Reading Time: 12 minutes Once upon a time, guys like this one were considered moral powerhouses who had been appointed by a deity to rule over the lives of millions--even billions--of human beings. Wacky, innit? (Public domain image.)
Reading Time: 12 minutes

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve likely seen a serious uptick in the number of shocking stories just now coming to light regarding the strange prevalence of gay orgies among upper-level Catholic clergy. The response of Christians to this news isn’t surprising, but it is very telling. In an age when Christians simply can’t bury negative news stories like this one, they’re finding new response tactics that absolve their broken system of any responsibility at all for their hypocrisy.

And sure, those responses are excuses that don’t fool anybody but themselves, but in that respect at least they do exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Once upon a time, guys like this one were considered moral powerhouses who had been appointed by a deity to rule over the lives of millions--even billions--of human beings. Wacky, innit? (Public domain image.)
Once upon a time, guys like this one were considered moral powerhouses who had been appointed by a deity to rule over the lives of millions–even billions–of human beings. Wacky, innit? (Public domain image.)

Party at the Vatican.

Christianity in Europe is in serious decline–like it is everywhere else in the world except those areas struggling with poverty and authoritarian governments. Italy came to the secularization party a little late, but they did get here eventually; only about 30% of Italians still say they attend church regularly–which itself is remarkable given that this country has been the seat of traditional Catholicism for many centuries. But the folks there sure seem to be losing their patience with the religious leaders who’ve run roughshod over them for at least that many centuries.

This latest story doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a huge help to Christian leaders in re-establishing their dominance in that country–or anywhere else, for that matter.

A news site in Italy, Il Fatto Quotidiano, reported on a downright explosive story last month: it seems that Vatican police raided the home of a guy who is secretary/aide to a cardinal (who himself is one of the Pope’s personal advisers). There the police discovered an honest-to-goodness drug-fueled gay orgy going on.

The apartment itself (a term which I suspect includes the building proper, not just the individual living space in question, since the building is a Vatican “palace”) belongs to an office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reviews appeals from Catholic clergy who’ve been found guilty of child sexual abuse.

Originally this group defended the Catholic Church against the various heresies it fought. Since 1988, it’s fought instead to “promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world,” according to that link on its website. Two years ago, Pope Francis gave this group the task of judging bishops who are accused of covering up priestly pedophilia–though at the time there were some questions about exactly how this tribunal would work and what punishments it’d impose on the bishops it almost certainly would discover had helped cover up such crimes.

I can see why there’d be questions; even the “Vatican Information Services” website acknowledges that their Mother Church has been “systematically accused of being accommodating towards ‘paedophile priests.'” The same site also quotes the “promoter of justice” for the congregation, a prelate named Charles Scicluna, as conceding that his office dealt with three thousand cases between just the years 2001-2010.

It seems that this aide’s apartment was in a part of the building where the highest of the high muckety-mucks made their homes, which means this guy was very much on the fast track to success and had some influential friends in the religion. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so he apparently found an outlet for all that work-related stress he got from shuffling cover-up-happy bishops around, working to destroy people’s human rights, and ignoring pedophiles.

But not everyone in his building was on board with the hookers-n-blow lifestyle he was starting to cultivate. Some of them complained about the string of young men visiting this aide–and the noise of his constant parties. These nosy neighbors also noticed that the aide had access to a car with Vatican plates–which would let him smuggle drugs into Vatican City without any risk at all of being stopped by the police there–and access to the main entrance to the Holy Office itself, which gave him an even better opportunity for smuggling.

A Story That Surprises Exactly No One.

There are damned near 100 people actively involved with or staffing the CDF, and I suppose they need somewhere to live and this is one of the places they’ve been given. Various monsignors, religious sisters, and senior officials live in that building, which is fairly close to the action in Vatican City.

The unnamed aide (named as Monsignor Luigi Capozzi on another Catholic site) living in the orgy apartment was a secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio and apparently quite the up-and-comer. (The cardinal in question is also the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which is possibly the most important office in the religion because that’s the group that interprets canon law.) The cardinal’s aide had been on track to become a bishop at some point–his boss had made that exact recommendation–but that plan is in limbo now (pun intended) thanks to this orgy situation and his previous two drug overdoses. He ended up getting arrested and is now apparently recovering at a convent in Italy, because hey, at least his superiors can be at least somewhat sure that he isn’t interested in molesting women.

