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The Lavender Mafia

The Guardian brings us startling but, for insiders, unsurprising news [1]:

A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI [2] to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican [3], some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.

The pope’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called “Vatileaks” affair.

Last May Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.

According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising “two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red” had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.

The newspaper said the cardinals described a number of factions, including one whose members were “united by sexual orientation”.

In an apparent quotation from the report, La Repubblica said some Vatican officials had been subject to “external influence” from laymen with whom they had links of a “worldly nature”. The paper said this was a clear reference to blackmail.

I don’t know if this is true. I expect that it is.

UPDATE: To refresh your memory, there was this 2010 story [4] from Panorama. Augean stables. Poor Benedict. True, this story is very thinly sourced, which is why I don’t say that I know it’s true. But I expect that it is true because of what I know all too well about the lavender mafia in the US Catholic Church, from things priests in a position to know about the situation in Rome have told me personally, and from situations like the Cardinal Groer debacle. Remember this from 2010 [5]?:

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tried to persuade Pope John Paul II to mount a full investigation into a cardinal who abused boys and young monks, one of the Church’s most senior figures revealed yesterday. But Ratzinger’s opponents in the Vatican managed to block the inquiry. As the future Benedict XVI put it: “The other side won.”

The pervert cardinal was the late Hans Hermann Groer, removed as Archbishop of Vienna in 1995 following sex allegations. The source for the story is Groer’s successor in Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, an intellectual whom some commentators have tipped as a possible future Pope.

“The other side won,” according to Benedict, quoted by Cdl. Schoenborn, who personally put a lot on the line trying to compel John Paul to deal with this situation.

Who was on the “other side” of Cardinal Ratzinger, and why would they cover up for a molesting gay cardinal?

72 Comments (Open | Close)

72 Comments To "The Lavender Mafia"

#1 Comment By Lasorda On February 22, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

“Well instead of making a snide comment about other people’s mental deficiencies, you could just clarify what appears to you as obfuscation.”

Rod does a lot of that. You have to be non-committal in order to maintain the moral high ground from which rotten fruit can be hurled at republicans. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

#2 Comment By Fred On February 22, 2013 @ 2:42 pm



#3 Comment By EDP On February 22, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

I’m no expert on Vatican politics, but the Italian news article doesn’t make much sense on its face. If there is a bureaucratic “faction” opposed to Benedict in some material and irreconcilable way, or if there are men unworthy of the cardinalate, then the pope should sack them and bring in a curial staff that enjoys his confidence. The natural reaction to bureaucratic factionalism is not for the boss to throw up his hands and resign. Unless there is a lot better evidence than this, I shall take Benedict’s stated reasons for resigning (he is old and frail) at face value. Am I missing something here?

#4 Comment By The Wet One On February 22, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

Well, if nothing else, the Church is a human institution and its humanity is showing here.

For my part, I’ll trust my own wits and judgments as to what is what rather than bow to Rome or any other hotbed of “Truth” manned by humans.

Get me a religion or church run and operated by verifiable mystical non-human beings that are provably from heaven, I may just get on board as a mindless sheep. Until then, I don’t trust and can’t be bothered to verify that my lack of trust is warranted because the issue isn’t worth the time and I’m not qualified to determine the matter.

#5 Comment By pinkjohn On February 22, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

This article is kinda juicy but also fairly yellow. Not enough fact, all rumor.

It is funny how these threads devolve into debates about homosexuality vs. ephebophilia or pedophilia, even after all these years of discussing it. Myself, I go with the interpretation that so many of these men got caught in a sexually immature stage, and the shame and secrecy of sexuality in the priesthood fostered that. This would explain much of the ephebophilia. There are also actual pedophiles, probably a lot fewer. One should not, however, gloss over the sexual abuse of girls as in the case of Bishop Finn’s failures, not to mention the sexual abuse of nuns by priests in various parts of the world. [7]

I have said here that I share much of Rod’s opinion about the “Lavendar Mafia,” even as an out gay clergy person. The ecclesial hierarchy is full of closeted gay men who abuse their power and viciously guard their secrets. I’ve known priests, some who have perfectly obeyed the celibacy rule, some not so successfully (and some who openly flout it). Several of them have stories of being sexually harassed by superiors and retaliated against with poor assignments if they refuse.

Rod, what I wonder about your position is, do you see this “mafia” as a product of Vatican II and somehow connected to the lgbt movement? I see them as utterly antithetical to the movement, and perhaps an ecclesial leftover from pre-VII. Interested in your thoughts.

