It’s official: the “gay lobby” in the Vatican that we’ve always heard about, speculated about, suspected to exist, really does exist! The newly seated pope, Francis I, actually used this phrase when discussing his plan to clean up the Holy See, which he sees (quite rightly, one supposes) as wallowing in scandal and corruption.
Many people speculated that the previous Pope’s hasty resignation was triggered by some sort of involvement with this shadowy “lobby” of high-level Vatican insiders. Or was it just due to Benedict XVI’s extraordinarily close relationship with his personal secretary, the ever-present Archbishop Georg Gänswein, dubbed “gorgeous George” for his matinée-idol good looks? Then, too, there was the ex-Pope’s obvious fascination one time when reviewing a half-naked troop of male acrobats, not to mention his fondness for ruby slippers as footwear.
No less a news source than The New York Times picked up the story, noting that “corruption, blackmail and violation of one of the highest codes of Catholic conduct were part of the intrigue that scandalized the Vatican in recent years.” The presence of high-level gay clergy was uncovered through a massive leak of secret documents last year.
The exact quotation, which the Vatican has not denied, is worth parsing lightly. Addressing a Spanish audience in their native language, the Pope observed: “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true. … The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there. … We need to see what we can do [about it].” In the characteristically cryptic language of gurus and ayatollahs—that use of the passive voice—Francis isn’t giving much away. But the mere reference was taken by Vatican watchers as a stunning admission that there are gay priests right there in the Vatican.
Any yet, the Pope isn’t railing here or proposing an inquisition. In tone he seems resigned, almost accepting, as if to acknowledge that, like the poor, the gays will always be with us. Which seems a valid conclusion when we’re talking about this ancient, all-male conclave of the holy. It’s just that no pope has ever come right out and said it before.