The Catholic priests are celibate. They condemn the use of contraceptives, homosexuality, lesbianism and many of laypeople’s practices. They wear an aura of spirituality around them and live away from the eyes of the common people. Most people believe in what they see on the surface. In In the Closet of the Vatican, Frederic Martel says that the heart of the Church is a highly restricted universe where priests are living out their amorous passions while at the same time renewing gender and imagining new kinds of family. This secret is even better kept than the homosexuality of a large part of the College of Cardinals and clergy. He says, beyond the lies and the universal hypocrisy, the Vatican is also an unexpected place of experimentation. In the Vatican, new ways of living as a couple are constructed and new emotional relationships are tried out. In the Vatican, they explore new models of the family of the future and make preparations for the retirement of elderly homosexuals.
Homosexual profiles vary greatly within the Catholic Church, even though the great majority of prelates in the Vatican may be placed in one or other of these groups. Frederic Martel writes, “I notice two constants. On the one hand, the majority of these priests have nothing to do with ‘ordinary love.’ Their sex life can be restrained or exaggerated, closeted or dissolute, and sometimes all of these things at once, but it is rarely banal. On the other hand, a certain fluidity remains. The categories are not as hermetic as I have described them. They represent a whole spectrum, a continuum, and some gender-fluid priests move from one group to the other in the course of their lives, between two worlds, as if in limbo.” However, Martel also noticed that several categories are missing or rare in the Vatican. For example, true transsexuals are almost non-existent, and bisexuals seem to be unrepresented. In the ‘LGBT’ world of the Vatican, there are hardly any ‘B’s or ‘T’s, only ‘L’s and a huge number of ‘’G’s.
If homosexuality is the rule and heterosexuality is the exception in the Catholic priesthood, that doesn’t mean that it is accepted as a collective identity. Even though it is the norm “by default”, Martel says that it is like a very individualized ‘practice,’ so hidden and ‘closeted’ that it translates neither into a way of life nor into a culture. The homosexuals in the Vatican and the clergy are innumerable, but they do not form a community, and therefore they cannot have a lobby. They are not ‘gays’ in the proper sense of the word if we understand that to mean accepted homosexuality, lived collectively. But they have common codes and references — those of ‘The Closet.’ In the course of his investigation, Martel discovered genuine loving relationships within the clergy which, according to age and circumstance, can take the form of paternal, filial or fraternal love – “and those loving friendships comforted me.” Old fellows together? Confirmed bachelors? Many, in fact, live out their homosexuality stubbornly, and practice it assiduously, according to the fine model described by Paul Verlaine: ‘The story of two men living together / Better than non-model husbands.’
This masterful and spine-chilling study of the sexual life in the Vatican is the most detailed exposé of sexual corruption in the heart of Catholic establishment. This is the first time somebody has succeeded in having access to priests’ sexual lives in the Vatican. Martel shines a light on the darker corners of the Catholicism and reigning hypocrisy. Martel surely does not criticize homosexuality but what he is critical of is the hypocrisy around the sexual lives of the priests. This beautifully written and well-researched book would bring many adjectives to mind — revealing, explosive, shocking, stunning, chilling, sensational, and many more. It may not be easy to read it for a believer but everybody must read this astonishing piece of investigative journalism.