#6 Comment By Consequences2 On February 22, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

I have said here that I share much of Rod’s opinion about the “Lavendar Mafia,”

I would suggest you reserve judgment until you’re clear on the dots that Rod connects.

#7 Comment By Rod Dreher On February 22, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

Rod, what I wonder about your position is, do you see this “mafia” as a product of Vatican II and somehow connected to the lgbt movement? I see them as utterly antithetical to the movement, and perhaps an ecclesial leftover from pre-VII. Interested in your thoughts.

No, I don’t think they’re the fruit of Vatican II, and only tangentially related to the LGBT movement. I think they are one particular manifestation of the human tendency towards tribalism, and to favoring one’s own tribe in all kinds of ways. But it is particularly perverse within the Catholic institution, for obvious reasons.

What I found out in my reporting, reading, and conversations with many Catholics, including priests, and including liberals, is that the so-called “lavender mafia” is real. By “lavender mafia,” I mean gay priests who consciously identify as part of informal networks of other gay priests, and who operate more or less in tandem with each other. The former monk Richard Sipe, who is one of the foremost researchers of clerical sexuality, reports that there is, or was (I haven’t talked to him in more than a decade), a network of sexually active gay clergy in positions of authority in US seminaries, and in turn throughout the hierarchy. They used that power to weed out seminarians who were not sympathetic to them (this is what “Goodbye, Good Men” was about), and more to the point, to silence seminarians who may be gay, but who took their vows of celibacy seriously. This lavender mafia existed mainly to protect and to facilitate sexual activity among gay priests, either with each other or with men outside the priesthood. It’s not that they necessarily condoned sexual abuse, but the lines between abusive sexuality and simply living as a sexual outlaw were very blurry. Everybody had sexual dirt on everybody else, so the silence of many priests (and bishops) in the face of sexual abuse and even mere sexual misconduct was assured.

One of the most interesting aspects of this phenomenon is the inability and/or unwillingness of people on the left and the right to talk about it.

For church conservatives, the whole thing is appalling, and smacks of a smear campaign. I once interviewed a seminarian who had previously been in the seminary of a Catholic religious order. There was so much open gay sex and gay sexuality going on that he complained to his parents about it. They flat-out refused to believe him. Their own son! A priest friend of mine knew that this guy was telling the truth — that particular province of the order had a reputation — and helped him find his way into a decent diocesan seminary. Anyway, a lot of this is just too difficult for many conservatives to accept.

For church liberals, and other liberals, the whole thing is a right-wing smear against gays. They will not accept that gays can be as corrupt in their sexuality and abuse of power. There seems to be this view that to admit that there is a big problem with abusive gay networks, and gay priests violating their celibacy vows, is to give aid and comfort to right-wing homophobes. Therefore, any attempt to call attention to a very real problem is met with anger and denial, but for different reasons than what you hear on the right. And of course the media want nothing to do with it. I’ve said here before how a Fox staffer, for example, told me in 2002 that as a matter of policy handed down from on high, reporters covering the Catholic abuse scandal were told to stay away from the gay angle. Mind you, the gay angle doesn’t explain the whole story, but it is a big part of the story; you can’t get an accurate picture of the phenomenon without examining the role of gay sex and gay social networks within the priesthood, including the role of blackmail. But this is not something the media want to touch.

#8 Comment By Lasorda On February 23, 2013 @ 12:24 am

Rod, You need to make that comment a post on this blog. That is the first time I have read those words in any context, even though so many of us know them to be true.

#9 Comment By Phil Maguire On February 23, 2013 @ 12:59 am

You don’t have to be a top notch investigative journalist to know that the Catholic Church has an epic problem with homosexual clergy.

They have molested their way through every country in the world and you and I and every other ordinary Catholic have collectively paid out billions in compensation because of them.

That there is a powerful cabal of gays among Vatican prelates is not surprising, and that the Pope feels he cannot at his age and in his state of health, deal with them as need too be dealt with is not surprising.

The Church needs a thorough clean out and if that results in the loss of a majority of priests and members then so be it. Better a small Church battling for God than a huge church at one with the devil.

#10 Comment By Sean Scallon On February 23, 2013 @ 1:02 am

“If there are gay priests there are going to be gay bishops….”

