Sodom: the Official Guide

Although there’s nothing in it about Roman weather or the various sites you might like to visit on a trip to the Vatican, French journalist Frédéric Martel’s In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy is a curious sort of Baedeker to the ins and outs of the Vatican City State. To read it is a little like stepping through the door of Professor Lewis’s wardrobe, except it’s not Narnia you enter but Sodom.

Mr. Martel’s book purports to be an objective exposé that is the result of “1500 interviews in the Vatican and in 30 countries” over four years, during which Martel and his team of 80 “researchers, correspondents, advisers, fixers and translators” spoke to “421 cardinals, 52 bishops and monsignori, 45 apostolic nuncios and foreign ambassadors.” All were in-person interviews. (A note of skepticism: there are currently just 222 living cardinals, so unless Martel was doing séances . . .)

Nearly all those interviewed are members of what, according to Martel, they themselves call “the Parish,” which is what Pope Francis, in that famous (“who am I to judge?”) interview on the flight from Rio to Rome, denied even existed: a “gay lobby.” According to Martel’s accounting, it’s not just a lobby, it’s a small city.

How large is it? Martel says the Vatican has a homosexual “community” larger than the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco. Not for nothing is the book’s French title Sodoma – no need for translation.

Look, I’ve been so wrong about this “lavender mafia” for so long that I’m tempted to think Martel may be right, although his purple prose threatened to make my eyes bleed. To wit: “Never, perhaps, have the appearances of an institution been so deceptive; and equally deceptive are the pronouncements about celibacy and the vows of chastity that conceal a completely different reality.”

And then, referring to papal selection, my hemorrhage:

Many cardinals and priests who officiate at the Roman Curia, most of those who meet up in conclave beneath the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo – one of the most grandiose scenes of gay culture, peopled with virile bodies, surrounded by the Ignudi, those robust and beautiful naked young men – share the same “inclinations.” They have a “family resemblance.”

If from that paean to pederasty you surmise that Martel is homosexual, you’re right. The text of his gossipy book is remarkably self-referential and self-congratulatory. I quipped above about the book being a guidebook, but it’s really a manifesto.

And the author has chutzpah. Many “gay” activists want to change culture and have succeeded as well as any revolutionaries in doing so. But Martel isn’t interested in simply normalizing homosexuality by exposing the hypocrisy those who hide the fact that they are “gay.” No, his book seems intended to force the pope to realize the extent of homosexuality in the priesthood and, therefore, change Church teaching to accommodate that fact.

“An Investigation of the Heart of the Vatican”

Of course, that is what you would want if you are homosexual and believe same-sex activity is equal in every way to heterosexual activity. Martel clearly believes so. But he’s a fantasist if he imagines Pope Francis either will or – more to the point – can revolutionize Roman Catholic moral theology just because the Parish, on Martel’s reckoning, controls pretty much all the dicasteries.

And this is typical of the Left: they want to democratize everything, but they look to powerful individuals to accomplish the leveling – to men like President Obama or Pope Francis – who are (or might be) willing to trample on the will of the people or obliterate law and tradition.

But it’s all for the good! As Martel writes, with the robustness of a moral anarchist, “the Vatican is the last bastion still to be liberated!”

As people have talked and written about In the Closet of the Vatican, a phrase frequently pops up: “if only half of what Martel writes is true . . .” Half? Homosexuals comprise between 1 and 5 percent of the population. So, if you found that 10 percent of clergy were “gay,” you’d be curious to know why. At 25 percent, you might begin to be alarmed; 50 percent, you’d conclude there’s a crisis. Martel claims that for priests in Rome it’s 80 percent and that the higher a man rises in the Church, the more likely he’s homosexual.

Martel is hardly the first to seek exposure of the Vatican’s “gay” cabal. Panorama, an Italian magazine controlled by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (Italy’s Donald Trump), did a similar exposé in 2010, complete with entrapment and hidden cameras. Martel’s work is different only in its scale and advocacy. (One insider interviewed by Panorama put the number of Vatican homosexuals at a literally incredible 98 percent.)

But without naming names (except for a few men who were already “out”) – without sources speaking on the record – you might as easily assert that 80 percent of priests are space aliens.

Martel describes the “stains” that have besmirched the Church: Humanae vitae’s dismissal of artificial contraception; the “rejection of condoms . . . and the strict obligation of celibacy on the priesthood;” not to mention the disavowal of liberation theology; the Vatican-bank and Vatileaks scandals; misogyny in the hierarchy; Benedict XVI’s resignation (caused by the Parish); and the right-wing rebellion against Pope Francis.

He admits that rampant homosexuality in the hierarchy explains the coverup of sex abuse but also claims it’s behind the attacks against Francis. How? Because, of course, the pope’s critics are closeted: “Those conservatives, those traditionalists, those ‘dubias’, are in many cases the famous ‘rigid people leading a double life’ of whom Francis speaks so often.”

Those space aliens again.

Of course, the pope’s closest advisers often say – with similar implausibility – that the attacks arise, especially in America, because of his opposition to capitalism, not his ambiguities and departures from doctrine and discipline.

A fair summary (in his own words) of Martel’s thesis is this: “Have the pope and his liberal theologians [not] realized that priestly celibacy was a failure?” But, Monsieur, celibacy hasn’t failed; faithless priests have.

Brad Miner is the Senior Editor of The Catholic Thing and a Senior Fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute. He is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His most recent book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with George J. Marlin, is now on sale. His The Compleat Gentleman is now available in a third, revised edition from Regnery Gateway and is also available in an Audible audio edition (read by Bob Souer). Mr. Miner has served as a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA and also on the Selective Service System draft board in Westchester County, NY.