Yes, you read that correctly: a guy who’d been on the fast track to upper-level leadership in a group that adamantly insists upon celibacy, poverty, and abstention for its members is getting sidelined because of his gay orgies and his string of drug overdoses.

Man, that must be really embarrassing for the “promoter of justice” for this group. Along with totally opposing equal marriage, Mr. Scicluna also apparently opposes even marijuana legalization:

(Screenshot taken 7/18.)
(Screenshot taken 7/18.) Another fun thing: his retweet of a story about how Pope Francis has a sign on his door saying in Italian, NO COMPLAINING!

The Pope is so angry about this incident that there are rumors now that aide’s boss himself, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, may even be forced into retirement at the tender age of 79 as a result of this scandal. (And this may well be why there was a new Secretary of the CDF named just today–Giacomo Morandi.)

But anger and forced retirement don’t appear to be doing much to put a dent in Catholic leaders’ hypocrisy, nor in tempering their misguided crusade against LGBTQ rights and equality.

How Deep It Goes.

Apparently gay orgies are becoming a big problem for the Vatican.


The National Catholic Register reported a week or two ago that one senior cleric declared that this sort of behavior “has never been worse” than it has been in the last few years. And the scandal goes almost to the top of the Catholic hierarchy.

Though nobody official is commenting on this particular gay drug-fueled orgy, quite a few other sources are confirming that yes, it happened, and yes, it sure seems like similar parties have been happening a whole lot lately. Pope Benedict, back in his day, freaked out after something called the Vatileaks scandal of 2012, when a lot of documents leaked out that exposed the blackmailing of gay Catholic clergy by outside interests. That leak of documents confirmed that the Vatican was this big hotbed of gay sex, drugs, intrigue, and politicking. (You probably heard about the part of the scandal involving the Pope’s own personal butler, who got in a lot of trouble for leaking some of those documents.)

In response, Pope Benedict had three of his cardinals formally investigate the leaks–and they confirmed that yes, the blackmailing was true and so was the gay sexcapades. Not much came of it, though. The butler got in trouble, the papal banker got dismissed, the Monsignor who gave reporters access to other documents did time, and the Pope himself, the CEO of the entire stinking rotten institution, came away scot-free. The main legacy of this scandal is that the Catholic Church itself seemed to become more sensitive to leaks that damaged what little credibility its leaders have left–and Pope Benedict himself got very agitated about stamping out what he viewed as sexual degeneracy from among his upper-level clergy.

It ain’t working, though. Most of those upper-level clergy acknowledge that yes, there are a whole lot of gay guys serving in the Catholic Church’s highest echelons of power. A former commander of the Swiss Guard (from 2002-2008), the official guards of the Vatican, said that he couldn’t deny that there was an entire “network of homosexuals” active in the Vatican. Of course, it’s not just gay men who are acting hypocritically–here’s a whole list of lurid examples that range the length and breadth of human sexuality.

Looking at the evidence, we must agree with one history professor who declared, “There is no sin that a cleric doesn’t commit.”

The difference between ages past and now is purely that Christian leaders can no longer silence those stories–and they are finally being held slightly more accountable for the laws they break.

Inheriting a Mess.

Pope Francis came into a church rocked by its very own self-made pedophilia scandal–a centuries-old business whose leaders are now seeing an ancient empire topple because of how they themselves treat the most vulnerable in society.

And those leaders know exactly what to do: blame anybody they possibly can for everything–anybody except themselves, that is.

So a lot of Catholics now blame Pope Francis for this outbreak of gay sex orgies.

Yes, indeed. Because obviously that is exactly why and how the Vatican network of gay guys having drug-fueled orgies happened. The strictness of his predecessors is obviously the only thing that held back all those gay guys wanting to romp around higher than balls on cocaine in the smack middle of the “holiest” city in the world. Now that Francis is on record as not being too rough on gay people, the limits are gone and the kid gloves are off (and the glow-in-the-dark condoms are on, on, ON).

