Sensational Headlines that Gays Pushed the Pope Out of Office Mask the Real Scandal of Vatican Affairs

Vatican Museum staircase

Vatican Museum staircase

A news story that sounds like the plot of a Dan Brown novel has been making headlines around the globe as it promotes the idea that Pope Benedict XVI was supposedly forced to resign by a group of gay prelates in the Vatican.

The Guardian newspaper reported:

“A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.

“The pope’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

“The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called ‘Vatileaks’ affair.

“Last May Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.

“According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising ‘two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red’ had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.”

While such a story could be true, the sensationalism, coupled with the paucity of facts, and being based on a “secret” document, all inspire serious doubts about its legitimacy.

Veteran church observer David Gibson downplays the possibility of the report’s veracity on his Religion News Service blog:

“I’m one of those who would say this is pretty massively overplayed. For one thing, Benedict’s resignation was most certainly the result of numerous factors, mainly revolving around the internal problems of the Vatican, of which sexual shenanigans were likely one — but hardly the only one, or even the principal one. His advancing age was the element that pushed it all to the brink.”

Reports such as this one, based on little fact, are dangerous because they perpetuate a myth that gay people are to blame for anything wrong or unusual in the church–the way that gay priests were scapegoated for the sexual abuse crisis.  Furthermore, it paints gay people as manipulative, power-hungry, clandestine.

The tragedy is that such myths will continue as long as gay people serving in the church must do so in secrecy.  By maintaining such a repressive atmosphere around LGBT issues, the Vatican has helped to foster a climate of suspicion and fear which paves the way for such speculation.  Could a “gay lobby” exist in the Vatican?  Given the repressive atmosphere, it seems very unlikely that any gay priest or prelate would have the courage to acknowledge his sexual orientation to another priest or prelate.

The sorry scandal of this story, which could be lost in the sensationalism around gay issues, is that power-mongering does indeed exist so blatantly at the Vatican.  Whether by gay men or straight men, this power-mongering seriously harms the church’s mission and credibility in the world.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry




0 replies
  1. Terence
    Terence says:

    Frank, I agree absolutely that these headlines are sensationalist and should be treated with caution. I think it’s absolutely true that there are gay bishops and cardinals at the Vatican, and that some of them are sexually active – just as many priests are gay everywhere, and many priests everywhere have sexual lives – sometimes openly, more usually hidden. But allegations that these are tied up with blackmail, or precipitated by blackmail, are no more than rumours, and could be based on no more than mudslinging in the dirty political games to win curial influence. Probably the most important lesson to be drawn from the story, is the urgency of doing away with the ridiculous rule on compulsory celibacy, and an acceptance that some people (and clerics) are gay. When openness is not scandalous, there’s no possibility of blackmail.

    It’s also important to note that the republicca report included a much more serious allegation, of widespread financial skullduggery, that most of the sensationalist reports of a gay cabal have totally ignored.

  2. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    The greater sin committed by the Vatican is against the fifth commandment. They have committed violence (child rape) on a global level and enabled world-wide systemic violence. I don’t believe that a cardinal should be the next Pope. They have demonstrated an utter lack of personal morality, integrity and comprehension. The institutional church cannot continue under the leadership of the present cardinals. It is a spiritual detriment to present Catholics. It is a criminal threat to the world. When dissenting voices exit the institutional church, the Vatican will be free to use its riches without scrutiny to perpetuate child rape in third world countries.

  3. Radical Mary (@RadicalMary)
    Radical Mary (@RadicalMary) says:

    I’m sorry, but hasn’t this lavender/pink mafia rumour been floating around the Church for like…30 years? What is new and different about this latest version of it, documentation?

    Unless some concrete change in practice or dogma comes out of this scandal, I see no reason to give any of my time to it. I see it feeding into the fearmongering that, again, has been around for far too long without ever being kept in check.


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  1. […] was all the more intriguing because at the time of Benedict XVI’s resignation, there were reports based on rumors that a “gay lobby” may have played some role in his decision to leave the papal […]

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