Via della Conciliazione
Via della Conciliazione
Andrea Tornielli

VATICAN CITY - The Holy See has opted for silence, following the uproar provoked by the comments attributed to Pope Francis that there is a “gay lobby" inside the Vatican.

The leaders of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Clerics, have condemned the publication of the transcript of their meeting with Pope Francis, which ended up on the website "Reflexion y Liberación" (Reflection and Liberation), without explaining how the transcript came to be published. And while voices from within the Vatican repeat that these statements cannot be attributed to the Pope, nobody has denied their content.

“The Curia is astounded that Francis is no longer able to speak freely in private without his comments being made public,” said one Vatican official. He added that while the "gay lobby" may have been frequently discussed in the past, the breaking news is that the Pope has now spoken about it, albeit maybe not in those exact terms.

On Wednesday, as he greeted more than 50,000 faithful at the General Audience, the Pope didn’t seem at all worried by the event which may well become the first media scandal of his pontificate. And he may be right not to panic, as little can be done now to change the situation. After all, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s comments on the “filth in the Church” eight years ago, just weeks before he was elected to be Pope Benedict XVI, cannot be forgotten. Neither can the “cordate”, the internal networks of power and influence within the Curia, and the Vatileaks scandal which dominated the debate, especially amongst foreign cardinals, before the most recent conclave.

There was also the case this year of the Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien who was forced to resign without participating in the conclave after admitting to inappropriate sexual conduct with junior clergy members 30 years ago.

In short, despite some indignant reactions and internal denials, it is no great mystery that this problem exists within the Vatican. According to a recently published Spanish biography, before leaving Argentina for the conclave that would elect him, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio cited “cleaning up the Curia” as one of the duties of the new pontiff. Of course, he didn’t expect that he himself -- already past his 76th birthday -- would be taking on that task.

Caught in the act

It is difficult to untangle the complicated web of overlapping accusations that circulate within the Vatican, where anonymous letters are the order of the day, and simply floating an accusation of homosexuality is the best way to destroy one’s adversary. However, it must be remembered that a few years ago, an inquiry by the Italian programme “Exit” secretly filmed a monsignor with a young boy whom he had found on the Internet. The prelate lost his job in the Curia, despite maintaining that he had chatted with the boy and invited him to his office because he was conducting a "study."

On the other hand, at times even being caught in flagrante is not enough to interrupt a burgeoning career. This was the case for the brilliant Vatican diplomat who was discovered in bed with a man and removed from the embassy where he worked -- but who nonetheless became a bishop some years later. For these obviously “protected” members of the clergy, their careers will continue uninterrupted. An accusation of homosexuality made by a cardinal against an influential bishop in the Curia will prevent the latter being appointed to an important position; but the top-secret investigation by a 007 in a habit will absolve the accused, who will then finally be promoted.

And what about the handful of young, entrepreneuring non-believers who wormed their way into the good graces of top Vatican officials via unmentionable rounds of bargaining and sexual encounters? The case of Angelo Balducci, one of the Papal Gentlemen, provided an insight into this squalid underworld when it emerged that a chorister from the Cappella Giulia choir had been procuring paid lovers for him.

The website “Venerabilis” also demonstrates the existence of a network of “homosensitive” monsignori. The site is promoted by members of the “Homosexual Roman Catholic Priests Fraternity”, a virtual group which puts in touch gay priests, some of whom work in the offices of the Roman Curia.

The Pope’s comments on this topic, like those on ecclesiastical “careerism” and the transparency of the Vatican’s finances, indicate that His Holiness is well aware what issues he must confront on the home front during his Pontificate.

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