As a rule, the Vatican does not wash its dirty linen in public. However, the Holy See had to comment on the latest sex scandal involving a Roman Catholic priest. A Vatican spokesman confirmed Sunday that a high-ranking priest had been suspended following his appearance on a controversial TV program in Italy earlier this month. The priest was secretly filmed making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex was not sinful during the program broadcast October 1 by La7, a private Italian television network. Several colleagues of the priest recognized his Vatican office in the background, despite the fact that his face was blurred and his voice was disguised in the footage. “I cannot deny the fact than the incident has taken place,” said Father Federico Lombardi, chief spokesman for the Vatican, in a statement released on Sunday.
It stands to reason that the Vatican was reluctant to identify the priest, but truth will out or so the saying goes. As it turned out, the priest in question is known as Monsignor Tommaso Stenico, the BBC reports. Monsignor Stenico is relatively high-ranking Vatican official. Before his coming out of the closet, Monsignor Stenico headed an office an office in the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, the main office overseeing all the world’s Roman Catholic priests. Although Monsignor Stenico does not deny taking part in the controversial program, he claims he has been misunderstood. “I pretended to be gay in order to gather information about those who damage the image of the church with homosexual activity,” the priest insisted in his letter posted on Petrus, a Catholic web site. “I was caught on hidden camera; otherwise I would have never said those words in the first place,” Monsignor Stenico added.
“An investigation is being launched into the situation with due respect to the interested person, though he has made a mistake,” said Father Federico Lombardi, chief spokesman for the Holy See, in his statement on Sunday. Father Lombardi stressed the point that the church leadership “would have to take strict measures.”
Unlike some Protestant Churches, the Roman Catholic Church has always had a condemnatory stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriages. Both Pope Benedict XVI, known for his conservative views, and his more liberal predecessor Joan Paul II have repeatedly spoken against sexual dissoluteness. Speaking to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in 2003, John Paul II said that the decision of the Church of England to install openly gay priests as priors in two counties would create serious problems in the relations between the two churches.
In fact, Pope Benedict XVI has already had to respond to allegations that there are gays in the Roman Catholic priesthood. During his meeting with Irish bishops last year, the Pope said that the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has been significantly blemished by a number of sex scandals involving priests. More than one hundred priests have been accused of engaging in homosexual activity since 1962, according to an investigation conducted in Ireland.
Translated by Guerman Grachev