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Sex Parties, Drugs and Gay Escorts at the Pope's Residence: Undercover in the Vatican

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French writer Frédéric Martel, whose new book exposes the sexual secrets of the Vatican, explains how the moral rot of the Catholic Church is rooted in its clergy's repressed homosexuality

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Martel: “When Ratzinger grasped that Europe was no longer buying the Church’s conservative and homophobic views, and that the enlightened West as a whole was moving toward permitting gay marriages, he made a mistake and befriended the worst of the dictatorships, including conservative Muslim countries that persecute gays. That was also Church policy during the era of Pope Paul VI.” 

But the steel walls of conservatism were only a façade. Behind them, inside the Vatican, he says, a Sodom existed amid activities “including chemsex parties [gay sex and hard drugs] that took place within the papal residence itself. In my book I write about this episode, which occurred during the period of Benedict XVI and was uncovered in the time of the present pope – about parties that were large group orgies in which sex and hard drugs sometimes mixed into a dangerous cocktail and the guests wore provocative clothing. All that information exploded in the Italian press back in the summer of 2017. It transpired that Msgr. Luigi Capozzi, the private secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio for about 10 years, had been arrested by the Vatican gendarmerie on suspicion of organizing sex-and-drug parties in his private apartment in the Vatican. 

“Capozzi, whom the pope greatly esteemed, lived in a wing of the papal residence itself,” Martel continues. “I know the building well, because I dined there many times. One of its entrances opens onto sovereign Italian territory; the other into the Vatican. Capozzi’s wing was thus ideally situated for organizing parties of this kind. On the one hand, the Italian police didn’t have authorization to search it – the same was true with respect to his diplomatic vehicle – because he was situated within the Vatican. But on the other hand, he could leave his apartment without passing by the Pontifical Guard, because one door exited directly to an area of Italian state jurisdiction. Since then it’s all been exposed in the media. Capozzi was hospitalized in the Pius XI clinic and has not been seen in public again. Well, a trial for the use and dissemination of hard drugs hasn’t yet been held, so he is still presumed innocent.” 

This is not the only affair that Martel mentions from the period of Benedict XVI. He devotes a special chapter to the pope’s visit to Cuba in 2012. The visit, which was supposed to be a historic event in one of the last bastions of communism, devastated the pope. Backed by testimonies of high-level figures in the Vatican who accompanied the pope on the journey, and offering a vivid, concrete description, the chapter captures the despair that seized the pope when he grasped the scale of the homosexual prostitution and the pedophilia within the ranks of the Church there. What was flagrantly monstrous in the Cuban case was that the Castro regime knew what was going on within the Church and turned a blind eye, in return for the full cooperation of the Havana archbishopric with the regime. 

All this led to the Benedict’s resignation in 2013, Martel suggests. A resignation, he writes, that was exceptional though not unique in the history of the Church. The formal reason was the pope’s poor health, but in the author’s view, he stepped down in the wake of the total despair caused by the Cuba visit. Martel goes a step farther. He hints – at first, gently – at the possibility that the tormented conscience of the pope Joseph Ratzinger in the homosexual realm were also part of a “personal drama.”

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Let’s talk about the Pontifical Swiss Guards. In your book you tell about a guard named Nathanael who opens his heart to you.

“I met secretly with Nathanael – which is of course a fictitious name – about a dozen times. He told me what truly bothers him about his service in the Vatican: the insistent and sometimes aggressive courtship of a number of cardinals. Nathanael is not gay and also not what’s known as gay-friendly. He told me he was outraged by the courtship and even told me the names of the cardinals. He, who vowed to be ready to lay down his life for the pope, was disgusted at what he saw.” 

Were there other members of the Swiss Guard who complained?

“Yes. After I left the Vatican I met with a former member of the Swiss Guard. Like his colleague, he said he had been sexually harassed dozens of times by senior Vatican figures. One method, he said, is to summon a guard to the bedroom on some pretext. Another is to leave a gift with a calling card on a guard’s bed. This guard told me that he realized there was no way he could complain about the sexual harassment, because they get threatened that if they talk they will not be able to find work, but also vice versa: If they don’t talk, the Church will help them find a job when they return to their civilian life in Switzerland.”

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