If leaked talks are anything to go by, the Catholic church has an ambitious and straightforward pontiff/
Andrew Brown;s Blog Guardian/UK 14 June 2013
According to notes from a conversation between Pope Francis and catholic officials that were leaked earlier this week, the pontiff believes in the existence of a "gay lobby" and a "stream of corruption" inside the Vatican.
Reading the transcript of his remarks, what's astonishing is not so much that he wants a revolution in the Vatican – everyone outside it wants one now – but his ambition to turn so much more upside down. He told his visitors, representatives of the Latin American nuns and monks, that it's time to "flip the tortilla": "Money is not the image and likeness of God. Only the person is the image and likeness of God. It is necessary to flip it over. This is the gospel."
The transcript that has emerged, while not reproducing all his words, was an account of them agreed by the delegation immediately afterwards and has not been denied – in fact the organisation involved apologised that it had been leaked, which seems to confirm its accuracy.
The headline news was of course the description of the "gay lobby". This appears to be further confirmation of the rumours that the secret investigation into the Vatileaks scandal conducted last autumn by three cardinals, found involvement of significant gay networks within the Vatican. The arrival of this report on Pope Benedict's desk seems to have been the last straw that precipitated his resignation. One of his most trusted advisers is fingered in many of these rumours.
All this is known to everyone concerned with Catholic church politics yet not much spoken about. Francis's remarks, as recorded, have something of the same taken-for-granted quality. He starts by saying that "in the Curire are also holy people, yes, really, there are holy people." You have to love that "really", and the fact that the pope feels it necessary to say that there are holy people somewhere in the Vatican. Then he says "there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true … The 'gay lobby' is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do." Although most reports have followed the original translation and used the term "gay lobby", "network" may be the better term in English.
What makes this so serious for the Vatican is that any sexually active Catholic priest is a potential blackmail victim, and priests who know of one another's activities can be bound into unhealthy networks by an atmosphere of guilty secrets. There have always been gay priests, bishops, and even cardinals, but in the past 30 years they seem to have formed an increasing proportion of the clergy, as the rule of celibacy becomes harder to enforce and falls into general contempt.
This kind of semi-clandestine network festered within the Church of England for many years, and did a great deal of damage. Only once radical groups started to out bishops who voted against their own inclinations did it reach the present agonised stalemate, in which there is open and reasonably honest disagreement.
In the notes published, Francis made only passing reference to this lobby. He did make it clear that the committee of eight cardinals he has appointed are there for the job: "I am very disorganised, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the commission will move it forward.”
In a similar vein, he urged the visitors not to take too much notice of the intrusive Vatican bureaucracy. "Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing. But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward. Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up."
This is very strong stuff, considering that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, made his name as the man in charge of the CDF, the Vatican's department for enforcing orthodoxy. The Francis who emerges from these notes is a straightforward man, who nonetheless believes himself chosen by God. The first of these qualities is unusual in popes. Above all, he has very little patience with religion as a matter of observances or feelings. He mocks traditionalists (who hate him). "The gospel is not the old rule, nor [New Age sentimentality]. If you look at the destitute, the drug addicts, human trafficking ... this is the gospel. The poor are the gospel." [Abbrev.]