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Vatican denounces reports of gay sex scandal

Allegations of blackmail, prostitution as pope steps down

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Catholic Church, Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, gay news, Washington Blade
Catholic Church, Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien, gay news, Washington Blade

Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien (Photo public domain)

Vatican officials this week denounced reports in the Italian press that an underground network of gay priests assigned to the Vatican organized meetings for sex and may have been subjected to blackmail.

Criticism of the press reports by a high-level Vatican spokesperson came less than a week before yet another gay-related scandal hit the Catholic Church – this time in Scotland.

British Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who has called same-sex marriage “grotesque,” announced he decided to step down a month ahead of previously announced retirement plans after allegations surfaced on Feb. 23 that he engaged in “intimate” acts with priests in the 1980s.

O’Brien denied the allegations but said on Monday he cancelled his trip to Rome this week, where he was expected to participate in the selection of a new pope. He said he didn’t want the allegations against him to overshadow the conclave of cardinals set to convene within the next week.

The Vatican immediately accepted his decision to step down from his church duties, which it viewed as a resignation.

News of the alleged network of gay priests at the Vatican surfaced last week when the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the Italian news magazine Panorama reported that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on the same day he learned of the allegations.

In a development that created an uproar at the Vatican, La Repubblica reported it received detailed information about a 300-page Vatican report prepared by three cardinals who uncovered the network of gay priests during a nine-month internal Vatican investigation.

Among other things, the report says the investigation discovered a “faction” within the Vatican “united by sexual orientation,” according to La Repubblica.

The newspaper said it had no confirmation that Benedict based his decision to resign solely on the explosive findings of the investigation. But it reported sources as saying Benedict planned to keep the findings confidential and decided to leave it up to his successor to determine how to address the matter.

“It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long,” La Repubblica reported in its Feb. 21 edition while discussing Benedict’s resignation.

Vatican officials have since confirmed that the investigation took place but have refused to comment on its findings. Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi acknowledged the reports by La Repubblica and Panorama that the investigation was launched last May after one of the pope’s butlers was arrested for allegedly stealing papal correspondence and leaking it to the media.

La Repubblica reported several other findings of the investigation, including problems associated with the Vatican bank. Vatican observers in Italy speculated that various rival factions of cardinals and other Vatican officials were likely responsible for leaked information about the investigative report.

Efforts to portray rivals in a negative light are “part of the great game of the conclave, whose tools include political attacks and efforts to condition consensus,” Vatican observer and author Alberto Melloni of Bologna, Italy, told the New York Times.

Other observers have said intrigue and infighting that sometimes takes place in the process of selecting a Pope appears to be occurring at a greater intensity this time, as conservative and more progressive factions of cardinals line up behind different candidates under consideration for the papacy.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State, its highest office, issued a statement on Feb. 23 denouncing the press accounts of the contents of the investigative report or “dossier” as “unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories.”

In a separate statement, the Vatican said Benedict dissolved the three-cardinal investigative committee on Monday and expressed “satisfaction for the results of this investigation,” according to a report by the Washington Post.

“The Holy Father has decided that the acts of this investigation, known only to himself, remain solely at the disposition of the new Pope,” the Post quoted the statement as saying.

La Repubblica reported that the investigation uncovered an underground network of gays working at the Vatican who organized “sexual meetings” in several locations, including a sauna in Rome, a private villa just outside Rome, and a beauty salon inside the Vatican.

The newspaper also reported the investigation found some of the gay priests may have been subjected to blackmail by men not associated with the Vatican with whom they had “worldly” relations.

“When you have this culture of secrecy and guilt and repression you have conditions which foster the potential for blackmail and for manipulation,” said gay British journalist and former priest Mark Dowd in an interview with CNN.

The cardinals who headed the Vatican investigation have been identified as Julian Herranz of Spain; Jozef Tomko of Slovakia; and Salvatore De Giorgi, the former archbishop of Palermo.

The British newspaper The Guardian broke the story about Cardinal O’Brien’s alleged “gay” scandal in a story in its Feb. 23 edition.

According to The Guardian, three priests and a former priest, all from Scotland, filed a complaint against O’Brien with the Vatican’s ambassador to Britain one week before Benedict announced his resignation.

One of the complainants, The Guardian reports, charges that O’Brien “developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counseling.”

Another, identified only as “Priest A,” described being visited by O’Brien and “inappropriate contact between the two took place,” the newspaper reported. “Priest B” claims he was invited to spend a week at the then archbishop’s residence, where he encountered “unwanted behavior by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.”

The Guardian said “Priest C” had been seeing O’Brien for counseling over personal problems and alleges that O’Brien “used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.”

The four who filed the complaint called on the Vatican ambassador to take steps to prevent O’Brien from going to Rome to participate in the conclave to select a new pope, saying the papal selection process would be tainted if the cardinal was part of it.

O’Brien, who announced he had cancelled his trip to Rome the day after The Observer published its story, said he would obtain legal counsel to fight the allegations, which his accusers say took place in the 1980s.

The press reports about the alleged network of gay priests at the Vatican reportedly involved consenting adults, and the allegations against O’Brien involved adult victims. But the revelations of these developments prompted news media outlets in the U.S. and Europe to bring up longstanding allegations of the sexual abuse of children by pedophile priests that have plagued the Catholic Church for more than two decades.

Organizations representing victims of sexual abuse by priests have called on the Vatican to bar cardinals in the U.S. and elsewhere from participating in the selection of a new pope if they knew about priests that sexually abused juveniles but did not act to stop the abuse.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that advocates for LGBT equality within the Catholic Church, told the Blade the unfolding gay sex scandal, if true, is due in part to the Vatican’s harsh position on homosexuality.