#11 Comment By joseph On February 23, 2013 @ 8:23 am

Rod and readers
Why would Fox and other media not want to “go there?” Seems it would be a compelling and sensational issue to explore for the media, which they usually love to do? Why the reluctance in this case? It seems also that for those that disagree with the Church’s teachings on sexuality and especially the “disordered” nature of homosexual relations, you would think they would want to shine light on this issue for their own reasons. So why ignore the big fat elephant in the room? Interesting that it seems that the Church and the media are in collusion to keep this well documented issue buried.

#12 Comment By Consequences2 On February 23, 2013 @ 9:38 am

They will not accept that gays can be as corrupt in their sexuality and abuse of power. There seems to be this view that to admit that there is a big problem with abusive gay networks, and gay priests violating their celibacy vows, is to give aid and comfort to right-wing homophobes.

I have no doubt there are gay priests. I have no doubt that among them there are priests who abuse their authority. I have no doubt there are gay priests who know other gay priests and help protect them. I have no doubt there are gay priests who are subjected to blackmail.

And all of that can be said of straight priests.

Then you make the leap to the “big problem” with abusive gay networks. There is NO EVIDENCE of systematic networks of abuse among gay priests. There are no records of gay priests passing children around. There are no records of gay bishops sending abusers off to particularly delicious hunting grounds.

There is plenty of evidence of the hierarchy reassigning priests. Plenty of documentation of conscious decisions to “protect the Church”.

And the biggest problem with your argument and the one that gets me shaking with rage is that you persist in talking about the effect of homosexuals, as though out-of-the-closet gay men are as abusive, as lacking in moral strength, as prone to blackmail, as freakin’ EVIL as the priests and bishops who have hidden the rape of children for a hundred years.

#13 Comment By JonF On February 23, 2013 @ 9:56 am

Phil, the problem I have with your suggestion (boot all the sinners out!) is that ecclesial corruption is nothing new and if your program had been followed from day one there would have been no Christendom, there would have been no (often imperfect) conversion of the masses, the Roman Empire would have died still pagan, and modern civilization would not exist in anything like its current form. I think that’s too high a price to pay for puritanism. And as the saying goes if you find a sin-free church, by all means join it, but realize that by your doing so it is no longer sinless.
(Of course I do believe Rome should clean house and definitely failed badly. But I don’t think there will ever be a sinless clergy any more than a sinless laity)

#14 Comment By pinkjohn On February 23, 2013 @ 10:07 am

“One of the most interesting aspects of this phenomenon is the inability and/or unwillingness of people on the left and the right to talk about it.”

So right! And when it is talked about it’s used for an agenda without context, such as “all gays are pedophile predators” or some left equivalent.

I haven’t really studied this as you have, just know from my conversations with priests, ex-priests and former seminarians. But it seems to me that it’s primarily about clannishness and protecting one’s clique than some organized effort to promote a gay network, and certainly not gay rights. The openly gay priests that I know are liberal, pro-gay and celibate for the most part. The closeted ones are the sexually active ones, and often quite sexually compulsive and have been since the sexual hothouse of seminary. I don’t know any bishops but I hear from priests that the gay bishops are authoritarian, serial sexual harassers, and vindictive. I feel like they are very invested in protecting their position and their ability to build sexual “stables” and harass at will. This has nothing to do with gay rights, but is more like the Old Testament treatment of women. I would be interested in more info. about the history of this “lavender mafia” which I would venture has existed for generations in some form or another.

[Note from Rod: Yes, I think you’re right. It’s just the homosexual manifestation of the human tendency towards cliquishness, tribalism, and exploitation. And I’m sure it is by no means a new phenomenon. From what I’ve learned from conversations with priests and church insiders, it has been allowed to fester inside the Roman Catholic institution because of the Church’s monomaniacal desire to keep up appearances, and the desire of believers to think the Church is something that it really isn’t. As I said, both the religious left and the religious right have their own deep reasons for denying the reality of all this, which only helps perpetuate it. The only way to combat it is to shine a light on it. — RD]

#15 Comment By Consequences2 On February 23, 2013 @ 11:50 am

The only way to combat it is to shine a light on it.

“It’s the homosexuals and their enablers” is not light.

#16 Comment By Lee Penn On February 23, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

Several points …

1. I am not surprised that the coverups and the chicanery continue. It seems to part of the Cardinals’ sworn job description.

Go to the (mainstream Catholic) web site run by Our Sunday Visitor,


and you can scroll down and see this oath that Cardinals take when installed:

I [name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to any one what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law.
So help me Almighty God.

[Translation by Zenit.]

