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General News    H4'ed 2/25/19

Perceptive Book About Gay Vatican Clerics (BOOK REVIEW)

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Frederic Martel
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) February 25, 2019: As a publicity stunt, Pope Francis convened an unprecedented summit meeting February 21-24 in Rome to rally Roman Catholic leaders from around the world to safeguard children against further sex-abuse by priests and to safeguard against further cover-ups by bishops. As a follow-up to the unprecedented meeting, Pope Francis may now take further steps. No doubt he is playing a long game like a game of chess against powerful clerics in the Vatican itself and elsewhere, including, of course, the United States.

As a related publicity stunt, on Thursday, January 21, 2019, the openly gay French sociologist and journalist Dr. Frederic Martel's new book about the Vatican was released in eight languages and 20 countries. The English translation released in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada is titled In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, translated by Shaun Whiteside (Bloomsbury Continuum). Like Pope Francis himself, Frederic Martel is playing a long game primarily against powerful homophobic clerics in the Vatican and elsewhere.

For further contextualization, see my previous OEN article "Are Homophobic Vatican Clerics Secretly Homosexual?" (dated February 18, 2019):

Now, of the more than 40,000 libraries that participate in the database known as WorldCat, 345 libraries hold copies of Frederic Martel's book The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France since 1968, translated from the French by Jane Marie Todd (Stanford University Press, 1999; orig. French ed., 1996), and 200 libraries hold copies of Martel's book Global Gay: How Gay Culture is Changing the World, translated from the French by Patsy Baudoin (MIT Press, 2018; orig. French ed., 2013). Consequently, it strikes me as fair to assume that most American Catholic academics have probably not heard of Frederic Martel or of his two books published in the United States by prestigious university presses.

In his perceptive new book, Frederic Martel discusses the reigns of Pope Francis (pages 1-152), Pope Paul VI (pages 153-190), Pope John-Paul II (pages 191-417), and Pope Benedict XVI (pages 419-532). Each of the four major subsections begins with a diagram of the key players in the Vatican associated with each pope and the titles of their official appointments (pages 2, 154, 192, and 420). Even though these names and official titles are helpful, it would have been even more helpful for the book to have an index.

For further discussion of the reigns of Pope John-Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, see Matthew Fox's fine book The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved (Sterling Ethos, 2011).

For further discussion of Pope Francis' thought, see Rafael Luciani's book Pope Francis and the Theology of the People, translated by Phillip Berryman (Orbis Books, 2017).

Disclosure: I was born before the end of World War II, and I attended Catholic educational institutions. For a period of time (1979-1987), I was in the Jesuits and I was celibate. However, for many years now, I have not been a practicing Catholic. Today I would describe myself as a straight theistic humanist -- as distinct from an atheistic humanist (also known as a secular humanist).

In general, I find nothing that Frederic Martel says about Vatican clerics to be inherently implausible. But I find much of what he says sad enormously sad. However, in my estimate, American Catholics tend to idealize Vatican clerics. Consequently, they may find much of this book challenging to read just as many American Catholics found it challenging to read about President John F. Kennedy's sex life after he had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. The loss of our idealizations is a loss we need to mourn.

In the prologue to his new book (pages viii-xv), Frederic Martel says that he has formulated "14 general rules in this book" (page xii). I will now list the rules for interpreting the homosexual tendencies of Vatican clerics and the pages where you can find each rule:

Rule (1): "For a long time the priesthood was the ideal escape-route for young homosexuals. Homosexuality is one of the keys to their vocation" (page 8).

Rule (2): "Homosexuality spreads the closer one gets to the holy of holies; there are more and more homosexuals as one rises through the Catholic hierarchy. In the College of Cardinals and at the Vatican, the preferential selection process is said to be perfected; homosexuality becomes the rule, heterosexuality the exception" (page 10).

Rule (3): "The more vehemently opposed a [Vatican] cleric is to gays, the stronger his homophobic obsession, the more likely it is that he is insincere, and that his vehemence conceals something" (page 34).

Rule (4): "The more pro-gay a [Vatican] cleric is, the less likely he is to be gay; the more homophobic a [Vatican] cleric is, the more likely he is a homosexual" (page 41).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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