Lucian K. Truscott IV writes about the time he, as a West Point cadet, went to visit Cardinal Francis Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, for a cadet magazine interview. Spellman granted the interview in part because Truscott’s grandfather was a famous general whom Spellman had known in World War II. It was a memorable encounter. Excerpts:
We were led into a sitting room with windows overlooking Madison Avenue. Spellman, a diminutive, fleshy square-faced man wearing wire-rimmed spectacles was seated in a corner of the room. His assistant the monsignor showed me to a chair next to him. I took my seat and got out my pen and notebook and started the interview, but before I could even ask my first question, Spellman put his hand on my thigh and started moving it toward my crotch. He was just about to reach my private parts when the monsignor, who was standing behind him, reached over his shoulder and grabbed his wrist and put his hand back in his lap. “Now, now, eminence,” the monsignor whispered to Spellman.
I had no idea what to do. I was afraid I would be punished or even accused of lying if I reported Spellman to the authorities at West Point. I mean, he was Cardinal Spellman! He was the military vicar of the United States! I was panicked that if I stood up and left, I wouldn’t get the interview I needed for my story. I had sold the story and the New York trip to the officer in charge of The Pointer on the basis of writing a profile of Spellman in advance of the Thayer Award ceremony. I was dumbstruck. I just sat there, frozen.
The groping continued. More:
There was an out-of-body aspect to the whole thing. It was like it was happening to someone else. There I was in this rather large room behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral with two of my West Point buddies and this six-foot tall 30ish monsignor looking on, and each time Spellman groped me, I thought, surely, this is the last time it will happen. I mean, there were three other people present! He’s going to come to his senses!
But he didn’t. He wasn’t a doddering old senile fool, either. He answered my questions lucidly and even embellished his answers with long, digressive stories. At one point, he recalled the first day of the Anzio invasion and went on about what a dashing figure my grandfather cut in his leather jacket and cavalry riding breeches and white neck scarf, the colorful uniform he was famous for wearing during the war. The monsignor didn’t say a word about the cardinal’s behavior when he escorted us out of the cardinal’s residence. No apology, no shrug of the shoulders, nothing.
Truscott says he wishes he hadn’t stayed quiet about it all these years. He feels that his silence in some way aided and abetted the culture of sexual abuse and cover-up. The thing is, if he had said what he knew, who would have believed him? I mean, he was Cardinal Spellman!
It is possible that Spellman was not as in control of his faculties as Truscott assumed. It is well known that people in the grips of dementia can become sexually aggressive, having lost their inhibitions. Still, his story is credible, and corroborates stories about Spellman that have been around for decades. I heard a number of them when I was living in New York and writing about the abuse scandal. I’ve told in this space before a tale that a New York friend shared with me back in 2002. It was from back in the Sixties. A gay male friend of hers took her to a private party at the home of “Bubbles” — the nom de gay of Cardinal Spellman. She was the only female there. She said that the famously right-wing cardinal archbishop of New York gave her a personal tour of his mansion — including showing her the floor-to-ceiling smoked-glass mirrors he had had installed in his bathroom suite.
Cardinal Spellman was confident that he would never be outed, and that if someone tried, no one would believe it. And they wouldn’t have, until today.
In two weeks, a gay French sociologist will publish In The Closet Of The Vatican, a book the purports to out the gay network honeycombing the senior leadership class of the Roman Catholic Church. His claim is that the Vatican is run by gay men who exhibit various pathologies of the closet. In this tweet thread, Father James Martin, the LGBT-advocating Jesuit, tweets that in his view, the book ought to compel the Catholic Church to be more open, honest and affirming of gays in the priesthood, but will instead probably cause a witch hunt and a desire to purge priestly ranks of gays.
I wouldn’t call it a “witch hunt,” but Father Martin might be right. It is hard to see that happening, though, in an environment in which homosexuality is far more accepted, even among lay Catholics. On the other hand, it is also difficult to see happening what Father Martin prefers to be the outcome. If Dr. Martel is able to credibly document his claims about homosexuals and the Vatican, the outrage among many orthodox Catholics over Rome’s hypocrisy will not permit the Vatican to embrace Father Martin’s #LoveWins strategy.
