Yet more scandalous revelations for the Church to deal with: the current issue of Italian magazine Panorama is making headlines after it conducted an undercover investigation of suspected practising homosexual priests in Rome.
In a sensationalist cover story which hit the newsstands today entitled “The Wild Nights of Gay Priests”, the article’s author, together with an accomplice who was homosexual, claims to have documented the double lives of a number of priests using a hidden camera.
The Berlusconi-owned weekly doesn’t give precise numbers of Rome priests involved, saying only that there are “numerous cases”, but it claims to have compromising evidence of three priests. In the article, they are given the fictitious names of Paul, Charles and Luke, one French, and two Italian.
The priests, writes Panorama journalist Carmelo Abbate, were “dressed in clerical garb during the day, but at night took off their cassock to become men perfectly integrated in the homosexual lifestyle of the capital.”
Compromising videos and photographs have been posted on the Panorama website of the purported priests, aged between 35 and 50, partying in the Testaccio district of Rome, known for its bars and clubs.
Unofficial sources close to the Vatican are quoted in other media as saying the Panorama investigation is “pure scandal” and “without solid” evidence. They added it was simply an attempt to draw readers.
The Vicariate of Rome issued a statement saying the purpose of the article is obvious: “to create a scandal, slander all priests—on the basis of one of the priests saying 98 percent of priests he knew were ‘homosexual’—and to discredit the Church.” Secondly, it said the article wanted to create the impression that there is a “definite intransigence” on the part of the Church “to look at the reality of homosexual priests.”
It added that such priests should “come out” or leave the priesthood. “No one is forcing them to remain as priests, exploiting only the benefits,” it said, and stressed that it is committed “to vigorously pursue any misconduct”.
The Vicariate added that the article has caused “pain and bewilderment in the community” of the Church of Rome. The vast majority of priests, it said, “are a model of morality for everyone.”
But painful and scandalous if true, this is perhaps the latest chapter in the continuing purification of the Church that Benedict XVI has referred to this year.