Before we analyze the reports, let's pause for a moment and notice how little hard evidence has been presented. All of the hundreds of speculative reports now circulating in the mass media are based on two Italian news stories. Those stories, in turn, rely on the reporters' assertions, unsupported and unconfirmed, about the contents of the "Vatileaks" report. For all we know those assertions could be completely groundless. Even if they are (more or less) accurate, they could be highly exaggerated. The allusion to a homosexual network might have occupied just a few paragraphs in a voluminous final report. We don't know.
Is it probable that in their investigation of the "Vatileaks" scandal, the three cardinals found evidence of homosexual activity among officials of the Roman Curia? Absolutely! As the veteran American Vatican-watcher John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter put it, "frankly it would be a little surprising if they hadn't."
The three-cardinal commission was charged with investigating the motives that Vatican officials might have for leaking confidential documents. If they probed the secret activities and associations of Vatican officials, the investigators would naturally have unearthed some signs of homosexuality. Allen mentions two instances in which there has been solid public documentation of a Vatican official's homosexual activities. In many more cases there have been rumors, unconfirmed reports, or circumstantial evidence pointing toward the existence of a gay faction.
Pope Benedict, who has lived in Rome and worked with the Roman Curia for more than 30 years, has surely heard the reports and the rumors. He cannot possibly have been shocked by the news that some Vatican officials are homosexual. "He is probably the last person who would be surprised by such a so-called revelation," remarked Jean-Marie Guenois, another veteran Vatican journalist and editor of Le Figaro.
In a French television interview, Guenois made another compelling argument against the notion that the "Vatileaks" report prompted the Pope to resign. By all reports the Holy Father has been considering resignation for months. (Guenois believes that he made his decision in March of last year, after his trip to Mexico and Cuba.) The "Vatileaks" report was submitted on December 17. "I say that the Pope's decision to resign had nothing to do with the information in this report," Guenois concludes.
If the three cardinals made the homosexual network a major focus of their report, and if they found the homosexual influence was more extensive than Pope Benedict had already realized, and if the Pontiff had not already made up his mind to step down, then conceivably the "Vatileaks" report could have been one factor contributing to the Pope's decision. But there is one more reason to believe that it would have been a minor factor, at best.
Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the Pope suddenly became aware of a powerful homosexual cabal. What would he be likely to do? Why would he resign? Why wouldn't he stay and fight to restore the integrity of the Church? Throughout his life Pope Benedict has shown a consistent willingness to take on tough problems, even when his actions are likely to prove unpopular. He has always been ready to do whatever he can do to promote Catholic doctrine and discipline.
"Whatever he can do" — ah, there's the rub. This Pope is no coward; he is not a man to run away from a problem. But there is a limit to his strength and he has reached it.
There have been other reports, unconfirmed but credible, that the Pope's health is rapidly deteriorating. If he is indeed losing his eyesight and his hearing, if his blood pressure is spiking and his energy is flagging, those would be plausible reasons for the Pope to step down. Not coincidentally, those factors would also match the reasons that the Pope himself cited for his resignation.
Phil Lawler. "Homosexual network at the Vatican, Yes; reason for the Pope's resignation, No." Catholic Culture - On the News (February 22, 2013).
Reprinted with permission from Phil Lawler and Catholic Culture.org.
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Phil Lawler is Director of the Catholic Culture Project. Born and raised in the Boston area, Phil Lawler attended Harvard College, graduating with honors in Government in 1972. He did graduate work in political philosophy at the University of Chicago before entering a career in journalism. Phil Lawler has been active in politics as well as journalism. He has been Director of Studies for the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think-tank based in Washington), a member of two presidential inaugural committees; and a candidate for the US Senate.
As a journalist, Phil has acted as editor of Crisis magazine. In 1986 he became the first layman to edit The Pilot, the Boston archdiocesan newspaper. From 1993 through 2005, Phil Lawler was the editor of Catholic World Report, an international monthly news magazine. And in 1996, recognizing the power of the internet, he founded Catholic World News: the first online Catholic news service.
Phil Lawler is the author of five books on political and religious topics most recently The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture. His essays, book reviews, and editorial columns have appeared in over 100 newspapers around the United States and abroad, including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe.
Phil lives in central Massachusetts with his wife Leila and their seven children.
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