THE Vatican contains “one of the biggest gay communities in the world”, says Frédéric Martel, the author of a 555-page exposé of life in the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr Martel’s book was due to be published simultaneously in eight languages yesterday. Called Sodoma in many of them, it has been published in English under the title In the Closet of the Vatican. It is the fruit of four years’ research and nearly 1500 interviews with priests, cardinals, and Vatican officials, many of them on the record.
Mr Martel, who is gay, found that people were happy to talk to him, although conversations often descended into gossip. He was invited to stay in apartments in the Vatican, and says that he did not deceive anyone about his subject, although he did not volunteer it, either.
The book contains many revelations and claims. Mr Martel quotes one of his chief sources, Francesco Lepore, a former priest and Latin scholar, who, when asked about the size of the gay community in the Vatican, replied: “I think the percentage is very high. I’d put it at around 80 per cent.”
Mr Martel estimates that it is certainly more than 50 per cent.
Interviewed by The Times last weekend, Mr Martel spoke about the atmosphere in the Vatican. “They can be some of the meanest people, referring to other priests using the female form. It is typical of people who are locked into double lives, who don’t accept their nature. The closet is the place of the most incredible cruelty. And the Vatican is one huge closet.”
Mr Martel contends that the more openly homophobic a cleric appears, the more likely he is to be gay. He tends not to name living priests, but describes Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo, who died in 2008, as a violent and predatory abuser: “His speciality was novices: the most fragile, the youngest, the most vulnerable.”
He is defensive of Pope Francis and his more open approach to homosexuality. “Francis knows that he has to move on the Church’s stance, and that he will only be able to do this at the cost of a ruthless battle against all those who use sexual morality and homophobia to conceal their own hypocrisies and double lives.”
Paradoxically, however, he says that some of the Pope’s fiercest critics are gay. He quotes an Italian Benedictine, Dr Luigi Gioia: “For a homosexual, the Church appears to be a stable structure. . . Francis, by wanting to reform it, made the structure unstable for closeted homosexual priests. That’s what explains their violent reaction and their hatred of him. They’re scared.”
The timing of the book’s publication has been criticised: it coincides with the opening of the international summit on abuse in the Church. Mr Martel dismisses the link between abuse and homosexuality, but argues that the culture of secrecy prevents the reporting of abuse. “They are afraid to expose an abuser in case he responds: ‘I was guilty, but what about your boyfriend?’”
In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, homosexuality, hypocrisy is published by Bloomsbury; £25 (CT Bookshop £22.50).