Gay rights activists condemn the accusations from the man once responsible for the safety of the Pope as the "worst stereotypes" that homosexuals have long been subject to.
ROME — “A gay lobby so powerful could be dangerous for the safety of the pope.” Elmar Mäder, a former Commandant of the Swiss Guards, warned in an interview with weekly Swiss paper Schweiz am Sonntagthat such a “lobby” may indeed exist in the Vatican.
“I can speak from personal experience as to the existence of this lobby,” said Mäder, 50, who did not however say he know of any current dangers for the Holy Father. Still, he recalled that as head of the Swiss Guards he'd warned his men of possible risks from gay members of the Roman Curia, the governing body of the Catholic Church.
This comes after reports circulated last year in the Italian press of what was characterized as an influential "gay lobby" amongst clerics working in and around the Vatican.
The former commander seemed to back up such allegations, in the interview published Sunday. “The problem is that this network is comprised of people loyal to each other, so it constitutes a sort of secret society,” said Mäder, who headed up the iconic Swiss troops responsibile for the protection of the Pope. from 2002 to 2008. “If I had discovered that one of my men was gay, I would have never, ever promoted them. Even if, for me, homosexuality isn’t a problem, the risk of disloyalty would have been too high.”
Earlier this month, Schweiz am Sonntag published an account from an anonymous ex-Swiss Guard, who said he'd been subjected to sexual advances a number of times by different Vatican officials.
Current spokesperson for the Guards, Urs Breitenmoser, has downplayed the accusations, saying that “rumors of a gay network inside the Vatican are not our problem. The concerns of our men are exclusively of a religious and military nature.”
Mäder says he had personally reported the problem to the Curia in writing, and perhaps this may have led to his resignation: “I speak from direct experience: There is a dangerous gay lobby in the Vatican.”
This controversy, naturally, exploded immediately online, and Aurelio Mancuso, president of the rights group Equality weighed in. “With all the gay men who are part of the armed forces, I would recommend Mäder to be better informed, even about the history of the Swiss Guards.”
Gaynet president Franco Grillini added, “Statistically, gays are less violent than other human groups, so if the Pope really was surrounded by gay men in the Vatican, he could still sleep soundly.”
Mäder said the former Swiss Guard commander uses the same clichés as Russian President Vladimir Putin, confusing pedophilia and homosexuality. Mäder “condenses the worst stereotypes that homosexuals have been subject to as scapegoats, like the Jews, who were considered traitors, disloyal and untrustworthy,” Grillini added.
Six months ago, on his flight back from a papal visit to Brazil, Pope Francis said, “There’s a lot being written about gay lobbies. I myself still haven’t found anyone who comes to me with an ID card that has ‘gay’ written on it. They say that they’re there. I believe that when you meet someone like that, you must distinguish being gay from being in a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This is what’s bad. If a person is gay and looks for the Lord, and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”
On a visit Sunday to the Salesian parish of the Sacred Heart in Rome, Francis said, “Even the biggest of sins are forgiven. But if we don’t identify them by name, we can’t heal the wounds.”