A previous post looked at a new book, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, that looked at some of the moral rot and rank hypocrisy that is the Vatican. The picture wasn't pretty, but Andrew Sullivan's new review gives a much more detailed picture that is utterly shocking and makes me wonder how decent, moral Catholics will remain in the Church. Yes, there are some who will always blindly follow the Church hierarchy since the seemingly need someone to tell them what to think and what to do so they can avoid making moral decisions on their own (we see the same in the Southern Baptist Convention where many will ignore the sex abuse bombshell that went off two weekends ago), but many Catholics have drifted far from the blind obedience that was more the norm in my childhood and teens. Given the immense damage the Church and its 12th century dogma on sexuality and the subordination of women has done over the centuries and today's 24/7 access to information, hopefully will find itself faced with fury over the widespread hypocrisy that seemingly is the norm and an inability to hide its very, very dirty laundry. Some, such as a piece in National Review have sought to dismiss the book:
The book is trash. The supposed justice meted to McCarrick amounts to a cover-up. The pope’s summit is trash and a coverup. These men do not fear the justice of God or men. All their training in theology, and their great insight about man’s depravity, is the schoolyard taunt “Whoever smelt it, dealt it.” To hell with them all.
Yet, the book appears to be consistent with stories of a blogger friend who was once a priest stationed at the Vatican. Power with no accountability of any kind in most instances is corrupting and here, the corruption is off the charts. When I think of the 37 years of self-hate and trying to "pray away the gay" because of what these hypocrites preached, it enrages me. Even more maddening is knowing that young lives continue to be harmed by these foul individuals all across the globe through the toxic dogma of the Church. Here are excerpts from Sullivan's lengthy piece in New York Magazine:
It’s a bewildering and vast piece of reporting — Martel interviewed no fewer than “41 cardinals, 52 bishops and monsignori, 45 apostolic nuncios, secretaries of nunciatures or foreign ambassadors, 11 Swiss Guards and over 200 Catholic priests and seminarians.” He conducted more than 1,500 interviews over four years, is quite clear about his sources, and helps the reader weigh their credibility. He keeps the identity of many of the most egregiously hypocritical cardinals confidential, but is unsparing about the dead.The picture Martel draws is jaw-dropping. Many of the Vatican gays — especially the most homophobic — treat their vows of celibacy with an insouciant contempt. Martel argues that many of these cardinals and officials have lively sex lives, operate within a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture, constantly hit on young men, hire prostitutes, throw chem-sex parties, and even pay for sex with church money. How do we know this? Because, astonishingly, they tell us.
So much of the information in the book comes from sources deep within the Holy See. Named and unnamed, they expose their fellow cardinals and bishops and nuncios as hypocrites, without perhaps realizing that their very targets are doing the same to them.
Among the named sources: Francesco Lepore, a brilliant young gay Latin translator and priest. He soared through the ranks, directly serving Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, until, as a gay man, he found a way to quit his post because he couldn’t abide the double life he was forced to lead, or the rancid hypocrisy of the whole system.
I’m no naïf when it comes to the gayness of the church. I’ve lived in it as a gay man for all my adult life, and my eyes are open. And so the book did not surprise me, as such, but it still stunned, shocked, and disgusted me. You simply cannot unread it, or banish what is quite obviously true from your mind.
[A]s Martel probes deeper and deeper, one theme emerges very powerfully: “Homosexuality spreads the closer one gets to the holy of holies; there are more and more homosexuals as one rises through the Catholic hierarchy. The more vehemently opposed a cleric is to gays, the stronger his homophobic obsession, the more likely it is that he is insincere, and that his vehemence conceals something.” It’s a lesson I learned reporting my own recent essay on gay priests.
And so it’s not that huge a surprise to see how influenced Paul VI was by gay Catholic writers of the time. And it’s highly predictable that John Paul II’s pontificate, which launched a new war on homosexuals, turns out to be the gayest of them all — and the one most resistant to any inquiry into stories of sex abuse. His right-hand man and successor, Joseph Ratzinger, (the future Pope Benedict XVI) personally received notification of every claim of sex abuse in the church under John Paul II, ignoring most, and made the stigmatization and persecution of sane, adjusted non-abusive gay people across the globe his mission instead.
As for America, Martel notes what is already in the public record:
“Cardinal Wakefield Baum of Washington, recently deceased, lived for many years with his personal assistant … Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington, … was well known for his ‘sleeping arrangements’ with seminarians and young priests whom he called his ‘nephews’ … Archbishop Rembert Weakland was ‘outed’ by a former boyfriend … One American cardinal has been banned from the Vatican and sent back to the United States for his improper conduct with a Swiss Guard. Another American cardinal, the bishop of a large city in the United States, ‘has lived for years with his boyfriend, a former priest’, while an archbishop of another city, a devotee of the Latin mass and a man much given to cruising, ‘lives surrounded by a flock of young seminarians’, a fact confirmed to me by Robert Carl Mickens, an American Vaticanologist familiar with the gay lifestyle of the senior Catholic hierarchy in the United States.”
Some of the most conservative clerics concede the truth of the book on the record. Or take Martel’s interaction with the Swiss Guards, one of whom vents: “The harassment is so insistent that I said to myself that I was going straight home. Many of us are exasperated by the usually rather indiscreet advances of the cardinals and bishops.” Or the prostitutes who keep elaborate records of their clients, and have already caused huge scandals in Italy.
But critics of the book — and the defensive dismissals of it as mere salacious gossip are already out there — have to argue that Martel is a liar, a fabulist, a con artist, who faked these remarkable interviews. I don’t buy it.
I’ve offered just a glimpse of the revelations in the book. I urge every Catholic to read it, however difficult that may be. It will also be fascinating to see how the various factions within Catholicism will respond to it. . . . . But if the Catholic right wants to weaponize the book, they’ll have to take on their own icons, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and a whole range of their closest allies in the church. And the core thesis of the book — which is that it is the hypocrisy of the closet that is the real problem — is not one the right will be able easily to absorb.
There can be no meaningful reform until this closet is ended, and the whole sick, twisted syndrome is unwound.
How do you do that? The crisis is so profound, the corruption so deep, the duplicity so brazen that only a radical change will help. Ending mandatory celibacy is no longer an option. It’s a necessity. Women need to be brought in to the full sacramental life of the church. Gay men need to be embraced not as some manifestation of “intrinsic moral evil” but as human beings made in the image of God and capable of mutual love, care, and support.
As for me, someone who has wrestled with the question of homosexuality and Catholicism for much of my adult life, this book has, to be honest, been gutting. All the painful, wounding Vatican documents on my “objective disorder” that I have tried to parse and sincerely engage … I find out they were written, in part, by tormented gay men, partly to deflect from their own nature. Everything I was taught growing up — to respect the priests and hierarchs, to trust them, to accept their moral authority — is in tatters.
[I]n my view, the last drops of moral authority the Vatican might hope to have evaporate with this book. It is difficult to express the heartbroken rage so many of us in the pews now feel.
Unlike Sullivan who has remained Catholic - a form of masochism in my view - I left the Church when I came out and even had my name stricken from the membership rolls for the Diocese of Richmond. The remainder of my siblings and nieces and nephews have left the church. Any who remain Catholic in my extended family will likely find it difficult to remain in the Church with the revelations of this book.