Sixteen years ago, reporters at The Boston Globe conducted an extensive investigation of the sexual abuse of minors by priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Not long thereafter, reporters elsewhere detailed similar abuse in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and the like. The word used in the press to describe what had been going on was pedophilia, which is a misnomer deliberately employed to cover up what journalists then considered and still consider now an inconvenient aspect of the truth.
As a report commissioned by the National Review Board of the American Catholic bishops and issued in 2004 revealed, something like 81 percent of the victims were boys, and very few of them were, in the strictest sense, children. They were nearly all what we euphemistically call young adults. They were male adolescents on the younger side – at the age when boys as they mature can briefly be downright pretty.
What was involved was what its advocates call man-boy love: a sexual relationship between a grown man who serves as a mentor and a boy who is under his care or simply admires or stand in awe of him. The ancient Greeks, who practiced this systematically in the classical period, called this phenomenon pederasty, and I wrote extensively about it 26 years ago in the first part of my hardback book Republics Ancient and Modern (the pertinent chapter can be found in the first volume of the paperback edition).
In the course of these investigations, a number of other things came to light. First, a priest named Gerald Fitzgerald – who had in 1947 in New Mexico founded a small religious order named Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete to counsel priests who had difficulty with alcoholism, substance abuse, celibacy, and the like – had for decades been trying to alert the American bishops and officials in the Vatican (including Pope Paul VI) to the fact that priestly pederasty (which, he said, was unheard of before World War II) was within the American Catholic Church a growing problem. And he had persistently tried to persuade the hierarchy to forbid the perpetrators’ supervision of boys and to laicize them – all to no avail.
It also turned out that in 1984, when a scandal of this sort broke out in the diocese of Lafayette, LA, a Dominican priest named Thomas P. O’Doyle — who was a canon lawyer working for the Papal Nuncio in Washington and had seen numerous reports of a similar kind cross his desk – had joined with a Louisiana lawyer named F. Ray Mouton, Jr., and another priest, a psychiatrist named Michael Peterson, who directed a hospital for troubled priests and knew a great deal, to conduct an extensive investigation of clerical misconduct along these lines throughout the United States. The report that these three men produced was sent to every bishop in the country in May 1985, and then it was ignored – and bishop after bishop continued the long-standing practice of covering up the scandals that arose, of paying off the victims and eliciting from them a non-disclosure agreement, and of transferring the perpetrators from one parish to another and even from one diocese to another.
Not long after the scandal first broke and the National Review Board issued its 2004 report, I was a guest at a dinner hosted by a Catholic friend, as was a highly intelligent, young local priest who, everyone knew, would someday become a bishop. By then it was evident to anyone who bothered to read the report that pederasty, not pedophilia, was the problem, and I had long known that there were seminaries in the United States that were essentially cathouses in which all of the cats were male.
When talk turned to the clerical scandal, I suggested that the fatal decision made by the American bishops in 1985 to continue the practice of covering everything up must have come from Rome. If, I argued, every diocese followed the same procedures, the bishops must have received guidance from the center. Could it then be the case, I asked, that this is not a peculiarly American problem; that this is going on elsewhere, all over the world; that Rome is the epicenter; and that the Papal nuncio in Washington or his superiors at the Vatican are complicit? Could it be the case that the colleges in Rome, established for the education of especially promising seminarians from all over the world, were in effect gay bordellos and that promotion into the hierarchy for many a young priest came at a price?
My host knew what I was talking about. He had once been a Jesuit novice, and he had been expelled from the Jesuits by the provincial for complaining about the sexual misconduct going on in the novitiate all around him. What I remember most vividly, however, was the silence of the young priest at the dinner table. He had been talkative. Now he said not a word. He was even then a handsome young man, and he had studied at the North American College at a time when he was no doubt even more striking. As we left, I remember saying to my wife, “He knows more than he is willing to divulge.”
I do not mean to say that he was complicit. I doubt that very much. I do mean to suggest that he had received unwanted attention and that he knew that, if he talked about it, it would put a stop to his clerical career.
Later, of course, it became evident that my suspicions with regard to Rome were justified. In the intervening years, there have been scandals identical to the American scandal in Canada, Australia, Belgium, Bavaria, Ireland, Honduras, Chile, and elsewhere. And, a few years ago, we learned that a host of high-level figures in the Curia were being blackmailed by their male lovers. I am told that Pope Benedict, who had already by that time contracted Parkinson’s Disease, resigned his office in this connection because he knew that there needed to be a purge and he feared that he did not have the physical stamina to carry it out himself. In his memoirs, Pope Benedict touches on the “gay lobby” and confesses to a lack of resoluteness on his own part. As everyone understood at the time, the task of cleaning house was to be left to his successor.
In the interim between Pope Benedict’s papacy and that of his successor, we received another indication of the depth of the problem. In the newspapers of Scotland, we learned that Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, a cardinal and archbishop who was the Primate of Scotland, had been buggering seminarians and young priests for years and that nothing had been done in response to the complaints that they had submitted to the Papal Nuncio. It was only when they went public in 2013 that the Vatican acted.
Unfortunately, however, Benedict’s successor was Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina – the man who calls himself Pope Francis. As a Belgian cardinal named Gottfried Daneels – who had been removed as an archbishop because he had covered up pederasty on the part of another Belgian cardinal and had come out in support of contraception, divorce, gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion – revealed in his memoirs, Bergoglio’s candidacy was promoted by the St. Gallen Group, a part of what Catholics call “the Lavender Mafia.” This disgraced figure stood on the balcony with Bergoglio after he was elected Pope; he was chosen to say the prayer at the new Pope’s inauguration; and there was joy in the ranks of those inclined to break the vow of celibacy.
