Carmelo Abbate, an investigative reporter, provoked a sensation when he went undercover at gay sex parties for priests in the Vatican.
His tales of clergymen having casual sex in a men-only sauna, using “rent boys” and indulging in sado-masochistic encounters became a 2011 book titled Sex and the Vatican. Now his work has gained new respect after Pope Francis confirmed the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican.
“Finally the whole truth is coming out,” Mr Abbate said. “The Pope is saying not only that there is a strong gay component [in the Church] but also that this strong component has in some way influenced the behaviour of the Church.”
Mr Abbate, who works for Italy’s Panoramanews magazine, is convinced that the struggle with a gay network in the Roman curia lies behind Benedict XVI’s unusual decision to retire as Pope in February.
Benedict had commissioned a 300-page inquiry into the Curia by three eminent cardinals after the “Vatileaks” scandal in which his butler passed secret papal papers to an Italian journalist.
Leaks to the Italian press suggest that the report, known in Latin as the Relatio(Narration), contains allegations of a gay lobby of senior prelates in the Vatican who are in effect blackmailed into steering jobs and business to their lay male friends.
Questions have also been asked about the sale of space in a Roman palazzo housing Italy’s largest gay sauna to the Vatican for a quick €11 million (£9.3 million) profit.
Pope Francis confirmed the existence of a gay lobby in the Vatican while discussing the challenges of reforming the Roman Curia with a visiting Latin American church delegation on June 6. According to an account published by the group, he said: “It’s difficult. In the Curia there are holy people … But there is also a current of corruption; it’s true, there is. The ‘gay lobby’ is spoken about and it’s true. It’s there . . . We have to see what we can do.”
Mr Abbate estimates that 30 per cent of the Catholic clergy in the Vatican are homosexual and says some supposedly gay cardinals are known by female nicknames such as Jessica and Samantha. At one gay sex party he attended, posing as the boyfriend of a homosexual friend, he counted five priests.
“They are priests in the Vatican. One of them celebrated Mass in St Peter’s for Pope Benedict,” he said.
Homosexual behaviour has, on occasion, surfaced at the heart of the staunchly anti-gay Catholic Church.
In Britain, for example, Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien was caught up in a scandal after admitting that he made homosexual advances to other priests.
He withdrew from the conclave that elected the new Pope and is now doing penance at a retreat.
Just this week, it was reported that Italian prosecutors are investigating explosive claims about gay orgies involving a senior prelate and young men, some of them allegedly minors.
“At the start of the evening everyone ate and joked together. Later, they moved into another room where the senior prelate stripped off and surrounded himself with six or seven boys,” the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano quoted a source as saying.
Much, however, goes unreported. Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican correspondent of Italy’sLa Stampa newspaper, revealed this week, for instance, that a Vatican diplomat had been caught in bed with another man and fired from the diplomatic corps only to become a bishop some years later.
Don Andrea Gallo, a priest who died last month, wrote in his last book that the Catholic Church has “a very strong homosexual lobby: a group of bishops who hide their homosexuality and sublimate it not into chastity but rather in the quest for power. They seek to extend the network that unites them by making other homosexuals bishops.” Father Paolo Farinella, a Genoa priest, said Pope Francis should be careful if he takes on the gay lobby. “They can poison him. He’s not safe there and he is already quite isolated. He is risking his life,” he said.
Gay groups mocked the Pope’s reference to the lobby. “It’s not a group that is furthering the interests of the homosexual community but rather a group that is part of a violently homophobic Vatican power structure,” said Franco Grillini, president of Gaynet.
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