Bishops and cardinals from around the world are traveling to the Vatican over the next few days to prepare for the start of the conclusion of the Synod on the Family. So are reporters and activists, but at least one of the latter didn’t need to travel far to give the former a story. A priest at the Vatican got fired after telling a leading Italian newspaper that he was dating another man, and staged a protest to lecture the Synod on homophobia.

The headline from Reuters?

AFP didn’t do much better:

But, er, that wasn’t actually the problem here. Emphasis mine:

Charamsa, 43, and a Polish theologian, announced he was gay and had a partner in a long interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday.

He later held a news conference with his partner, a Spanish man, and gay activists at a Rome restaurant. They had planned a demonstration in front of the Vatican but changed the venue several hours before it was due to have started. …

In Saturday’s interview, Charamsa said his partner had helped him come to terms with his sexuality and knew he would have to give up the priesthood, although the Vatican statement made no reference to this outcome.

“It’s time for the Church to open its eyes about gay Catholics and to understand that the solution it proposes to them — total abstinence from a life of love — is inhuman,” he was quoted as saying.

Now I know that much of the media has little understanding of Catholic teachings. That’s one of the reasons I went to the opening Extraordinary Synod to report directly on it a year ago. However, I assumed that it was pretty common knowledge even outside of Catholic circles that priests are to remain celibate. Regardless of sexual orientation, a priest who starts dating anyone is going to find himself removed from his ministry as soon as the relationship is discovered. It wouldn’t make any difference if it was “a Spanish man” or Monica Bellucci.

Celibacy does not just mean the absence of sexual intercourse for Catholic priests and consecrated. It means the sacrifice of romantic relationships of any kind. Even if this particular relationship remained unconsummated, so to speak, it would still violate the priest’s vows; they are not allowed to “date,” nor are monks, nuns, or even widowed deacons. And regardless of whether the priest worked at the Vatican or in a local parish, the bishop would remove him from his ministry for public disobedience to those vows, especially if the priest in question publicly used his dating relationship to attempt to mislead people about Catholic teaching.

So no, the Vatican did not fire the priest for being gay or even publicly acknowledging his orientation. The sexual orientation of priests who adhere faithfully to their vows of celibacy is irrelevant. They fired Charamsa and will probably laicize (defrock) him because he broke his vows of celibacy and obedience, remains defiant of them, and intended to set an example that would mislead Catholics.

In that last effort, Charamsa has accomplices in the media. Again. Still.

Update: Edited sentence on celibacy for clarity.