THE Italian Catholic Church yesterday told gay priests not to lead a “double life” after a magazine article showed priests frequenting homosexual clubs in Rome and engaging in casual sex.
The Diocese of Rome said no one was forcing homosexual prelates to remain as priests.
It said “we don’t want to hurt them” but their conduct “muddies the reputation of all the others”.
“No one is forcing them to stay in the priesthood to exploit the benefits,” the Diocese of Rome said in a statement posted on its website. “If they are coherent, they should come out into the open.”
The weekly Panorama magazine said it interviewed several gay priests in Rome and accompanied them to clubs frequented by homosexuals in the capital.
It quoted one as saying that 98% of the priests he knew were gay.
The Rome diocese said the article was aimed at defaming the Church.
Panorama magazine – owned by Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – claims it has video footage of three Catholic priests (two Italian and one French) going to gay clubs and having sex with men.
“By day they are regular priests, complete with dog collar but, at night, it’s off with the cassock as they take their place as perfectly integrated members of the Italian capital’s gay scene,” reads a preview of the article.
A reporter used a gay “accomplice” and “gate-crashed the wild nights of a number of priests in Rome who live a surprising double-life”.
The preview of the Panorama article added that video footage from the investigation would be made available.
Panorama described its investigation as “deeply disturbing” and said it carried out thorough checks to ensure the men were real priests.
Panorama editor Giorgio Mule said: “This was a two- week investigation and was not aimed at creating a scandal but showing that a certain section of the clergy behaves very differently.”
The article is the latest scandal to hit the Church, which faces a rash of accusations of sexual and physical abuse across Europe, the United States and beyond, sparking one of the Vatican’s worst internal crises in modern history.
Pope Benedict has been accused of turning a blind eye to an abuse case in 1980 in his native Germany and some US victims’ lawyers want him to stand witness, in attempts to demonstrate negligence by the Vatican.
The Pope’s brother has been accused of physical abuse and German Archbishop Robert Zollitsch had to apologise for failing to report a suspected abuse case to prosecutors.
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