In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by Frédéric Martel – review

Four years in the making, this exhaustive exposé of the Catholic church’s moral fraudulence demands outrage

Cardinal sins: ‘The scale of the Vatican’s sanctimonious mendacity reminds Martel of the Third Reich.’

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When God died, the official cause was elderly enfeeblement; after reading Frédéric Martel’s exposé of infamy in the Catholic church, I suspect that the old boy committed suicide in remorse, aghast at the crimes and un-Christian sins of organised religion.

Although Martel’s book is published just in time to spoil a pious conference on clerical paedophilia convened by the pope, the abuse of minors is not all that St Peter’s pharisaical heirs have to answer for. The Vatican combines a venality that the mafia might envy with a bigotry worthy of Steve Bannon (who not coincidentally was in Rome for last week’s gathering), and to this already foul mixture it adds an unctuous hypocrisy. The moral fraudulence of the church is Martel’s subject: having spent four years sleuthing in all corners of the Catholic world, he establishes that during the past few papacies the fieriest critics of homosexuality – the cardinals who regarded Aids as a divine judgment, condemned the distribution of condoms in Africa, called gender theory an abomination, and ignored peccadilloes like those of the Cuban priest who administered a special blessing to the penises of little boys – were themselves unabashedly gay.

Some of them cruised in Roman parks, claiming diplomatic immunity whenever they were bothered by the police; others used their smartphones to summon Arab hustlers. Many attended infernally red-lit orgies in the Vatican, with party drugs and strapping seminarians on tap, and quite a few rejoiced in drag-queen nicknames. One financially canny episcopal plutocrat added Rome’s busiest gay sauna to his bulging property portfolio. Martel includes a single incongruously heterosexual anecdote, about a prince of the church who died of a heart attack in Paris while having overenergetic sex with a prostitute called Mimi. Jesuitical spin doctors claimed he’d paid her a visit in the hope of persuading her to repent, which didn’t explain why he was naked when the ambulance arrived.

Is all this a symptom of bad faith, or perhaps of closeted self-disgust? No, it simply reveals the convenient duplicity of Catholicism: as André Gide put it, after the theologian Jacques Maritain failed to dissuade him from publishing his memoir of romps with Arab boys, “I hate lying. That’s where my Protestantism takes refuge. Catholics don’t like the truth.” The scale of the Vatican’s sanctimonious mendacity reminds Martel of the Third Reich, where the euphemisms and evasions of an entire society destroyed “the reality of a common world”.

Visiting a cardinal who is “refined and well pomaded”, Martel is “submerged in a cloud of scent” when he makes a detour to the man’s bathroom and checks his medicine cabinet; inside the Vatican, his astute French nose detects expensive traces of “amber, violet, musk, champaca” when his perfumed interviewees waft towards him. But the prevailing odour in his book is sulphur, a metaphorical stink that alerts Martel to the presence of the devil.

He flinches when introduced to George Pell, the Australian cardinal recently found guilty of sexual abuse in Melbourne (he will be sentenced later this month), whose colleagues in the Vatican treasury called him “Pell Pot” in homage to the bloodthirsty Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Martel manages not to feel frightened on this occasion, but is glad never to have encountered two Latin American priests who strike him as unequivocally “evil”. In Mexico, the “diabolical” Marcial Maciel amassed “insane levels of wealth” and indulged in systematic “sexual violence”, while of course exhibiting pious meekness on public occasions; in Colombia, López Trujillo – like Maciel, now defunct – connived at the murder of dozens of priests and bishops, who were eliminated by paramilitary brigades after he fingered them for their progressive opinions.

Among all this villainy, Martel has a sneaky fondness for Pope Benedict XVI, who railed against homosexuals while flouncing about in natty ermine-lined bonnets and lipstick-red Prada slippers. In one decadent episode, Benedict moons over his hunky chamberlain Georg Gänswein during the younger man’s consecration as an archbishop, caressing his Clooneyesque salt-and-pepper curls for all of 19 enraptured seconds. Despite such florid displays of an apparently platonic affection, Martel sees Benedict as a victim of wishful self-neutering. As Nietzsche remarked, “The saint pleasing to God is the ideal castrato”.

