All research for this article is based on Press reports, news,
but especially on the excellent investigation led by the reputed
investigative journalist Frederic Martel, as published “In the Closet
of the Vatican” – Bloomsbury Publishing House.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is hardly news (just news, he hasn’t been good news for a very long time!). He is and has long been a staunchly ultra-conservative, hates Pope Francis with a vengeance (literally, since the Pope sacked him from his job as President of the Clerical High Court), and holds as the height of his reactionary conservatism, the constant attacks this prelate aims at the LGBTQ Community. It is his favourite pastime. Cardinal Burke hates LGBTQ people too; it is all but essential to hate, in order to deliver blow after blow, in a calculated manner, targeting LGBTQ people with ice cold cruelty.
Raymond Burke, is known among staff and a great number of bishops and cardinals at the Holy See, as “La Folle” (please note the feminine genre), not because members of staff and prelates at the Vatican are particularly vicious, but because Burke himself makes it clear he prefers to be addressed in the feminine genre, especially in French, presumably because linguistically and grammatically, French accentuates a genre differentiation. So, as far as Vatican jargon goes, Cardinal Burke “n’est pas fou”… “Son Eminence est folle”… Of course, the treatment in the feminine is not an exclusive of Cardinal Burke, others are treated in the same manner, which is reminiscent of gay scene banter, a bit on the tacky side but there you go.
I was only somewhat aware of this cardinal oddity in years past, but his name came into sharp focus shortly after Pope Francis was elected. Burke became the leader of the opposition (the traditionalist ultra conservative wing), which earned him another interesting nickname… “The Wicked Witch of the Midwest”. This opposition enlists several other cardinals: Carlo Caffarra, Joachim Meisner, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Walter Brandmüller, Mauro Piacenza, Velasio De Paolis, Tarcisio Bertone, George Pell, Angelo Bagnasco, Antonio Cañizares, Kurt Koch, Paul Josef Cordes, Willem Eijk, Joseph Levada, Marc Ouellet, Antonio Rouco Varela, Juan Luis Cipriani, Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Norberto Rivera, Javier Errázuriz, Angelo Scola, Camillo Ruini and at last but not least, Robert Sarah.
These are the hardliners of Vatican policy, all are to various degrees of severity, exceedingly vocal against LGBTQ people, and several of them are gay. Their garb is as camp as rural Christmas, but tackier, the leading figure, Cardinal Burke himself, frequent wearer of a Cappa Magna 12 metres long.
Martel pointed out in his investigation that it is not just the very apparent contradiction between Cardinal Burke’s anti-gay or anti-homosexuality rage and his appearance, that betrays him. He does not escape the common trait of all closeted gay bishops and cardinals in the Holy See, that is, their ferocious hostility against anything LGBTQ, as a means to conceal their own homosexuality and keep them above suspicion in the public eye. What truly shows off Burke’s closeted homosexuality is the sheer paraphernalia of all his outfits, and the resulting drag-queen look, along with the excess… Everything is excessive, the largest ornaments, the most spectacular tassel arrangements of his hats, the most expensive Moiré silk, the extravagance and affectation, and the 12 metre Cappa Magna, it all reeks of drag-queen gay club night show. Just excessive?… No!… It is all excessively excessive! And hilarious at the same time, for what it reveals.
But what truly makes Cardinal Burke stand out is his behaviour, better understood here in a short passage of Frederic Martel’s investigation report:
“In Rome, Burke is like a bull in a china shop: his homophobia is so intense that it even disturbs the most homophobic Italian cardinals. His legendary ‘hetero-panic’, the characteristic of a heterosexual who exaggerates his fear of homosexuality to such an extent that he arouses doubts about his own inclinations, raises smiles. His misogyny is unsettling”.
In a separate interview with Cardinal Burke’s close British associate and friend, Benjamin Harnwell, the journalist Frederic Martel asked a pressing question, ie, why are there in the Vatican so many closeted homosexuals among the most traditionalist and ultra-conservative cardinals?… The answer came rolling at speed and is telling indeed:
“If there is no act, there is no sin. And besides, if there is no choice, there are no sins either”.