Father Martin tweets:
Its publication the day before the Vatican’s summit on abuse is also bound to shift attention away from child abuse and onto gay priests in general, once again falsely conflating in people’s minds homosexuality and pedophilia. 8/
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) February 8, 2019
It’s easy to see why Father Martin has this fear. He’s exactly right! The publication of this book on the day before the Vatican summit will be the framework within which everything at the summit is reported. And it should. The global abuse scandal cannot be reduced to a problem of gay priests, but neither can it be understood without squarely facing the role of gay priests and their networks within the Church. As a New York Times reporter put it on the paper’s podcast recently, a typical situation is that Bishop Smith has a secret gay lover, and Father Jones, a pederast, knows Bishop Smith’s secret. Bishop Smith knows that Father Jones knows his secret, so he has a vested interest in turning a blind eye to whatever Father Jones is getting up to in the rectory. This is the culture in which abuse happens.
The mainstream media have long resisted confronting this truth, because it confirms negative stereotypes of gays. If Martel’s book lives up to the hype, it will no longer be possible to avoid the elephant in the sacristy.
What will the institutional Church do about it? God only knows. Pope Francis avoided even acknowledging Archbishop Vigano’s allegations about gay corruption in the Curia, pretending that he (the Pope) was too holy to be drawn in by the devil’s taunting. At some point — and that point is coming in a couple of weeks — Francis’s silence will be completely untenable. That dirty old cardinal Uncle Ted McCarrick is the living, breathing symbol of the hidden nexus of cash, power, and homosexuality in the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church.
UPDATE: The Italian, French, and Spanish title for this book is Sodoma, which is to say, Sodom. Here we are in the year 2019, and a major book from an established publisher says in its title that the real name of Vatican City is “Sodom” — and not a soul could plausibly say this is anti-Catholic bigotry, not after what we’ve all learned.
UPDATE.2: A Catholic reader sends in this passage from
The Fifth Gospel A Confederacy of Dunces to show that Ignatius Reilly’s scheme to achieve world peace through a conspiracy to homosexualize the military casts a certain light on Cardinal Spellman’s performative toughness as a Cold War anti-communist fighter. From John Kennedy Toole’s comic novel:
“The power-crazed leaders of the world would certainly be surprised to find that their military leaders and troops were only masquerading sodomites who were only too eager to meet the masquerading sodomite armies of other nations in order to have dances and balls and learn some foreign dance steps.”
As I was wearing the soles of my desert boots down to a mere sliver of crepe rubber on the old flagstone banquettes of the French Quarter in my fevered attempt to wrest a living from an unthinking and uncaring society, I was hailed by a cherished old acquaintance (deviate). After a few minutes of conversation in which I established most easily my moral superiority over this degenerate, I found myself pondering once more the crises of our times. My mentality, uncontrollable and wanton as always, whispered to me a scheme so magnificent and daring that I shrank from the very thought of what I was hearing. “Stop!” I cried imploringly to my god-like mind. “This is madness.” But still I listened to the counsel of my brain. It was offering me the opportunity to Save the World Through Degeneracy. There on the worn stones of the Quarter I enlisted the aid of this wilted flower of a human in gathering his associates in foppery together behind a banner of brotherhood.
Our first step will be to elect one of their number to some very high office — the presidency, if Fortuna spins us kindly. Then they will infiltrate the military. As soldiers, they will all be so continually busy in fraternizing with one another, tailoring their uniforms to fit like sausage skins, inventing new and varied battle dress, giving cocktail parties, etc., that they will never have time for battle. The one whom we finally make Chief of Staff will want only to attend to his fashionable wardrobe, a wardrobe which, alternately, will permit him to be either Chief of Staff or debutante, as the desire strikes him. In seeing the success of their unified fellows here, perverts around the world will also band together to capture the military in their respective countries. In those reactionary countries in which the deviates seem to be having some trouble in gaining control, we will send aid to them as rebels to help them in toppling their governments. When we have at last overthrown all existing governments, the world will enjoy not war but global orgies conducted with the utmost protocol and the most truly international spirit, for these people do transcend simple national differences. Their minds are on one goal; they are truly united; they think as one.
None of the pederasts in power, of course, will be practical enough to know about such devices as bombs; these nuclear weapons would lie rotting in their vaults somewhere. From time to time the Chief of Staff, the President, and so on, dressed in sequins and feathers, will entertain the leaders, i.e., the perverts, of all the other countries at balls and parties. Quarrels of any sort could easily be straightened out in the men’s room of the redecorated United Nations. Ballets and Broadway musicals and entertainments of that sort will flourish everywhere and will probably make the common folk happier than did the grim, hostile, fascistic pronouncements of their former leaders.
Ignatius may have failed to convert the military, but he seems to have had more success with the officer class of the Church Militant.