Is there a "gay lobby" in the curia? In his book "Sodoma", Frederic Martel argues that the Vatican is one of the largest homosexual communities in the world. But is the work based more on rumors than facts?
Interviewer: In the book, Martel calls the period under Pope Benedict XVI. 'the gayest pontificate in history' – do you have to take such a book seriously? Or is it not in view of such sentences above all on scandals and sales figures out?
Klaus Prompers (former USA correspondent for ZDF in Washington): Basically, one has to look very closely at what the author Frederic Martel has put together there. Martel has made a career as a gay sociologist in France and has also previously written quite successful books on homosexuality. In France, he has fought on the side of the Socialist Party for equal rights for homosexuals in partnership and marriage.
But if you look, for example, at the figure he gives that 80 percent of Vatican cardinals, bishops, prelates, priests are gay – you quickly run into the caveat that he was told this by a source. And from a journalistic point of view, that is considerably too little, especially for such an accusation. The accusation is not only based on the analysis of the pontificate of Benedict XVI., but also by Paul VI., who had hired homosexual priests en masse.
Also there the author remains guilty a concretion, namely if it concerns, how substantially these reproaches are occupied in the book. And this is basically what runs through the entire book. To be sure, on one side he says that he has been in contact with 1.500 people spoke, including 41 cardinals, 52 bishops or prelates and 45 Vatican ambassadors, as well as foreign ambassadors to the Vatican. But nevertheless, in my opinion, facts and rumors are always very strongly mixed in the book.
Interviewer: The fact that there are clerics in the Vatican, who are homosexual and live it out, is known in the meantime. Even the pope has already taken note. Does the book nevertheless provide new insights based on this research??
PrompersBasically, one can say that it is really a question of faith: does one believe the author on the basis of the relatively narrow concretizations that he brings in his book?. Or else you just don't believe him. That cannot be taken from the individual reader.
I am in doubt whether this will really become such a successful book, which contains scandalous theses, because many of his expressed theses are not one hundred percent proven. In my opinion, this contradicts journalistic due diligence.
For example, there should be more than one source for the thesis "80 percent of the clergy in the Vatican are gay". With such a serious accusation, one would have to have at least four sources that independently prove that there really is such a broad front. That this is difficult to prove is also clear to me. That there are gays in the Vatican is no question at all. But that they have now formed a network, I consider that to be a thesis that is not really confirmed by the book.
Interviewer: You already hinted at it, Martel is a gay activist himself. What do you think he is trying to achieve with the book??
Prompers: First of all, I think he wants to make money. That is quite legitimate as an author, self-employed writer and sociologist. This is definitely a topic that may be attractive to some readers who have reservations about the Catholic Church's sex education policy. It makes sense to try to write a book about it and earn money with it.
Perhaps he also wants to break a new lance for the fact that homosexuality is more strongly recognized in the church as normal – not as an aberration from the norm, as various bishops have recently called it again. The concern is not bad from the outset, but whether it nevertheless overshoots the mark is, in my opinion, the question.
Interviewer: The book is now published in eight languages and in 20 countries, but not in German. Why not?
PrompersTo the best of my knowledge, various German publishers received the offer to publish this book and then looked very closely at these 600 pages. They came then probably tendency to the conclusion that too many rumors and too few facts are present in the book, so that they have rather refrained from publishing this book.
Because the book can become quite also a Rohrkrepierer, which makes in the reason at first times a fast edition, but then in the substance is really so weak that it falls very fast again into oblivion.
Interviewer: Do you think it is a coincidence that the book is published today, when the abuse summit begins in the Vatican??
PrompersYes, I believe it. Because if he's right, and I'm inclined to believe him, that he spent four years researching it, he couldn't have known that today of all days is the beginning of the abuse peak. After all, this was proclaimed by Pope Francis only last fall.
He now blames it on the fact that the translations took a long time to complete. It is now published in eight languages – Portugal, Spain, Latin America, France, Great Britain and the USA. Translations take a long time with almost 600 pages.
But the timing is, of course, very deliberately chosen by the publishers to appear on this day and to be interwoven into this discussion, in which I think it somewhat distracts from the discussion that is actually necessary.
The discussion is about other things, as we could hear from the first words of the Pope at the opening of the conference today: Transparency, taking the victims seriously and changing the structures in the church are needed. This is what the bishops should pay attention to.
I like to quote the Jesuit Klaus Mertes, who says in regard to homosexuality, if you do gay bashing, then that is part of the problem of the church. But that is not its solution. So the solutions undoubtedly lie elsewhere.
The interview was conducted by Heike Sicconi.