ROME—Fréderic Martel, a gay French author whose book In The Closet of the Vatican will be published Thursday to coincide with the Vatican’s crisis summit on clerical sex abuse, drew immediate criticism from victims of clerical sex abuse when he suggested a “complex link” between gay priests and the abuse issue.
Sexual-abuse survivor Peter Saunders, who was expelled from the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2017 for criticizing the church's lack of resolve, said that many of the victims he has worked with over the years were female, which he says proves his point. “There is no link between people who are gay and people who abuse children.”
Saunders, who is part of the victim-survivor group Ending Clergy Abuse, added, "Once you are inside the church and you are gay, you are bound to be silent and then when you see someone abusing, you are silenced from reporting it.”
Martel told reporters at Rome's foreign press association that his book was informed by 27 gay priests who live or work inside Vatican City. His conclusion, based on extensive interviews with them, is that the vast majority of the College of Cardinals—the group of esteemed prelates who vote in conclaves—are gay. “They were hit on, flirted with, and slept with a lot of cardinals in the College of Cardinals,” Martel says. “One gay priest alone told me he had slept with six different cardinals.”
In his book, which The Daily Beastobtained independently ahead of the Feb. 21 release date, Martel writes that the culture of secrecy tied to the high number of gay priests also feeds the coverup. “Homosexuality is also one of the keys that explain the institutionalized coverup of sexual crimes and misdemeanors, of which there are now tens of thousands,” he writes. “Because the ‘culture of secrecy,’ which was necessary to maintain silence about the huge presence of homosexuality inside the church, has made it possible to hide sexual abuse, and for predators to benefit from this system of protection within the institution—even though pedophilia is not the subject of this book.”
Martel also suggests in the book that blackmail threats against gay priests who seek to expose abusers are common.
“They tell me about the blackmail, the sex tapes, the ‘Catholic revenge porn’ and the countless cases of ‘immorality’ affairs among the clergy,” Martel writes. “These priests, even if they are victims, seldom make a complaint: The price to be paid for making a report at the police station would be too high. They only do so in the most serious cases. Most of the time, they say nothing; they hide and go home in silence, weighed down with their vice and hiding their bruises.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke and German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller issued a joint open letter that links what they call a dangerous “homosexual agenda” to rampant abuse. “It seems that the difficulty is reduced to that of the abuse of minors, a horrible crime, especially when it is perpetrated by a priest, which is, however, only part of a much greater crisis,” the cardinals write. “The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the church, promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.”
Around 200 mostly male delegates from around the world will take part in the Vatican’s summit on clerical abuse. Victim testimonies will only be heard at opening and closing prayers because the delegates were tasked with talking to victims in their home countries before arriving in Rome.
Martel will be holding several book events and victims’ groups are holding vigils and press events outside the conference hall. No one is optimistic that the conference will result in any concrete changes, and no final paper is expected. Pope Francis will make final remarks Saturday, but is only making scarce appearances in the summit hall, according to his schedule provided to accredited journalists.
“Even if no one dares to admit it publicly in the church, everyone knows that it won’t be possible to put an end to the sexual abuse by priests until celibacy has been abolished, until homosexuality is acknowledged by the church, allowing priests to be able to denounce abuse, and until women are ordained as priests,” Martel writes in his book. “All other measures concerning sexual abuse are in vain.”