The pledge to keep secrets that may “bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church” is right there, in black and white. This oath is the same one that Cardinals swore under John Paul II; the only difference is the name of the pontiff in the text. I am sure that Catholic officials of all ranks usually follow the example set by their red-hatted superiors.

2. If homosexuality per se were the cause of clergy engaging in sex abuse, then we should put police vans in front of the meeting places of the Metropolital Community Church, the gay denomination. However, I have not heard of abuse scandals arising among MCC clergy. Maybe the out-of-the-closet gays who go there are sane enough to keep their hands off of minors and to keep their hands off members of their own congregations.

3. It seems that the homosexual condition comes in varying kinds. It might be that the well-adjusted gays come out of the closet, and those who want to be clergy go to churches that accept them as such … while the twisted misters seek to hide from their own sexuality by entering a “celibate” priesthood.

4. I used to attend a Catholic parish in San Francisco, and knew two different gay laymen who had traveled to Rome. Both said, on separate occasions, that the Vatican and the parks near it were favored (and profitable) cruising grounds for rent-boys. Both of these men had been in the gay world long enough to be able to discern such things; their “gaydar” worked well.

More to come …


#17 Comment By Lee Penn On February 23, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

Several additional points:

5. I easily believe that there networks of abusive and compromised hierarchs and priests, extending up into the Vatican.

Consider how frequent it is for priests to violate their vows. As noted on p. 58 of “Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes” (written by Thomas Doyle, AWR Sipe, annd Patrick Wall):

In 1990, “Sipe ,with twenty-five years experience of counseling priests to his credit, published the results of an extensive study on the lived reality of mandatory celibacy. His data were based on interviews with 1,500 priests or their sexual partners between 1960 and 1985. He concluded that 6 percent of priests were sexually involved with minors, 20-25 percent with adult women, and 15 percent with adult men. … In a private communication Sipe stated that his original estimates remain valid.”

Do the math … about 40% of the priests are seriously violating their vows (and committing mortal sins as they do), including 6% who are committing felonies. Add to this the number of priests and hierarchs who may be compromised due to alcoholism, drug abuse, or financial misdeeds. In such an environment, who is clean enough to blow the whistle on his comrades? Who is free enough of the risk of blackmail so that he can use an iron broom to sweep out the peds, drunks, and thieves?

6. I seriously doubt that NAMBLA and its ilk are “persona grata” within the gay community. I attended a gay pride march in San Francisco in the early 1980s, and clearly remember that almost every contingent got applause and cheers as they marched by. The NAMBLA contingent was tiny (perhaps 10-20 people, in a parade that had thousand-member contingents, and a quarter million participants). The onlookers did not applaud the NAMBLA people; they booed and threw litter at them.

7. Homosexual abuse of minors can occur in conservative cultures, in times and places where open homosexuality is (literally) unspeakable. The only pedo-priest I ever met was Stephen Wallsteadt, who became the headmaster of the Episcopal Church day school that I attended in Midland Texas until 1965. Wallsteadt never laid a hand on me, but he was defrocked in 1966 or so after being caught in the restroom with a junior high age boy. Wallsteadt was masculine and tough; I stayed out of his office, but saw that he whipped “misbehaving” boys till their legs were bruised. He was married to a beautiful woman, and never gave a hit to the world that he was a perv. The school was very conservative; my 4th grade teacher inculculcated us in the John Birch Society world view along with our history lessons. The town as a whole was very conservative; it was Goldwater country, and divorce and fornication were only mentioned in whispers. In other words, pederasty is a bi-partisan affair; it is not the monopoly of Jesuit hippies or “spirit of Vatican II” hierarchs.


#18 Comment By Lee Penn On February 23, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

[ I am putting this item in a separate comment, in case the source – Malachi Martin – makes the comment unpublishable. You may use this data as you like. ]

Regarding the allegation of gay networks and blackmail in the Vatican … we are living in a dark world when Malachi Martin – a suspicious character in his own right – becomes a prophet.

