Tuesday 19 March 2019

Church abuse 'was hidden by gay clergy terrified of being outed'

Claims come as victims demand policy of zero tolerance from Vatican

Controversy: Pope Francis poses for a photo with a group of priests at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Controversy: Pope Francis poses for a photo with a group of priests at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Nick Squires

Decades of cover-ups of sex abuse in the Catholic Church are intrinsically linked to the fact that so many cardinals, bishops and priests are gay, the author of a new book said yesterday.

Bishops were so terrified of being outed that they were reluctant to report paedophile priests, said Frederic Martel, author of 'In the Closet of the Vatican'.

His claims were made as victims demanded a policy of zero tolerance from the Vatican, and Pope Francis likened critics of the Church to "the Devil".

The book, alleging the majority of clergy in the Vatican is homosexual, is published today in 20 countries and coincides with Pope Francis opening an unprecedented four-day conference on how to deal with the abuse scandal.

"Abuses are protected by this culture of secrecy," Mr Martel, a journalist and sociologist, said during a presentation of the book in Rome. "The two things are intrinsically linked.

"Bishops may not be abusers themselves but they protect priests because they are terrified that if there's an investigation or a trial, then their own homosexuality may be revealed."

There had been thousands of cases of bishops protecting priests who had raped and molested children, he said.

The book took four years to research. The author interviewed 41 cardinals, 50 bishops, 45 Vatican ambassadors and 11 Swiss Guards, nine of them retired but three who are still serving in the Pope's personal protection corps.

He quotes a priest who estimates that 80pc of Vatican clergy are gay, although Mr Martel conceded he had no way of verifying that figure.

According to the book, a leading figure in this hidden world was Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, a Colombian cardinal who in public was stridently anti-gay and pro-family but in private slept with male prostitutes. Once head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, he died in 2008.

"The more homophobic they are, the more likely they are to be gay. That's the number one rule of the Vatican," said Mr Martel. For the Vatican conference, about 200 bishops, archbishops and other senior officials will discuss the themes of responsibility, accountability and transparency. But victims of clerical abuse say that was inadequate, and called for concrete reform, not "lofty rhetoric and vague promises".

Peter Isely, an American who was abused by a priest as a boy, said: "We've heard a lot of words from Pope Francis since he was elected but now is the time to do the right thing. We want zero tolerance. Any priest who has sexually assaulted a child should be removed from the priesthood - and the same goes for bishops or cardinals who cover up for them."

Mr Isely, from the survivors' group Ending Clergy Abuse, added: "Pope Francis can order it with the stroke of a pen. What's the hold-up?"

Several survivors met the organisers of the Vatican summit yesterday.

Phil Saviano, whose story of abuse by a priest was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film 'Spotlight', urged the Vatican to name predatory priests so children could be protected from them.

The Pope did not meet the victims.

Irish Independent

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