If you want to get a sense of what such people thought, I suggest that you read “The Vatican’s Secret Life,” an article that appeared in Vanity Fair in December 2013. It is an eye-opener. Its author, Michael Joseph Gross, is not scandalized by what he found. He celebrates it; and, tellingly, he never once mentions, even under the guise of pedophilia, the propensity of prominent priests to indulge in pederasty. As Gross observes,
At the Vatican, a significant number of gay prelates and other gay clerics are in positions of great authority. They may not act as a collective but are aware of one another’s existence. And they inhabit a secretive netherworld, because homosexuality is officially condemned. Though the number of gay priests in general, and specifically among the Curia in Rome, is unknown, the proportion is much higher than in the general population. Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald B. Cozzens in his well-regarded The Changing Face of the Priesthood. For gay clerics at the Vatican, one fundamental condition of their power, and of their priesthood, is silence, at least in public, about who they really are.
Clerics inhabit this silence in a variety of ways. A few keep their sexuality entirely private and adhere to the vow of celibacy. Many others quietly let themselves be known as gay to a limited degree, to some colleagues, or to some laypeople, or both; sometimes they remain celibate and sometimes they do not. A third way, perhaps the least common but certainly the most visible, involves living a double life. Occasionally such clerics are unmasked, usually by stories in the Italian press. In 2010, for the better part of a month, one straight journalist pretended to be the boyfriend of a gay man who acted as a “honeypot” and entrapped actual gay priests in various sexual situations. (The cardinal vicar of Rome was given the task of investigating. The priests’ fates are unknown.)
There are at least a few gay cardinals, including one whose long-term partner is a well-known minister in a Protestant denomination. There is the notorious monsignor nicknamed “Jessica,” who likes to visit a pontifical university and pass out his business card to 25-year-old novices. (Among the monsignor’s pickup lines: “Do you want to see the bed of John XXIII?”) There’s the supposedly straight man who has a secret life as a gay prostitute in Rome and posts photographs online of the innermost corridors of the Vatican. Whether he received this privileged access from some friend or family member, or from a client, is impossible to say; to see a known rent boy in black leather on a private Vatican balcony does raise an eyebrow.
I recommend that you read the whole article. The author interviewed a great many clerics in Rome, and he makes it clear that they were delighted with the choice of Bergoglio and with his selection of advisers.
They had reason to be delighted. Since his election, Pope Francis has done everything within his power to soften and subvert the Church’s teaching concerning human sexuality. He put the Lavender Mafia in charge of the two Synods on the Family held in 2014 and 2015. They tried to push through their agenda; and, when the assembled bishops balked, they got a tongue-lashing from the Pope, and he inserted in the final report without comment two paragraphs that had not received the requisite two-thirds vote. All of this – including the machinations of the St. Gallen Group and the role played by Cardinal Daneels – is laid out in detail by an English Catholic, who was in Rome during the early year of this papacy, and who writes under the pseudonym Marcantonio Colonna. The title is The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy.
In the last few weeks, we have received further evidence of the power of the prelate-pederasts. A grand jury convened in Pennsylvania has revealed that Donald Wuerl, while bishop of Pittsburgh, covered up a priest-run child-porn ring and a host of other abuses cases involving something on the order of 100 priests, using the age-old trick of pay-offs and non-disclosure agreements. But this did not stop him from being named Archbishop of Washington DC and of being made a Cardinal – which is to say, a Prince of the Church. He was not even high on the list of possible nominees submitted by the Papal Nuncio. Someone powerful in the Vatican wanted him promoted, and Pope Francis responded to the news of his guilt not by ordering an investigation into Wuerl’s promotion, but with a dodge – by attributing collective guilty to us all.
This past weekend, the chickens finally came home to roost. We had already learned of the predatory conduct of Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor as Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington. The evidence showed that he had buggered altar boys and seminarians while auxiliary bishop in New York, bishop of Metuchen in New Jersey, and Archbishop of Newark. Formal complaints had been lodged against him as the 1990s and continued to be lodged in later years, but they were ignored, and he was nonetheless promoted. On Saturday night, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who was the Papal Nuncio in Washington from 2011 to 2016, released an eleven-page testament, revealing that Pope Benedict had learned of McCarrick’s conduct, that he had acted against the man in 2009 or 2010 by silencing him, prohibiting him from travel, and forbidding him to say mass in public; that in 2013 he had himself personally warned Pope Francis against McCarrick, spelling out in detail the man’s misdeeds; that Francis had reversed the restrictions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict; that he had taken him as his chief American advisor; and that Francis had ignored the advice of the Papal Nuncio and accepted that of McCarrick in choosing archbishops and bishops for the United States – including Blaise Cupich, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, and Joseph Tobin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Newark. Viganò also did something on Saturday night that, as far as I know, no high-ranking prelate has done in more than six hundred years. He called on the Pope to resign.
In the meantime, Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume, former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, DC has emerged to confirm that Viganò‘s predecessor had been instructed to confine McCarrick by Pope Benedict, that he had himself witnessed the confrontation with McCarrick, and that everything else that Viganò himself had said was true. To this, we must add that Viganò named names in the Vatican, specifying which high officials had obstructed the investigation into McCarrick’s conduct.
As all of this suggests, we are now at a turning point. The Lavender Mafia controls the Papacy and the Vatican overall, and Pope Francis is packing the College of Cardinals, who will elect the next Pope, with sympathizers. Pope Francis and his minions have now been exposed, named, and shamed; and there will be a civil war within the Roman Catholic Church. Either Francis leaves and his supporters and clients are purged. Or the Church is conceded to those who for decades have sheltered and promoted the pederasts and those who regard their abuse of minors as a matter indifferent. It is time that those bishops, archbishops, and cardinals who are innocent of such conduct stand up and force a house-cleaning. In the meantime, the laity should speak up loud and clear.