Let’s stipulate, for the discussion, that Martin was a conspiracy nut. Here’s what that nut wrote in 1990 in “The Keys of This Blood,” which was sold as a non-fiction book. Martin claimed to know the mind of John Paul II, and gave this description of what the last Pontiff saw in the Church as of 1981:

“Already whole sections of the Church in France, Austria, Holland, Germany, Spain, England, Canada, the United States and Latin America had fallen precisely into unfaith. There subsisted only a faithful remnant of practicing Catholics. His own Vatican chancery and the various diocesan chanceries throughout the Church were in the hands of the anti-Church partisans. Heresy and grave error resided in the seminaries. An intricate and self-protecting network of actively homosexual priests, nuns, bishops, and some cardinals now throttled all attempts to reform morals. … Most frighteningly for John Paul, he had come up against the irremovable presence of a malign strength in his own Vatican and in certain bishops’ chanceries. It was what knowledgeable Churchmen called the ‘superforce.’ Rumors, always difficult to verify, tied its installation to the beginning of Pope Paul VI’s reign in 1963. Indeed, Paul had alluded somberly to the ‘smoke of Satan which has entered the Sanctuary’ – an oblique reference to an enthronement ceremony by Satanists in the Vatican. Besides, the incidence of Satanic pedophilia – rites and practices – was already documented among certain bishops and priests as widely dispersed as Turin in Italy and South Carolina in the United States. The cultic acts of Satanic pedophilia are considered by professionals to be the culmination of the Fallen Archangel’s rites.” (p. 632)

This (alleged) 1990 non-fiction foreshadows the content of Martin’s 1996 “Windswept House” novel, that was allegedly fact disguised as fiction.

When envisioning a solution to the corruption in the Church, Martin’s prophetic (?) talents failed him. He ended “Keys of this Blood” with a fictional consistory called by John Paul II, to carry out a St. Pius X-style purge of the Church. Martin had “Pope Valeska” say that his reformed Curia would “have at their disposal three organizations, two already familiar – the Legionaires of Christ and the Personal Prelature commonly called the Opus Dei – and a third, which has already been established and exists on a worldwide basis, but has hitherto remained in total secret.” (p. 692)

Just imagine, a reform of the RCC led by the followers of Escriva and Maciel. We can guess how that might have worked. For us trads, it’s a reminder: be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.


#19 Comment By Mikel On February 25, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

Interesting how Rod and other exculpaters never seem to tie celibacy directly to the proliferation and longevity of the pedophilia and sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. It’s a much stronger premise than the ‘lavender mafia’ gay slur. While protestant denominations have also had abusers, their numbers don’t approach the magnitude of the reprehensible criminality of the Holy Catholic Church. I find it impossible to believe that this scandalous situation would have reached the dimensions it has had the Catholic Church relinquished its authoritarian, ‘for men only’ priesthood club and allowed priests to marry and women to become priests. I am certain that married men and women would have been far more likely to report inappropriate sexual behavior than a clique of so-called celebate men.

#20 Comment By D On April 30, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

It would seem to me that, for those networks of closeted priests, a big reason the sexually active gay bishops are the most predatory while, at the same time, most conservative is, once you are old enough, being powerful enough in an organization like this is really the only thing that will ensure you a steady stream of young beautiful men willing to sleep with you either for career advancement, or else not to be booted out for being gay.

Among openly gay communities, older men have a hard time getting laid. Prohibiting homosexuality perversely acts in the sexual interests of older gay men who are high ranked. Women, on the other hand, tend to gravitate to older rich men without special enducements.

And I’m talking about young men who have the wherewithal to say no – not children. Most gay men in their 20’s want others the same age — but I am sure the prospect of career advancement or potential destruction can work wonders in getting many of them to give older men the kind attention they feel they deserve. And many men think with their penises more than any other part of their brain.

Once closeted homosexuality like that becomes the norm, it would become impossible to control abusers and molesters.

I think it is true, if they allowed straight male and female priests in, they would have way less trouble regarding cliquishness. And I disagree with any assertion that it is prejudicial to gay men to assert that.

If straight male priests would be less likely to engage in such clannishness, they don’t personally wouldnt deserve credit for it. It’s their wives who would. Fact is, men can be driven out of control by their sex drives, unless given a proper outlet .

#21 Comment By Michael N Moore On July 19, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

I called the Pope’s “Gay Lobby” what it was last month: “Lavender Mafia”. I was beat up by some of my fellow Catholics who are more Catholic than the Pope. There is no other explanation for what happened here in Boston, or other places, except that a minority of pedophiles were able to control the other gay clergy with threats of outing them. One of the reasons society needs to accept gays and lesbians is because, when driven underground, they form parallel power structures that undermine institutions.

See: [9]

#22 Comment By Crissi LaCombe On December 30, 2018 @ 11:56 pm

D said that “Fact is, men can be driven out of control by their sex drives, unless given a proper outlet.”

Not true. I know about 20 truly celibate priests in my diocese and they are in control of their sex drives and are genuinely loyal to their vocation.