An article in the Guardian reported on Friday that a controversial report carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica links Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to the existence of blackmail and a gay lobby in the Vatican.
The pope’s spokesperson has declined to confirm or deny the report, a public relations tactic that could imply that the Vatican has something to hide: is the Vatican trying to cover up homosexuality within the institution? Is the pope himself, perhaps, gay? By the nature of the blackmail, these speculations are not impossibilities.
La Repubblica said that the day the pope made the decision to resign — December 17 — was also the day he received a report compiled by three cardinals in charge of looking into the “Vatileaks” incident (a scandal that first came to light late last January, involving leaked Vatican documents allegedly exposing internal corruption).
The report comes after the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged last May for stealing and leaking papal correspondence, depicting the Vatican as “a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.”
According to La Repubblica, the report, comprised of “two volumes of almost 300 pages — bound in red” has been confided to a safe in the papal apartments, to be delivered to the pope’s successor upon election. In other words, the report is another problem within the Vatican, that’s likely going to be passed on for generations to come.
La Repubblica said that the cardinals describe a number of factions within the Vatican, including one whose members were “united by sexual orientation” — a fancy way of saying a gay lobby.
The newspaper continued to say that some Vatican officials had been subject to “external influence” from laymen with whom they had links of a “worldly nature” — a clear reference to blackmail, according to the paper.
The paper quoted a source "very close to those who wrote [the cardinal's report]" as saying: "Everything revolves around the non-observance of the Sixth and Seventh Commandments."
The Sixth Commandment says “you shall not steal.”
The Seventh Commandment, “you shall not commit adultery,” is linked in Catholic doctrine to the denouncement of homosexual acts.
La Repubblica said the cardinals’ report identified a series of meeting places in and around Rome, including a villa outside the Italian capital, a sauna in a Rome suburb, a beauty parlor in the center, and a former university residence that was in use by a provincial Italian archbishop. You know, the typical places clergymen meet.
Perhaps more controversial than the alleged contents of the report surfacing has been the response of the Vatican’s spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi:
"Neither the cardinals' commission nor I will make comments to confirm or deny the things that are said about this matter. Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this."
This quote is a classic example of public relations “spinning.” Here’s my interpretation of Father Lombardi’s quote:
“We won’t confirm or deny that this reports existence or content, but we don’t care if anyone else does. People should just go about their business as they see fit, while we sit back and do nothing about it. The next pope will deal with it (maybe).”
Assuming that the Vatican spokesperson does not want to lie, in case substantial evidence amounts confirming that the report is 100% true, he does what people in the public relations arena call "spinning" — providing an interpretation of an event to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization public figure. So, it’s not lying, technically, but it isn’t telling the truth, either. In this case, Father Lombardi’s interpretation on the scandal is indifference. But refusal to confirm, deny or comment on the contents of the cardinals’ report sounds like confirmation to me.
Father Lombardi added that interpretations of the report (like mine) were causing “a tensions that is opposite of what the pope and the church want” in the approach to the cardinals that will elect the pope’s successor.
Wow, I always thought the church wanted people to interpret it in negative light — it only seems consistent with some of their practices. Since the pope announced his departure, he has twice referred to the monkey business inside the Vatican, saying that divisions "mar the face of the Church," and warned against "the temptations of power." It’s more than divisions that “mar the face of the Church” though, and the La Repubblica report is just one among a sea of scandalous claims made against the Vatican.
The report exists amongst a collection of other claims that a gay network and blackmail exist in the Vatican, including a book published in Italy several years ago called “Gone with the Wind in the Vatican.”
In 2007, a senior official was suspended from the congregation after being filmed in a “sting” organized by an Italian television program while apparently making sexual overtures to a younger male. In 2010, a chorister was dismissed for acquiring male prostitutes for a papal “gentlemen-in-waiting.” A few months after, weekly news magazines used hidden cameras to record priests out on the town — visiting gay clubs and bars and fornicating, according to The Guardian.
The gay lobby isn’t the only detrimental rumor floating around either. Earlier this month, a Reuter’s article reported that a United Nations committee has accused U.S. legal authorities of failing to fully pressure cases of child sex abuse in religious groups; an issue that has religiously (Haha) plagued the Roman Catholic Church. The National Secular Society, which campaigns at the United Nations against privileges for religious groups, also accused Benedict of “hushing up abuse cases and obstructing justice.” But all the concerned parties can do is hope:
“We can only hope that his successor opens the secret files and treats victims with the respect they deserve,” its executive director Keith Porteous Wood said.
The article goes on to say that the Britain’s National Secular Society drew attention to the off-the-radar report, saying it hoped the Catholic pope to succeed Benedict XIV would open up dusty Church files and lead the way in prosecuting as of now undiscovered cases of sexual abuse.
Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns is a strategy that coincides with the accounts of sexual abuse within the Vatican: it will provide him with security and privacy, and offer legal protection from attempts to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world (like a case in 2010, where Benedict was named as a defendant in a U.S. law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a school for the deaf decades earlier ... The lawyers withdrew the case last year and the Vatican said it was a major victory that proved the pope could not be held liable for the actions of abusive priests in their dioceses), Church sources and legal experts say.
“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
While the Vatican does not condemn homosexuals, per se, it teaches that gay marriage and gay sex are “intrinsically disordered.” Pope Benedict has also barred sexually active gay men from studying for the priesthood. I find it ironic that the “disorder” that the Church vehemently lobbies against occurs within the institution itself. To deny that would be denying that the “divine” hierarchy of the Catholic Church is composed of humans — humans that are subject to all the pitfalls of human nature, including rivalries, lobbying and politicking. The Church, after all, is not governed by angels, as the African Cardinal Francis Arinze once remarked.
I also find it unsettling that the claims of blackmail and a gay lobby within the Vatican are swept under the rug — or, locked away in a safe to be technically correct — for the next pope to deal with. The buck passing is especially unsettling because it exists in an institution that has a history keeping things secret. This history goes hand in hand with the low expectation that someone (namely: the pope to succeed Benedict XIV) will deal with these issues. The Vatican has been corrupt since its conception, and the defense that proponents of the conglomerate that is the Catholic Church frequently reference — that it teaches the word of Jesus — is not convincing. When the elites of Rome began to fear that early Christians were becoming too independent, the Emperor of Rome made Christianity a state religion which gave the state control and allowed the suck-ups of the Christian community to essentially hijack the religion. Thus, the Vatican was born and the teachings of Christ were distorted. The Vatican paired up with the wealthy elites and kings, a relationship that Jesus would never have approved of, much like the way the Protestants used Jesus’ teachings as a way to propel the idea that Jesus approved of capitalism and the exploitation of man.
The Vatican has a real chance at redemption. They could select a progressive pope, one that is perhaps openly gay. It’s a nice thought. The truth is that the Vatican has always been and probably always will be a house of hypocrites, shrouded in secrecy and scandal, and until someone from within the holy walls is willing to use this as a platform spring to reforming the twisted teachings of the Catholic Church, it will remain this way for popes to come.