Who is surprised to learn that there are gay priests in the Vatican?

A salacious story about gay priests in the Vatican has been making the media rounds.

The most complete version of the story, which broke in the Italian daily La Repubblica, was published by the Guardian, and repeated the claim that Benedict XVI's resignation was tied to a secret report on corruption and infighting within the Vatican that included information about a group of gay priests who were being blackmailed because they had been caught in compromising situations.

It is worth noting that a report may exist and the depictions of what is in it may be true, but assertions that its contents provoked Benedict's resignation may nonetheless be false. David Gibson makes this point well. He writes:

Benedict would receive the Captain Louis Renault Award (see below) if he were to declare himself “shocked” that gay men inhabit the priesthood and hierarchy, and of course the Vatican itself.

Marco Tosatti, the veteran Vaticanista at at La Stampa, puts it well today when he notes that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent 25 years as a top official in the Curia, much of it attempting to chase gay priests out, or to discipline priests and bishops and even cardinals guilty of sex scandals. And he spent nearly eight years as pope doing the same.

“In short,” Tosatti writes, “if there is anyone who has seen it all when it comes to priests, it is precisely Joseph Ratzinger. It does not seem terribly plausible that the discovery in the Roman Curia, like in the Church, like in the world, that there are “fish of every type” (the words are those of Ratzinger himself, from the Gospels) might have been the decisive blow in forcing the pope to abandon the Throne of St. Peter.”

The Vatican, after initially refusing to comment on the reports has now condemned them, as Al Jazeera reports.

A couple of points seem worth making: It is common knowledge that punitive attitudes about sexuality and the pressure to keep one's identity hidden can lead to unhealthy behavior. People who hide their identities and engage in these behaviors are open to blackmail. So this news is less shocking than it is predictable. The church's repressive teaching and the subterfuge it engenders--from officials of all sexual orientations--is what is undermining the church.

Captain Renault Award

Comments (2)

However, as with Captain Renault, there is all the difference between knowledge and acknowledgment.

Perhaps we need to add to the list of known knowns and unknown unknowns, the "known but not acknowledged." One of the principal facts of scandal is that there is a fact, a reality, that is revealed publicly. So I would not automatically dismiss this as a possibility. After all, in addition to being Bishop of Rome, one might well observe that the pontiff is to some extent Prisoner of the Vatican... and many are the secrets held in pectore...

Much like the footman Thomas on Downton Abbey, everyone there knew he was gay. But they could just pretend to themselves they didn't know---until the encounter w/ Jimmy made it impossible to not know that they KNEW. And that made a world of difference (whether it was believable on DA, c 1922, or not!).

An anecdote (does anyone else have a tale like this?). In the 1990s, I was very involved in ecumenical efforts. At large events like the National Workshop on Christian Unity, there were formal sessions during the day, and informal ecumenical gatherings in the evening.

But the Roman Catholic contingent, almost all priests, were never a part of the evening activities. I, young and naive then, inquired of older Episcopal ecumenists why this was so. Euphemizing commenced. "Well, you know. Night time. Night life. The boys like the night life." Winking, nudging, knowing head nods. They didn't add "in this year's NWCU host city's GayPlayLand", but something about the way they said "the boys like the night life" told me enough [I DID notice quite a few collared RC priests had changed to civvies as they left the conference hotel!]

Prayers for the RCC---they need them so badly (thought don't we all).

JC Fisher

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