Critique of ‘In The Closet of The Vatican’ by Frédéric Martel (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Fifty Shades of Gay
The basic premise of Martel’s book is that the homosexual experience, ideology and world view is given, legitimate and incontestable. It is the starting and finishing point of the narrative. Yet this is not so. The very large majority of humanity is heterosexual. Legalisation of homosexual practice from 1967 in Britain led to homosexual marriage in 2014. European and American practice in this respect has spread among some democracies and semi-democracies worldwide. In the west equality rights ideology has replaced the moral teachings of the Judaeo-Christian Faith. Muslim countries have not followed suit, totalitarian regimes likewise. Equality or false equality? What lifestyles are actually equal or the same? Is there not a substantial and irrevocable difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality? The former is the means of reproduction of the species. The latter is not. Continuity or extinction – these are not equals. Homosexuality is parasitical upon heterosexuality. That which it depends on, it claims equality with. This cannot be. Martel’s underlying philosophy is contestable. Homosexuality exists of course and Martel reflects this fact. But it is not and cannot be the defining value of the human race, nor of the Roman Catholic Church, nor of the Vatican.
Martel sees no need to justify homosexually inclined young men using the priesthood as a cover in order to practise their homosexuality. But this is a deeply undermining and wrecking invasion of the Roman Catholic version of Christianity. Roman Catholic priests take vows of celibacy, to God and to the Church. Martel does not sufficiently articulate the contradiction of mind and soul that homosexual practice causes for priests. To say one thing and do another is as great a hypocrisy as the hypocrisy of those he condemns in his book. On the contrary he eulogises the invasion of practising homosexuals to the priesthood as they add to the numbers of the clergy. He also defends some of them further as sensitive pastors which some indeed may be.
Martel’s basic purpose is to expose the denunciations of homosexual practice by some members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church while they themselves were practising or covering up homosexual practices. But his is a curiously circular and self-justifying thesis. The homosexual perspective counters millenia of Judaeo-Christian teaching. For Martel, this is axiomatic and taken for granted. He forgets that his will always be a minority report on a minority of the human race.
There is no explanation of or justification for what men do together in homosexual contact. Martel presents an idealistic and sanitised account of homosexual relationships and offers no description of actual homosexual acts. This is very like films in which no-one ever needs to go to the toilet. Cruising for contacts is not considered as promiscuity. Frequenting homosexual bars and gatherings in Rome and elsewhere and the use of Grindr and other homosexual contact websites by Vatican clergy and others is no contradiction for Martel. But what kind of life is this for these men? They must become wholly desensitised to Jesus Christ. Martel does not investigate the contradictory psychology required to continually celebrate the Sacraments of the Church and at the same time indulge in male to male anal intercourse, fellatio and mutual masturbation as an ongoing way of life. The use of immigrant boys by older men is considered equivocally. Money changes hands. This is prostitution and is immoral and in underage cases criminal. Martel condemns the buyers but not the sellers.
Martel describes a Latin American Roman seminarian called Lafcadio. He writes, ‘With me he is ‘openly gay’ and he talks about his obsessions as intense sexual desires. ‘I’m often horny,’ he says. ‘So many nights spent in random beds – and still this promise to return to the seminary, before curfew, even when there were so many things to do’. Lafcadio testified to Martel that ‘he was subjected to sustained emotional solicitations and recurrent flirtations on the part of several cardinals, bishops and even a ‘liturgy queen in the pope’s entourage’ (Benedict XVI). Martel does not criticise the behaviour. He criticises the Church’s anti-homosexual teaching.
Long term relationships are treated with reverence. That homophilia exists among the celibates of the Roman Catholic Church should not surprise. But the question is its character, reach and extent. It would be unsurprising to find that priests and members of the hierarchy shared interests with fellow clergy. There are no doubt special bonds between particular friends. The tensions of celibacy can be sublimated. John Henry Newman was made a saint and yet he had a particularly close homophilic relationship with Ambrose St John of whom he wrote, "From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable". Newman arranged for Ambrose St John to share his grave. Over previous centuries, monastic rules prohibited excessive friendships and exclusive homophilic loves.
Martel does not discuss the origins of Christianity. Homosexuals like to portray Jesus as homosexually ambivalent or perhaps homophilic, citing his love of the rich young ruler and of the disciple John. The Gospels though are replete with Jesus’ interaction with women. In his teaching, healing and travelling companionship, women are very much part of his life. He appeared first to one at His resurrection, Mary who apparently was used to giving him a hug. Homosexuals cannot enlist Jesus as a neutral or as a tentative supporter of their homosexual practice.
St Paul however was explicit that homosexuality was morally wrong. There is a striking parallel between his language and that of Lafcadio described above: ‘men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another’. (Romans 1:26). Martel raises the possibility that Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9) was homosexuality. There is no evidence whatsoever for this speculation. Homosexuality is primarily a state of the mind rather than of the flesh. (Homosexuals may describe their condition as a state of being). ‘Thorn’ describes an acute physical pain. Martel has no comprehension of Paul being possessed by the life and power of Jesus Christ Himself yet this is the preponderance of Paul’s written testimony. He worked with many women throughout his evangelical ministry and praised their contributions to nascent Christian congregations as described for example in Romans chapter 16.
As the Christian Church expanded from Jerusalem into the Graeco-Roman world, it stood is distinction from its heterosexual and homosexual liberalism. Chastity, monogamy and celibacy were the options. That remains the core teaching of the Christian Church world wide. However some denominations have begun to include homosexual relationships and homosexual marriage in their practice. Indeed, Martel gives examples of this within the Roman Catholic Church itself in spite of the public iterations to the contrary.
