By Phil Lawler | February 22, 2013 5:07 PM
Is there a network of homosexual clerics working within the Vatican? Undoubtedly, Yes. Was the discovery of that network a major factor motivating Pope Benedict to resign? Undoubtedly, No.
Rome is abuzz with reports about a story that appeared in two Italian publications, La Repubblica and Panorama, alleging that in a confidential report to Pope Benedict on the “Vatileaks” scandal, three cardinals said that one faction within the Vatican bureaucracy was “united by sexual orientation” and could be subject to blackmail. The story—which has quickly spread around the globe—goes on to speculate that the cardinals’ report, submitted in December, shocked the Pope and prompted him to resign.
Before we analyze the reports, let’s pause for a moment and notice how little hard evidence has been presented. All of the hundreds of speculative reports now circulating in the mass media are based on two Italian news stories. Those stories, in turn, rely on the reporters’ assertions, unsupported and unconfirmed, about the contents of the “Vatileaks” report. For all we know those assertions could be completely groundless. Even if they are (more or less) accurate, they could be highly exaggerated. The allusion to a homosexual network might have occupied just a few paragraphs in a voluminous final report. We don’t know.
Is it probable that in their investigation of the “Vatileaks” scandal, the three cardinals found evidence of homosexual activity among officials of the Roman Curia? Absolutely! As the veteran American Vatican-watcher John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter put it,“frankly it would be a little surprising if they hadn’t.”
The three-cardinal commission was charged with investigating the motives that Vatican officials might have for leaking confidential documents. If they probed the secret activities and associations of Vatican officials, the investigators would naturally have unearthed some signs of homosexuality. Allen mentions two instances in which there has been solid public documentation of a Vatican official’s homosexual activities. In many more cases there have been rumors, unconfirmed reports, or circumstantial evidence pointing toward the existence of a gay faction.
Pope Benedict, who has lived in Rome and worked with the Roman Curia for more than 30 years, has surely heard the reports and the rumors. He cannot possibly have been shocked by the news that some Vatican officials are homosexual. “He is probably the last person who would be surprised by such a so-called revelation,” remarked Jean-Marie Guenois, another veteran Vatican journalist and editor of Le Figaro.
In a French television interview, Guenois made another compelling argument against the notion that the “Vatileaks” report prompted the Pope to resign. By all reports the Holy Father has been considering resignation for months. (Guenois believes that he made his decision in March of last year, after his trip to Mexico and Cuba.) The “Vatileaks” report was submitted on December 17. “I say that the Pope’s decision to resign had nothing to do with the information in this report,” Guenois concludes.
If the three cardinals made the homosexual network a major focus of their report, and ifthey found the homosexual influence was more extensive than Pope Benedict had already realized, and if the Pontiff had not already made up his mind to step down, then conceivably the “Vatileaks” report could have been one factor contributing to the Pope’s decision. But there is one more reason to believe that it would have been a minor factor, at best.
Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the Pope suddenly became aware of a powerful homosexual cabal. What would he be likely to do? Why would he resign? Why wouldn’t he stay and fight to restore the integrity of the Church? Throughout his life Pope Benedict has shown a consistent willingness to take on tough problems, even when his actions are likely to prove unpopular. He has always been ready to do whatever he can do to promote Catholic doctrine and discipline.
”Whatever he can do”—ah, there’s the rub. This Pope is no coward; he is not a man to run away from a problem. But there is a limit to his strength and he has reached it.
There have been other reports, unconfirmed but credible, that the Pope’s health is rapidly deteriorating. If he is indeed losing his eyesight and his hearing, if his blood pressure is spiking and his energy is flagging, those would be plausible reasons for the Pope to step down. Not coincidentally, those factors would also match the reasons that the Pope himself cited for his resignation.