“They have created a situation where people can’t express their sexuality in healthy ways,” he said. “They can’t even deal with their sexuality in the open. So it creates a climate of suspicion and a climate of fear.”

Jeannine Gramick is a Roman Catholic nun who co-founded New Ways Ministry and serves as national coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns. She told the Blade she is hopeful that the scandal would nudge the church into adopting a more tolerant position on gays.

“I think the impact it should have is to point out the hypocrisy of having a very negative stance about homosexual activity between loving persons and the private secret condoning of activity that is not in the context of a committed relationship,” she said.

“So my hope is that it will bring about a re-examination of the church’s approach to sexuality to become more realistic and honest,” Gramick said.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. AxelDC

    February 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

    It’s only a “scandal” because of Catholic homophobia. If they just admitted that gays are a normal part of society, there would be no scandal. They are trapped by their own bigotry and hypocrisy.

  2. Robben Wainer

    February 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    This is a case where gentry are being repressed due to an oppressive state of moral conflict. I feel the Vatican would be serving a higher ambition if they preserved the rights of human equality. The evidence that supports homosexuality amongst gay priests must imply that their intention was to express feelings of pleasure. How the vatican express an open mind towards those whose orientation indicates this choice of vocation without being taregeted towards free love, would show that they are tolerant of the LGBT community and the human right to develop real relationships.

  3. Mary Blaisdell

    March 1, 2013 at 4:37 am

    The real story is that the RCC clergy is predominantly homosexual, not the coverup of sexual abuse by gay priests of boys which is old news. The issue facing the conclave in Rome is how to deal with the existential problem that most of its faithful are led by a homosexual clergy, a so called "deviant sexual group" labelled as sinful by the Vatican as another coverup.

    If every Catholic around the world knew that homosexuals led their religion, the Roman Catholic Church would cease to exist.

    For majority of US priests as homosexuals see: http://americamagazine.org/node/146081.
    and Los Angeles Times Poll, "A survey of Roman Catholic priests in the United States and Puerto Rico", June 27 to October 11, 2002.

    Here is the citation for US Catholic priests re AIDS/HIV 4x the general population see: http://kcsweb.kcstar.com/projects/priests/ Draw your own conclusion about the prevalence of gays in the priesthood and the widespread abandonment of celibacy.

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Matrimonio igualitario a un paso de ser ley en Chile

Solo falta una última votación en el Senado

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Una manifestación en favor del matrimonio igualitario en Santiago, Chile, en 2017. (Foto cortesía de Francisca Becker)

VALPARAÍSO, Chile — Como un triunfo “histórico” para los derechos de la diversidad sexual y de género, calificaron los activistas LGBTQ en Chile el avance del proyecto de ley de matrimonio igualitario el martes en el Congreso. Ahora solo falta una última votación en el Senado para convertirse en ley.

“Con 101 votos a favor, 30 en contra y dos abstenciones se aprueba el proyecto de ley que regula el matrimonio igualitario, que pasa a su tercer y último trámite en el Senado”, ha informado el Congreso Nacional chileno en un comunicado.

La votación se enmarca en uno de los momentos políticos más complejos para la población queer de ese país latinoamericano, luego de que el pasado domingo en las elecciones presidenciales y de congresistas la ultraderecha y anti-LGBTQ liderada por el candidato presidencial, José Antonio Kast del Partido Repúblicano obtuvieran un buen desempeño electoral.

Kast, que ha afirmado en muchas ocasiones que existe un “lobby gay” que “busca influir a las personas”, fue el candidato más votado y se enfrentará en el balotaje del 19 de diciembre al izquierdista Gabriel Boric.

“Frente a los discursos de violencia y odio, hace falta responder con amor. No queremos sesgos dogmáticos ultra ideologizados”, apuntó el diputado Diego Ibáñez, del Frente Amplio, la coalición que lidera Boric.

El proyecto de matrimonio igualitario fue firmado por la expresidenta Michelle Bachelet en 2017 y presentado ante el Congreso durante su segundo mandato. Sin embargo, no fue hasta enero de 2020 cuando la sala del Senado aprobó en general el proyecto con 22 votos a favor, 16 en contra y una abstención.

Posteriormente, el presidente del país, Sebastián Piñera, mostró su apoyo a la medida y ordenó suma urgencia.”Pienso que ha llegado el tiempo de garantizar esa libertad y esa dignidad a todas las personas, el tiempo del matrimonio igualitario en nuestro país”, dijo el jefe de Estado en su última cuenta pública.

“Luego de tres décadas de lucha, falta solo un trámite en el Senado para conquistar la hasta ahora esquiva igualdad legal que merece todas las parejas y familias”, destacó la vocera del Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), Javiera Zúñiga, a través de un comunicado de prensa.

“Festejamos este nuevo paso, ahora con la total convicción de que estamos en la recta final. Especialmente felices porque se aprobaron por amplia mayoría todos las indicaciones sobre filiación y adopción homoparental que introducimos en la Cámara. Hablamos de 30 años de lucha, pero de siglos de segregación, cuyos días están contados, lo cual terminará con las injusticias y desigualdades que sufren las parejas del mismo sexo y las familias homoparentales”, añadió Zúñiga.

De no ser aprobado en el Senado, el proyecto de ley pasaría a una comisión mixta. Sin embargo, la actual presidenta de la Cámara Alta se comprometió a realizar su mayor esfuerzo para que sea despachado lo antes posible.

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