It’s a pity that Martel’s book is so preposterously long and lazily repetitive; lacking an index, it will be useless as a reference work. I also worry a little about its methods. Some highly placed informants are given the benefit of anonymity, and others are lured into confiding or confessing by the flirty signals Martel transmits. “He employs guile with me,” he says during a teasing duel with Pope John Paul II’s former secretary, “and I play with him.” Stray comments reveal a double standard. Thus he denounces Catholic potentates for the luxury in which they live, yet grimaces like a snooty interior decorator when he visits one residence: “The furniture is horrible, as it often is in the Vatican,” he sniffs. The tone falters because Martel seems unsure whether to be horrified by the church’s corruption or to let out a gasp of high-camp amazement at its excesses. Given the evidence that he has uncovered, I’d say that outrage is the better option.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church is bursting with secrets. Investigating one will unravel them all.

Pope Francis in Rome on Feb. 14.

By Garry Wills

The New York Times published an extraordinary article this week based on interviews with two dozen gay Catholic priests and seminarians in 13 states. “Out” men and women today are often widely admired, but most of the interviews had to be conducted anonymously because the Vatican still treats homosexuality as “objectively disordered” — a policy that persists even though the representation of gay men in the priesthood is higher, probably far higher, than in the general population.

The relevant catechism about sexuality does not condemn people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” just those who act on those tendencies. In other words, you can be gay so long as you don’t do anything about it. The Times article rightly presents this distinction as a trial for the priests involved — one of the last major throwbacks to the era of “the love that dare not speak its name” (as Oscar Wilde’s partner, Lord Alfred Douglas, put it). But I wondered how the church’s policy on homosexuality affects men and women, as well as boys and girls, who are not priests.

The gay priest is required, generally, to uphold the official teaching of his church and of his superiors, making him a collaborator in the suppression of his gay brothers and sisters outside the clergy. In this way, without intending to, the victimized become victimizers. How does that play out, to take an example, in the confessional? If a penitent confesses homosexual activity to a gay priest, does the priest channel God’s forgiveness of a sin that he does not himself consider a sin? This is just one of the many ways in which we Catholics, if we refrain from criticizing this particular stance of our church, contribute to the persecution of the LGBTQ community.

The deepest irony is that a priest who is required to go against his nature is told that he must do this because of “natural law.” The church’s quaint theory of natural law is that the first biological use of an activity is the only permissible use of that activity. If the biological use of sex is for procreation, any other use is “against nature.”

The absurdity of this view is made clear by considering the first biological use for eating: the sustenance of life. If every other use of nutrition is against nature, then any diet beyond what is consumed for life-maintenance is a sin — in other words, no wedding cakes, no champagne toasts. Yet the church continues to adhere to so-called natural law because it underpins doctrine on all sexual matters, including the condemnations of abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem-cell research.

Given the stakes in these and other matters, the ban on gay sex involves a larger “church teaching” than the single matter of homosexuality.

Priests and bishops who cover up male homosexuality are prone to a mutual blackmail with those who commit and conceal heterosexual acts by the clergy — sometimes involving women, including nuns, who have been victimized by priests. The Times’s portrait of gay priests was followed by a powerful Feb. 18 article revealing that the church has internal policies for dealing with priests who father children. The Vatican confirmed, apparently for the first time, that a priest with progeny is encouraged to ask for release from his ministry “to assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child” — there being no requirement in canon law that a priest perform this basic act of love for his offspring and the child’s mother.

Secrecy in one clerical area intersects with secrecy in others. There is an implicit pledge that “your secret is safe with my secret.” If there are gay nuns — and why would there not be? — that adds another strand to the interweavings of concealment.