It is true, of course. Being born gay, lesbian or bisexual is not the person’s fault. That’s a no-brainer!… It follows that a normal and healthy adult life will conform to a sexuality which feels and is in fact natural to LGBTQ people. Jesus said so Himself in a passage of the Gospels (a citation always avoided by the Holy See), regarding the Eunuchs some of whom – Jesus noted – “are borne that way (…) Those who can accept it, should accept it” (Matthew 19: 12). I should like to add that Jesus never said those who cannot accept it, should persecute, beat up, disown, cast out, kill and even execute LGBTQ people.
POWER, HOMOSEXUALITY, HYPOCRISY
Frederic Martel’s work is the most complete investigation to-date, the result of 400+ hours of interviews, carried out all over the World as well as the Holy See.
I wish to thank Frederic for an impeccable journalistic and impartial report, without which the opinion article herein would have not been possible.
Indeed, it would appear that homosexuality – platonic or practicing – comes as a curricular requirement for the clerical role, not because of sexuality per se but rather because male homosexuals, without necessarily being effeminate – most aren’t by the way – possess the sensitivity and empathy needed to walk in the shoes of the “other”; and the “other” in all matters spiritual means a plethora of variables, not the least the poor, the vulnerable, the sick, the terminally ill, the dying, the unemployed and unemployable, the disabled and generally, all the fallouts who for whatever reason have fallen victims to a greedy and selfish World, an over-competitive and cruel society, neo-liberal capitalist economics and so on and forth… Touching the soul of the “other” requires skill and in the male dominated microcosmos of clerical Roman Catholicism, gay men have it in abundance.
Taking care of others with tender loving empathy is not an exclusive of Christianity or some other religion, those sought after special skills make a strong presence in other professions. Worldwide, large numbers of gay men find happiness and fulfilment in professions where these special skills are essential, from nursing to flight attendants, funeral and bereavement services to customer support call centres, genuine and heartfelt empathy is a skill always in high demand.
The problem facing those of us keen to analyse what is going on is how to make sense of it all. The issue is not the fact that large numbers of Roman Catholic clergy are homosexuals. Homosexuality is a natural event in Nature, it has always been throughout the History of Humanity, as well as in other animal species. It seems to be part of Creation as it were. Much of the Old Testament texts are tainted by cultural and historic constraints, which renders their literal reading unwise and in fact plainly wrong. Post Jesus’ Ascension to the skies, we note yet again an interpretative reading of Jesus’ teachings in regards to sexuality. But when looking at the Gospels, we note that Jesus’ view appears to be a balanced one. People born so, if we can accept them, we should accept them. Jesus’s apparent position is in sharp contrast with St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) and to the Romans (Romans 1:26-27). And when we look at the arguments the hierarchy produces regarding itself, as we have already seen, “if there is no choice, there is no sin”. There isn’t enough time to fully explore all the contradictions regarding LGBTQ and homosexuality in Sacred Scripture, but it is entirely fair to say that various texts in the Old and New Testaments bounce off each other, highlighting a fundamental point in this discussion:
Bigots and homophobes use the Bible and twist Sacred Scripture interpretation to suit their deep-seated bigotry, homophobia and ultra-conservative agenda.
The recent Declaration against Pope Francis‘ Statement backing civil unions for same-sex couples, issued by Cardinal Burke just a few hours after Pope Francis’ Statement was made public, falls exactly under the same time-served strategy of Roman Catholic ultra-conservatism, to twist Scripture and other official Holy See documents (all also suffering from the same Bible twisting predicament) in order to suit the reactionary agenda.
The Holy See & The Right-Wing Agenda
In order to fully understand the anti-LGBTQ issue, we need to dig deeper, into the realm of the hidden and unseen, the depths of what is versus what appears to be… The sort of stuff that would look like a swivel-eyed conspiracy theory of sorts to the innocent everyday folk. But isn’t!
