Who is surprised to learn that there are gay priests in the Vatican?

A salacious story about gay priests in the Vatican has been making the media rounds.

The most complete version of the story, which broke in the Italian daily La Repubblica, was published by the Guardian, and repeated the claim that Benedict XVI’s resignation was tied to a secret report on corruption and infighting within the Vatican that included information about a group of gay priests who were being blackmailed because they had been caught in compromising situations.

It is worth noting that a report may exist and the depictions of what is in it may be true, but assertions that its contents provoked Benedict’s resignation may nonetheless be false. David Gibson makes this point well. He writes:

Benedict would receive the Captain Louis Renault Award (see below) if he were to declare himself “shocked” that gay men inhabit the priesthood and hierarchy, and of course the Vatican itself.

Marco Tosatti, the veteran Vaticanista at at La Stampa, puts it well today when he notes that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent 25 years as a top official in the Curia, much of it attempting to chase gay priests out, or to discipline priests and bishops and even cardinals guilty of sex scandals. And he spent nearly eight years as pope doing the same.

“In short,” Tosatti writes, “if there is anyone who has seen it all when it comes to priests, it is precisely Joseph Ratzinger. It does not seem terribly plausible that the discovery in the Roman Curia, like in the Church, like in the world, that there are “fish of every type” (the words are those of Ratzinger himself, from the Gospels) might have been the decisive blow in forcing the pope to abandon the Throne of St. Peter.”

The Vatican, after initially refusing to comment on the reports has now condemned them, as Al Jazeera reports.

A couple of points seem worth making: It is common knowledge that punitive attitudes about sexuality and the pressure to keep one’s identity hidden can lead to unhealthy behavior. People who hide their identities and engage in these behaviors are open to blackmail. So this news is less shocking than it is predictable. The church’s repressive teaching and the subterfuge it engenders–from officials of all sexual orientations–is what is undermining the church.

Captain Renault Award

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