The trouble with any culture that maintains layer upon layer of deflected inspections is that, when so many people are guarding their own secrets, the deep examination of an institution becomes nearly impossible. The secrecies are too interdependent. Truly opening one realm of secrecy and addressing it may lead to an implosion of the entire system. That is the real problem faced this week by Pope Francis and the church leaders he has summoned from around the world for a conference at the Vatican to consider the labyrinthine and long-standing scandals of clerical sex abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

Former archbishop no longer allowed to say mass in Twin Cities

John Nienstedt resigned in disgrace from the archdiocese in 2015

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The man who was at the helm of the Twin Cities Catholic church during the clergy abuse scandals is now officially banned from celebrating mass in his former archdiocese.

Former Archbishop John Nientstedt, who resigned from the archdiocese in 2015, is no longer free to “exercise public ministry” there, per an order from his successor, Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

The reason? Nienstedt is himself facing unresolved allegations of abuse involving minors.

According to a Friday announcement from Archbishop Hebda, the alleged incident is said to have occurred in 2005, when Nienstedt was bishop of New Ulm. He is alleged to have undressed in front of two “unaccompanied minors” in his hotel room at a World Youth Day event in Germany.

As the announcement points out, Nienstedt denies this ever happened.

However, he has also been accused of “inappropriate conduct with adult males,” and according to documents that surfaced in 2016, Neinstedt has been dogged by allegations from fellow priests and rumors of a “promiscuous gay lifestyle” for years.

In his letter, Hebda points out that “any effort by the Vatican” to address these latter allegations was suspended in 2015 when Nienstedt resigned, leaving the matter “unresolved for the accusers, for Archbishop Nienstedt and for the public.”

Hebda says he is “troubled by the failure to bring closure” to an investigation into the matter, and that he shares the frustration of all involved that the situation has been left in limbo.

The archbishop added that he believes “this situation highlights the need for a better-defined process and independent mechanism to resolve allegations made against bishops.”

Hebda’s Friday declaration, he points out, “is not intended to convey an indication or presumption of guilt,” which is true of all “similar cases involving our priests and deacons.”

Nienstedt’s current status

Earlier this year, Nienstedt stepped down from his consulting duties at the Napa Institute, a Catholic organization.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the resignation came amid a wave of criticism against the Napa Institute for employing Nienstedt despite its “stance against bishops accused of mishandling sexual abuse.”

Indeed, Nienstedt was heavily criticized for his leadership during the high-profile sex abuse cases that rocked the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The archdiocese declared bankruptcy in the wake of a multimillion-dollar settlement against the church, and is still working to administer those settlements.

Complete Article HERE!

Priests, celibacy and sex

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick listens during a news conference in Washington in this May 16, 2006, file photo.

By Thomas Reese, SJ

Recent news stories about financial settlements with adults who had sexual encounters with a bishop show that the issue of sex abuse in the Catholic Church is not limited to the abuse of minors. When Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was suspended from the priesthood after being credibly accused of abusing an altar boy, it was also revealed that financial settlements for his actions had been made earlier with two adults.

The church has adopted a zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of minors, but how should it deal with other sexual activity by priests?

The requirement of celibacy for priests in the Catholic Church is a topic of debate in the church today. Many, myself included, think that priestly celibacy should be optional, as it is in other Christian churches. Pope Francis has signaled that he is open to considering the ordination of married men but wants the request to come from national bishops’ conferences.

But Francis is also very strong is stating that in the meantime, celibacy must be observed. He would not throw out every priest who violated celibacy; individual lapses can be forgiven. But a priest who is incapable of observing celibacy should return to the lay state, Francis wrote before he became pope, especially if there is a child who has a right to a father.

Not everyone agrees with Francis. Some are less forgiving and would expel from the priesthood anyone who even once violates his promise of celibacy. Others argue that celibacy has never been universally observed and bad laws should not be enforced. In some cultures, bishops know that many of their priests do not observe celibacy and simply ignore it as long as it does not become public or as long as the parishioners don’t complain.

It is unknown how widespread are violations of celibacy. There are lots of anecdotes, but little data. I personally believe that most priests, especially in the United States, observe celibacy. But how are we to think about those who do not?

There is universal agreement that those who have sex with minors should be prosecuted as criminals and expelled from the priesthood. But what about violations with adults? Are there other sexual violations that should be treated by the church with zero tolerance?