Thus we have rival origins. Christianity one one hand from Jesus and through the centuries to 2.3 billion adherents. Homosexual ideology on the other from the 1960’s and now enshrined in human rights. The decline of Christianity in the west has occurred simultaneously with the advancement of the homosexual agenda. It Britain, this has had a specifically anti-Judaeo-Christian aspect having sought its overthrow. Arguably, it has succeeded. The actor Ian McKellen has for some time torn the page containing Leviticus 18:22 from any Bible he finds in hotels. This is an interesting illustration of making a small part greater than the whole, rejecting the large context and message of the Bible. Others have done this also. A minority sexuality has achieved ascendancy over the Christian Faith and offers a competing and replacement ideology. Something which can only apply to a few of humanity has become a basis for the evaluation of all. Martel’s book and his understanding and his world view reflect this. It is illegal in Britain to speak critically in public about homosexuality.
Martel is critical of Pope John Paul II’s upholding of Roman Catholic ethical teaching and would dearly love to have been able to write that he was homosexual. This he could not do, having no evidence. He does allege a ‘ring of lust’ among those around and close to this Pope. It remains a mystery as to how much John Paul II knew. Some Roman Catholic sources deny that it existed. Martel writes that the homosexuality of Paul Marcinkus, one of John Paul II’s close favourites was well attested, ‘he was an adventurer with a healthy appetite’. An anonymous source, a layman, is quoted. ‘Marcinkus was homosexual: he had a weakness for Swiss guards’. Marcikus was head of the Vatican Bank but was found guilty of corruption by the Italian courts. He evaded justice through his diplomatic immunity. Marcinkus retired to America where he died in a luxury retirement home in Sun City, Arizona in 2006. Martel instances other members of Pope John Paul II’s close entourage who were practising homosexuals. One was known for his sadomasochistic practices and was referred to as ‘Lace by days, leather by nights’. Others of cardinal rank pursued and procured young boys through discreet networking. The Italian police eventually closed this network down but they could not touch the cardinals who enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Martel writes ‘Pope John Paul II...was unable to separate, among his inner circle, the wheat from the chaff, probably because such a detoxification process would have involved too many people’. So the airport tarmac kissing global star was surrounded by high, middle and lower ranking homosexual clerical practitioners. We never knew.
Martel offers detailed analysis of the relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and his personal secretary and long-time confidant Georg Ganswein. He even tells us that the Pope held his handsome favourite’s head in his two hands for 17 seconds during his consecration as archbishop in 2012. Martel makes searing and justifiable criticisms of Joseph Ratzinger. He welcomes his ultimate failure and demise. He associates the latter with his inability and unwillingness to recognise the extent of homosexual practice among the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church while condemning homosexuality publicly and campaigning against its legalisation for many years. However Martel’s greatest criticism of Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope is that he was part of the entire covering up of child abuse throughout the Roman Catholic Church.
Martel’s ideas are simple. He wants recognition and acceptance of homosexuality. For him the real crime is paedophilia but he maintains that clerical abuse of boys has nothing to do with homosexuality. There is false logic here. Abuse of children is not the subject of the book but neither can it pass unnoticed. Surely the tendency towards male paedophilia (boys) is a homosexual tendency? Surely the tendency towards female paedophilia (girls) is a heterosexual tendency? Surely the high prevalence of homosexual behaviour among Roman Catholic clergy is a factor in the extent of paedophilia by celibate clergy in relation to boys? Whereas homosexuality and homophilia are distinct categories for Martel we must interpret paedophilia as actual sexual child abuse. It is a crime. Martel’s casuistry is no less than the casuistry he criticises among the Roman Catholic hierarchy in relation to their pronouncements on homosexuality.
Martel’s research carried out with the help of 80 assistants in various parts of the Catholic world enlightens us to the unconscionable wealth and extravagance of some bishops, archbishops and cardinals of the Church. This is without justification in Christianity. Luxurious palaces, Roman apartments and ancillary residences abound for members of the hierarchy. Martel finds pleasure in their quality furnishings and paintings but manages to turn up his nose if he thinks he has found poor taste. Much worse however is the alliance of ‘insane levels of wealth’, sexual deviance and even violence in the case of Marcel Maciel (1920-2008) who is described as ‘probably the most diabolical figure that the Catholic Church has given birth to and raised over the last 50 years’. He was a Mexican Catholic priest who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement. He was general director of the Legion from 1941 to 2005. Throughout most of his career, he was respected within the church as "the greatest fundraiser of the modern Roman Catholic church" and as a prolific recruiter of new seminarians. Late in his life, Maciel was revealed to have been for a long time a drug addict who sexually abused many boys and young men in his care. After his death, it came to light that he had also maintained sexual relationships with at least four women, one of whom was a minor at the time. He fathered as many as six children, two of whom he is alleged to have abused. Martel indicates that this man often visited Rome in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s where he was welcomed by Pope Paul VI and was treated as an honoured guest by his ‘personal friend’ Pope John Paul II.
Martel discusses Vatican politics and admits the existence of rivalries, hatreds, fueds, vengeances, backstabbing, slander, pique, intrigue, manoevering and manipulation among Vatican staff. Drunk with the sense of power and prestige, narcissistic and egotistical, these men are the living contradiction of the Christian Gospel and of the example of Jesus Christ. Yet they claim to belong to ‘the one true Church’ and deny Holy Communion to confessing Christians in Protestant Christian denominations throughout the world. There is a stench of corruption, of betrayal of vows, of double lives and double standards and levels of hypocrisy unrivalled in humanity. Though these exist elsewhere and often, no-one else claims to be the Vicar of Christ on earth or to represent the perfection in community of God’s will. ‘In The Closet of The Vatican’ is a homosexual thesis. It is no less hypocritical than the objects of its discourse.