,” Rubera said. “But the day it happened, the press showed up, and all they wanted to talk about was Charamsa.”

Under Francis, Rubera said, he has sensed a subtle but important shift in the icy relationship between homosexuals and the Catholic Church in Italy. One local parish in Rome, he said, is now openly inviting gay Catholics to participate in church events — something once unthinkable. Yet Charamsa’s “theatrical” coming out, he says, put those gains in jeopardy and sabotaged the synod, which failed to break any new ground on homosexuality.

“Our fear now is that his coming out, and the way he came out, will build a wall, not a bridge,” Rubera said.

Said Michael Brinkschröder, coordinator of the European Forum of Christian LGBT Groups: “I think many cardinals — for example, Cardinal Müller — might have felt pressured [by Charamsa’s move]. My position is that pressure is not the appropriate means to achieve change.”

In fact, shortly before Charamsa’s announcement, the priest had consulted with a small group of leading voices in the gay Catholic communities in Poland, Britain and Italy. All were strongly in favor of his coming out. But several disagreed with him on key points.

Charamsa says that gay Catholics advocating less confrontational methods have thus far failed to produce results. He welcomes Francis’s more inclusive approach but also describes it as mostly “words.” Rather than being a product of his coming out, the lack of a new approach at the synod is the product of entrenched church thinking that needs to be more boldly challenged, he said.

That, he says, is his new calling.

“I was in a prison of my mind,” he said.

But no more.

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