BILGRIMAGE BLOG Wednesday, March 20, 2019
More on Frédéric Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican: The Dark Heart of Martel’s Story — Corruption of Pretend Heterosexuality Coupled with Abominable Treatment of Queer People
I have now made my way about halfway through Frédéric Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican, trans. Shaun Whiteside (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), and am finding the book grim going. It’s, as many commentators have noted, eye-popping, and overwhelming in the detail with which it tells — and documents — its story of corruption. To quote Mary Oliver in her poem “The Chance to Love Everything,” this is for me the dark heart of the story here: it’s a story of incredible corruption running through the governing structures and clerical culture of a major Christian institution, a story that does a very convincing job, I think, of rooting that corruption genetically in the intense homophobia of the governing elite of this institution.
This passage leaps out at me:
It was when I met the cardinals, bishops and priests who worked with him that I discovered the hidden side – the dark side – of his very long pontificate. A pope surrounded by plotters, thugs, a majority of closeted homosexuals, who were homophobes in public, not to mention all those who protected paedophile priests.
“Paul VI had condemned homosexuality, but it was only with the arrival of John Paul II that a veritable war was waged against gays,” I was told by a Curia priest who worked at John Paul II’s ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Irony of history: most of the players in this boundless campaign against homosexuals were homosexual themselves” (p. 194).
This is an important passage, it seems to me. Due to the intense adulation of many media folks of the rock-star pope John Paul II, few commentators have been willing to touch the corruption that surrounded him in his papal court — and the quite specific source of that corruption in the intense, vicious homophobia of many of the corrupt men surrounding John Paul II, who themselves had homosexual secrets in many cases.
While hiding those homosexual secrets, they chose to mount war against the queer community, combating its rights, scapegoating LGBT people — especially for the abuse crisis in the church — and targeting theologians calling for compassionate outreach to queer people.
So much of the corruption in the church right now is rooted in this historical matrix of the papacy of St. John Paul the Great — though it may take many years before people who are no longer blinded by the rock-star glitz of that image-savvy pope to recognize this.
And then there’s this grimly funny passage in Martel’s book:
For conservatives, lending credence to Viganò’s testament meant shooting themselves in the foot, while at the same time risking involvement in a civil war where any means were permitted. There are probably more closeted homosexuals on the right than on the left of the Church, and the boomerang effect would be devastating (p. 52).
Homophobic hard-right Catholics were initially deliriously happy that Viganò was bashing the gays and exposing the gays inside the hierarchy.
Then they realized that the gays included them and their heroes, and they had walked into a trap.
Bash McCarrick, and you immediately have to confront the fact that St. John Paul the Great elevated him to powerful positions — having received reports, we now know, about McCarrick’s sexual propensitiies and activities.
It’s hard to bash the gays in the church when you have people like Raymond Burke at your helm, and when your papal heroes — St. John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI — were surrounded by gobs and gobs of right-wing gay hierarchs.
The commentary of Louis Cornellier in his essay about Martel’s book “L’Église survivra-t-elle à Sodome?”seems to me right on target. Cornellier writes,
[Martel writes,] “Derrière la majorité des affaires d’abus sexuels, suggère-t-il, se trouvent des prêtres et des évêques qui ont protégé les agresseurs en raison de leur propre homosexualité et par peur qu’elle puisse être révélée en cas de scandale. La culture du secret qui était nécessaire pour maintenir le silence sur la forte prévalence de l’homosexualité dans l’Église a permis aux abus sexuels d’être cachés et aux prédateurs d’agir.”
Martel montre même que cette culture du silence, à son apogée sous les règnes de Jean-Paul II et de Benoît XVI, explique en partie une foule de malversations financières vaticanes, les compromissions de divers cardinaux avec les dictatures argentine, chilienne et cubaine et la répression de la théologie de la libération dont les grandes figures, note Martel, ‘étaient des religieux manifestement non gays’ alors que leurs adversaires ‘étaient, eux, des homophiles ou des homosexuels pratiquants.
[My rough translation: “Behind the majority of cases of sexual abuse, he (a priest interviewed by Martel) suggests, can be found priests and bishops who have protected the abusers due to their own homosexuality and out of fear that it might be revealed as scandal. The culture of secrecy that has been necessary for maintaining silence about the overweening prevalence of homosexuality in the church has permitted sexual abuse cases to be kept hidden and predators to prey.”
Martel shows, even, that this culture of silence, at its zenith in the papal reigns of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, helps in part to explain a plethora of embezzlement cases in the Vatican, the compromised behavior of several cardinals involved with dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, and Cuba, and the repression of liberation theology, the chief promoters of which, Martel notes, “were religious who were manifestly not gay,” while their adversaries “were themselves homophlies or practicing homosexuals.”]
It’s not the corruption of homosexuality itself, then. It’s not, as we’ve been told for far too long by these very same people in the bosom of the church, the (non-existent) corruption of having a homosexual sexual orientation, of having been shaped queer by God’s hands.
It’s the corruption of pretend heterosexuality coupled with abominable treatment of queer people — all engineered by homosexual clerics posturing as heterosexual — that’s the very dark heart of the corruption within the Catholic institution. So much of the corruption — real corruption, as in Vatican financial shenanigans and policies throwing progressive priests in Latin America to murderous wolves — begins with this dark heart of the story.
While people’s attention has been diverted to the non-existent corruption of simply having a gay sexual orientation, real, toxic corruption has spread through the Catholic institution as closeted, hateful gay clerics have attacked open, self-accepting gay people, while pretending to uphold and live by moral rules they themselves do not live by at all, those mounting these ugly attacks.
And here’s the nadir of this approach to being Catholic at this point in history:
His [Marcial Maciel’s] way of life was also highly unusual for the times – and for a priest. This father – who showed absolute humility in public, and great modesty on all occasions – lived privately in an armoured apartment, stayed in luxury hotels on his foreign travels and drove incredibly expensive sports cars. He also had false identities, kept two women by whom he would have at least six children, and had no hesitation in abusing his own sons, two of whom have since registered complaints against him.
In Rome, where he went often in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, he was welcomed as a humble servant of the Church by Paul VI and as a guest star by his “personal friend” John Paul II (p. 234).
Put the title “Saint” in front of John Paul’s name here, and you’ll see starkly what I mean by corruption running through the Catholic institution, but especially its clerical club — corruption directly related to the attempt to stigmatize as corrupt every human being in the world shaped queer by God’s hands. While the very persons disseminating that toxic message making queer people susceptible to scorn and violence are tightly guarding their own homosexual secrets ….
John Paul 11 was guilty of the most appalling crimes of cover up of abuse criminality.
He was not fit to be a modern saint.
He was a major cover up merchant.
He was an abuse cover upper.
He is no saint.
He was a truth cover upper and a liar.
He is now a disgraced politician.
May he be recognised as a political failure