Again, we’re not seeing official statements from anybody that I can find. But check the comments out on any story about it, like the one that named Mr. Capozzi as the aide who got arrested, and you’ll find someone like “grateful1” snarking about Francis for spending too much time “revamping Catholic doctrine” instead of “ensuring his minions follow it. After all, who is he to judge?”

I’m absolutely no fan of Francis; for all this accused leniency, he sure doesn’t appear to be making life easier for gay people even as he quietly helps his tribe’s pedophiles escape justice. But I can say that he sure seems to have poor taste in minions (see also: Cardinal Pell), and his fellow leaders in the religion are starting to notice that shortcoming–and to use the scandals erupting among those minions to agitate against him in proper political fashion.

The super-mega-Catholic site LifeSite openly fantasizes now about how Pope Pius V, a ruthlessly puritanical reform-minded Pope who was the Catholics’ leader during part of the Renaissance--and um yes totally an Inquisitor!– would have dealt with all this gay orgy stuff. Their post discusses homosexuality in a way that suggests that it was always part of the Church and has always been a serious problem for Catholic leaders, which makes its breathless admiration of Pius all the weirder.

(Yes, that means that that Catholic site’s response to the news that gay people still exist even within their own ranks and that they haven’t managed to stamp out their scandals is to fantasize about a guy who was in the goddamned Inquisition.)

Oh Those Liberal Cardinals!

Blaming Francis for the problem seems totally disingenuous, anyway, especially when one of his first acts as Pope was to set up a special envoy to investigate a long-running clerical scandal in Liguria. That whole scandal was a doozy, too, involving priests posting nude pictures of themselves on gay websites, organizing underage prostitution rings, living in sin with gay partners, harassing their parishioners sexually, moonlighting as barmen, getting tattoos, stealing church money, and–of course–sexually abusing at least one altar boy. Someone may need to let those guys know that the list of mortal sins isn’t actually meant to be a bucket list.

That whole situation didn’t erupt after Francis came to power; it was obviously going on for years beforehand. Nor do I think its exposure had much to do with Francis or his policies regarding gay people; it seems a lot more like a natural outgrowth of Catholicism’s erosion of power.

But Christine de Marcellus Vollmer, who is apparently a “founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family,” is accusing Francis of creating an atmosphere in which these misdeeds and crimes are being committed more often, according to that mega-Catholic site LifeSite. Queerty summarizes:

Vollmer claims corrupt high-ranking Church leaders hellbent on “fostering heretical sexual behavior” have formed “a group of extremely powerful old Cardinals of the 1970’s generation of liberals” which is causing “social mayhem,” as evidenced by last week’s gay sex orgy.

Yes, because nothing screams “1970s liberals” like the current leadership of the Catholic Church. For reference, she’s talking about guys in their 60s and 70s if not older. She’s busy calling for “young Prelates, young priests, and young laity” who are TRUE CATHOLICS™ to step right up and “get the Barque of Peter back on its proper course.”

What, does she mean like all ten of them? Like all at once?

You wanna tell her about the median age of Catholics (49) and their current demographic crisis regarding clergy, not to mention the huge number of gay men who feel drawn to careers in Catholicism, or shall I?

Higher Standards.

I’ve got no sympathy at all for Catholics. They’ve set up a perfectly natural, totally non-harmful sexual orientation and a series of equally natural, totally non-harmful consensual sexual behaviors as the worst thing ever, something they must fight to their dying breaths. They enshrined homosexuality as the topic of a cynically-started culture war that is backfiring harder on them every single day. They declared–and still declare–that a real live god told them to fight against this “sin” and that they can’t let up at all on their crusade without getting that god angry with them.

There would be literally no war on gay people, any more than there’d be a war on abortion rights, if Catholic leaders had not pushed that war into being and kept it alive through ghoulish and unholy means.

And then it turns out that a whole lot of those same Catholic leaders are apparently totally gay and doing totally gay stuff like all the time in their little nest in Vatican City.

It’s not the gay orgies themselves that bug most people, of course, but the nonconsensual and totally hypocritical stuff that those priests and bishops and cardinals do and of course the fact that they’ve declared war on law-abiding gay people that is irritating.