Rape or other criminal violations should, of course, receive zero tolerance. These violations should be reported to the police and prosecuted under the law. There is no place in the priesthood for such criminals.

But what about other cases of sex with adults? Many Americans don’t think sex between consenting adults is an issue. But they and the church need to learn from feminists and the #MeToo movement. They have taught us about the danger of sex between adults who are not in positions of equal power.

For the church, this would clearly be the case of a bishop or priest having sex with a seminarian or a bishop having sex with a priest. The relationship here is even greater than that between an employer and employee. A bishop is supposed to be a father to his priests and seminarians. The church needs a zero-tolerance policy toward such abuse. Any bishop having sex with a seminarian or priest should lose his office, as should any priest having sex with a seminarian.

There also are many lay people employed by the church. Surely, the church should follow the highest standards in protecting lay employees from sexual harassment from their supervisors, whether priests or lay. Here the church should adopt best practices developed in the secular world.

There are also pastoral relationships that need to be examined since often the people a priest deals with are very vulnerable.

For centuries, the church has recognized this problem with regard to confessors and penitents. As a result, priests are excommunicated if they absolve their sexual partners.

Secular professionals, such as psychologists, recognize these dangers as well. Clients can be very vulnerable and dependent on their therapist. The feelings and emotions that come up in counseling can be exploited. The church can learn from other professions about best practices.

And what about sex with an ordinary parishioner?

The church needs a frank discussion of these issues with input from the laity. Sex between a priest and adult can be more than simply a violation of celibacy. It can also be a violation of professional ethics. With the advice of laity with expertise in these areas, the church needs to adopt best practices and hold itself to the highest standards. The church needs the help of laity not only in developing standards but also in enforcing them. No profession, including the clergy, is good at policing itself.

Complete Article HERE!

Man denied singing at grandmother’s funeral because of ‘gay lifestyle’

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A man from Indiana said a priest told him he wasn’t allowed to sing at his grandmother’s funeral because he attended a gay pride rally. The whole thing stemmed from a picture shared on Conner Hakes Facebook page, which was uploaded by a friend last year.

Hakes said he and his family have been longtime members of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur. His grandmother lived nearby, and generations before her have been a part of this church.

So when his Grandmother passed away last Monday, Hakes contacted the church Tuesday to get permission to sing at her funeral. Father Bob J. Lengerich denied that request, concerned that he was His concern was living a same-sex life and openly advocating for LGBT rights.

“This Priest had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me,” said Hakes.

Hakes maintains that Lengerich never came to him to discuss if he was participating in a gay lifestyle or not, and said he sang numerous times for the congregation previously.

However, a letter states that if Hakes were to sing at the funeral, that would scandalize the church and the congregation. The letter goes on to say that any person who serves in the church or as a representative of the church must uphold the church’s values.

“This was coming from a man, a priest out of my home Parish that I have always felt very loved and welcomed in,” said Hakes. “All of he sudden I felt very ostracized.”

The letter explained that Catholic Church forbids people who defy the rules of the church, including people who are divorced and remarried without having the marriage annulled, those who support abortion rights, and openly participate in unchaste same-sex relationships.

Lengerich said that Hakes is allowed to honor his grandmother with a tribute song, only if it is outside of the Mass and outside of the church.

“It was very clear to me that he was very set in his mindset,” said Hakes. “He did not want me to participate in my grandmothers funeral.”

me thinks she doth protest too much...Father Bob J. Lengerich
me thinks she doth protest too much…Father Bob J. Lengerich

Hakes took his frustration to social media; posting the letter and condemning it’s message. It was shared nearly 850 times with more than 420 comments. Hakes said he doesn’t blame the church members for what happened, but he prays that Father Lengerich will change his ways.

“I pray honestly for the softening of his heart and that he becomes a better leader for the Catholic Church,” he said.

In the meantime, St. Mary’s Parish issued this statement:

Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.”

Hakes and his family has filed a formal complaint with leaders of the Diocese. His family is planning to meet with leaders there.

Complete Article HERE!