In a scandal that’s sure to rock the Catholic Church, a gay male escort in Italy has produced a 1,200-page dossier filled with names, photos, and text messages of his clients, including 34 active priests and 6 seminary students.
The archdiocese of Naples has seen the document and passed it along to the Vatican to decide what the next steps should be since, obviously, priests pledge to live a celibate life. Having sex at all would’ve been an ethical problem; having sex with another man means these priests were engaging in what the Catholic Church itself says are “intrinsically disordered” acts.
But that hypocrisy is precisely why the escort, Francesco Mangiacapra, breached the confidentiality normally reserved for clients.
“The aim is not to hurt the people mentioned, but to help them understand that their double life, however seemingly convenient, is not useful to them or to all the people for whom they should be a guide and an example to follow,” Mangiacapra said, as reported by the Corriere della Sera.
He put it far too politely so I’ll rephrase it for him: If these priests want to pretend there’s something immoral about same-sex relationships to the point where they’re fighting LGBTQ rights around the world, all while engaging in sexual acts with other men themselves, then they deserve to be called out on their harmful hypocrisy.
If his exposé ruins the priests’ lives or “outs” them before they’re ready, I have a hard time digging up any sympathy on their behalf. They’ve pledged their allegiance to a Church that routinely ruins the lives of people who are in same-sex relationships. Call it divine retribution.
This, to me, isn’t controversial. There’s no ethical dilemma. The priests would have sex with Mangiacapra, then go back to their lives condemning people like Mangiacapra. Had he said nothing, he’d basically be participating in his own abuse.
And if you’re still on the fence about whether he should’ve come forward with these details, consider what happened more than a decade ago when Pastor Ted Haggard was arguably the leading voice for the Religious Right at a time when same-sex marriage was incredibly controversial. People like Haggard were driving gay and lesbian kids to suicide.
It turned out that Haggard had a secret. He was seeing a male escort… who eventually realized that the famous pastor who kept denouncing gay people on TV was one of his clients. Mike Jones eventually spilled the beans at tremendous cost to himself. But Haggard was forced to resign from his Colorado megachurch as well as give up his leadership position with the National Association of Evangelicals. One of the most vocal anti-gay pastors in America was brought down by the gay man he was having frequent sex with. (Haggard is now leading a smaller church in Colorado, doesn’t do many interviews, and stays out of the public spotlight.)
Was it right or wrong for Jones to “out” Haggard? Even a decade later, I’m convinced it was the right thing to do. Haggard is allowed to have secrets, but his hypocrisy was hurting too many innocent people. Outing him meant toppling a major domino on the road to LGBTQ equality.
So, assuming the details of this dossier check out, more power to this Italian escort. The question that I’m curious about is what the Catholic Church will deem a bigger sin: the priests paying for sex, the priests having sex, the priests having sex with a man, or the priests’ not living up to their own moral code.
If the Church were more rational, it wouldn’t punish these priests at all. Church officials would reconsider their irrational stances opposing same-sex relationships and requiring celibacy of its leaders. But that’s not going to happen. Which means this is likely not the last story like this we’ll hear.
(Kudos to the Redditor who said the priests must have enjoyed the escort’s “whistle blower” special. There is now coffee on my table.)
(Image via Shutterstock)