These people who claim to speak for a god–who claim to have this total stranglehold on morality and purity–who claim to know exactly how people should conduct their private lives–who have tried countless times to put their ideas into law to force others to live this way–who predict horrific harm coming to those who disobey their demands and who say they believe wholeheartedly in the reality of an afterlife where that harm happens–and yet they cannot even live according to their own rules.

They’re really awful rules, but it’s just remarkable that Catholics have not once through their history managed this one trick that they’ve always demanded of others.

It’s a truly astonishing lapse considering the authority that Catholic leaders hold over those few wretched parts of the world that struggle still against Christian overreach and predation, and considering how much those selfsame leaders ache to regain that hold over all the rest of our world.

The rest of us see that lapse and think two things:

First, that it’s rather odd that Christians seem to have so much trouble keeping those they deem morally inferior out of their upper ranks, and second, that their system doesn’t appear to do much to create good people or harmonious, well-run, law-abiding societies. (Hey, do y’all remember that time in 2014 when Pope Francis apparently said that 2% of the priests in the Catholic Church were pedos, which means that there are some 8200 pedos in priestly ranks alone? Fun times. Amazingly, the Catholic Church didn’t completely collapse right then and there.)

Even if Catholic leaders were right and being gay was harmful somehow, a point they have yet to demonstrate in any credible way, then we’d still have to conclude that Catholicism is not any solution to that problem. Whatever their war on LGBTQ people is trying to accomplish beyond harassing and persecuting LGBTQ people, they’ve very obviously failed in every conceivable direction.

I’m forced to conclude moreover that the only reason we don’t hear about an underground abortion clinic operating in the basement of St. Peter’s is that Catholics don’t allow women into their highest ranks. They might constantly push the women they sexually assault and keep as lovers into getting abortions (which is its own scandal waiting to erupt), but at least nobody’ll ever catch Charles Scicluna or Francesco Coccopalmerio with their feet up in stirrups getting a D&C.

Lifestyles of the Rich And Christian.

Even if these various scandals rocking Catholicism all involved consenting adults doing consenting-adult stuff in the privacy of their own homes, this current series of scandals would be a big problem for Catholicism simply because of the hypocrisy angle. That angle makes this story news, and makes it a very relevant topic of discussion when Christians start agitating for more political power and direct control over people who are not in their church (or whine about their loss of cultural power).

Fewer and fewer people see any harm in being gay–or in having orgies. Catholics have their work cut out for them making something that is natural and harmless look totally unnatural and harmful–and that work is distinctly undercut by the prevalence of people in even their leaders’ ranks who do all the stuff that those leaders say is harmful and bad.

Most people accept that super-wealthy, super-privileged people don’t live like the rest of us do. But we do get really touchy about someone who clearly isn’t living the way they demand that everyone else should live.

And Christians themselves get just furious about what they view as a double standard in the reporting of these incidents. They can see that largely folks outside their tribe don’t get really over-excited about the peccadilloes of the wealthy and mighty and they really don’t understand why that is.

Two Boxes.

Christians like that don’t understand the distinction between “gay orgies done with full consent while trying to stay safe and be considerate” and those same exact activities in a nonconsensual atmosphere–or those activities done by someone who campaigns against people who do exactly the same thing.

We’ve talked about that idea before–it comes from the Two Boxes Theory from Libby Anne–and unless you know about it, nothing about Christians’ response to their scandals will make a lot of sense.

Christians are salespeople, and they know that their product’s credibility is being tarnished by the endless string of scandals coming out of their religion’s leaders.

So their solution is always going to be to try to shut down the people talking about those scandals, since they are well aware of the fact that they can do literally nothing about the scandals themselves–and yet despite those scandals, still think that they should have power over everyone’s lives to force us all to live the way they think people should live.

That’s why our fight against Christian overreach is so important, and why we must not let up, ever. A lot of very vulnerable people need us and more is at stake than ever.

We’re going to look at a more progressive Christian next who is convinced that he knows what the real problem facing his religion is. He’s wrong, but he’s wrong in an entertaining way so I thought it’d be fun to examine. See you next time!

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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