By Victor Thorn
This won’t be your same old Vatican anymore, at least if Jorge Mario Bergoglio, better known as Pope Francis, has anything to say about it.
As Time magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year, the new pontiff has vowed to clean-up a host of scandals within the church while bringing it into the 21st century.
With the Catholic Church still reeling from a disastrous blight involving pedophile priests, Pope Francis seemed to handle new allegations of a “secret homosexual network inside the Vatican” with his usual grace and humor.
While touring Brazil in July 2013, Francis first made reference to the issue of a nefarious cabal operating inside the Vatican.
“There is so much being written about the gay lobby. I haven’t met anyone in the Vatican yet who has ‘gay’ written on their identity cards. There is a distinction between being gay, being this way inclined and lobbying. Lobbies are not good. If a gay person is in eager search of God, who am I to judge them? The Catholic Church teaches that gay people should not be discriminated against; they should be made to feel welcome. Being gay is not the problem, lobbying is the problem and this goes for any type of lobby, business lobbies, political lobbies and Masonic lobbies.”
Yet, in a January 20 article in The Guardian, former commandant of the Swiss Guard Elmar Mader broached this controversial subject. As the leader of a group that’s sworn to protect the pope, Mader stated: “I cannot refute the claim that there is a network of homosexuals [in the Vatican]. My experiences would indicate the existence of such a thing.”
“A working environment in which the great majority of men are unmarried is a draw for homosexuals,” Mader added.
Finalizing his thoughts, Mader warned: “I’ve learned that many homosexuals are inclined to be more loyal to each other than to other people or institutions. If this loyalty were to go as far as to become a network or even a kind of secret society, I would not tolerate it in my sphere of decision making. Key people in the Vatican now seem to think similarly.”
Amid this dichotomy of a more tolerant Pope versus lingering numbers of hardliners that want to preserve tradition, on January 28 this reporter contacted Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.”
DeBernardo told this newspaper: “It’s more than likely there are gay people at the Vatican,” he began. “Like all groups, some may do good work, whereas others may do harm. What’s most important, we believe, is a need for honesty and openness in discussing sexuality within the Church. Without honesty, only harm will occur.”
“If gays were not as stigmatized within the Catholic Church as they are,” DeBernardo summarized, “there’d be no need for them to go underground in the Vatican.”
On January 28, this reporter also spoke with Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an organization that promotes diversity among Catholics.
“When I hear about a gay mafia, it sounds like a throwback to the 1950s where homosexuals were viewed as sick or criminal,” she said. “Most of the world has moved past that type of thinking.”
“The Vatican is a very different place than anywhere else,” she continued. “Of the 600 people that live there, 90% are men, while there are less than 10 children. It’s not a life most people on the outside can relate to, and vice versa for the priests.”
Regardless of the opposition among diehards, Duddy-Burke sees a great deal of encouragement on the horizon.
“Pope Francis is more willing to address these issues and create a climate of helpfulness. Past attitudes of secrecy and keeping things in the dark prevented priests from speaking out. That created a ripple effect which damaged a lot of people’s lives.”
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 40 books.