Cardinal Burke and much of his ultra-conservative traditionalist clique has powerful connections. He is privy to the inner circle of Princess Gloria Thurn und Taxis, a regular visitor at her official residence in Bavaria – Germany, the Palace of Regensburg. Gloria TNT, as the Princess is also known in the German Press, courtesy of her explosive right-wing views, is wealthy to the tune – some say – of almost Four Billion US Dollars, and had been listed in the Forbes World Billionaires List back in 2014, ranked at a modestly estimated Two and a Half Billion. Various bishops and cardinals come and go at Regensburg Palace, regularly and are entertained by the Princess, celebrate Holy Mass in the palace church and have there a base. A staunchly conservative Catholic, her billions and influence permeate through Vatican hierarchy through to the top cardinalate. The author, Frederic Martel, accounts for reports in the German Press, of sassy episodes at the Palace, waiters in full Regensburg Palace Livery, circulating among the guests, offering trays of delicious canapés and lovely marzipan biscuits exquisitely presented in the shape of a penis (pp. 119). Regensburg is a vipers’ nest of hostile opposition against Pope Francis, and its princely lady owner has a variety of sympathies, from Marine LePen to neo-fascist monster Matteo Salvini, and Nigel Farage, probably through Steve Bannon with whom the Princess is friends with, according to research by the Open Democracy Forum. Steve Bannon, who was Donald Trump’s political head of strategy, is also in Cardinal Burke’s US network of contacts, and as per abundant reports in the British Press, is linked with suspected malfaisance in connection with the now defunct firm Cambridge Analytica, which crashed after being linked with suspicious use of privately acquired data in order to thwart the result of the Referendum on the membership of the European Union, in the United Kingdom, in 2016.
The far-right network in the US, responsible for channeling funding into Europe, to the tune of a reported Fifty Million US Dollars, interconnects people in both sides of the Atlantic, and according to the Open Democracy Forum research published in May 2019, funded the the World Congress of Families, a far-right affair gathering plenty of the filthy rich, Evangelicals, Roman Catholic ultra-conservatives, and far-right-wing politicians, all together to debate – as apparently one of the official speakers put it – matters of interest subject to the theme of Bible, Borders & Brexit, and hell-bent on rolling back civil rights and the rights of LGBTQ people and minorities, ethnic or otherwise, in Europe and elsewhere. Their overarching belief?
“As keynote speaker Prince Louis de Bourbon – great-grandson of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Queen Victoria’s great-great-great grandson and pretender to the French throne – put it: ‘The strong and the weak should know their place”.
But the symptoms of the real thing behind Roman Catholic persecution of LGBTQ communities, goes further and runs deeper. Open Democracy leaders closely watching the inner workings of the World Families Congress, reportedly had a chat with a Trump fundraiser about data extraction for European elections campaigning, and who asked Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, friend of Steve Bannon and of Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI, about Bannon’s planned training camps for far-right ‘culture warriors’.
The Duke of Anjou seems to have forgotten that occasionally those perceived as “weak” are the ones who write History, as his predecessors King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette discovered, much to their “chagrin”. That’s besides the point anyway…
What is emerging is something else altogether… But readers both in Europe and North America will only grasp this if they dare to think out of the box. LGBTQ is no different than any other matter ultra conservatives are up against. It simply poses a threat, because it represents an exception to an ultra traditionalist vision of our World, uniform and conform to the far-right agenda. LGBTQ diverge. And for that alone – despite it not being their fault since it happens naturally – they are ferociously persecuted, by a troupe of rich and establishment gangsters, a mafia of sorts, all of whom use the Bible to suit their sickening agenda, all of course in bed with the ultra conservatives in the Church of Rome. It is not just an agenda. This is an orgy of abuse, of self-entitlement and denial – for real – of Jesus’ teachings. These conservative prelates, Burke being the pathetic Mother Superior of all, claim to defend the Church of Jesus against the LGBTQ “grotesque” sinners, whilst at the same time serving the far-right politics agenda, the greatest benefit of which is probably to protect themselves and the clergy under their remit against public scrutiny, as far as child sex abuse goes. I do not call this defending Jesus’ teachings. I call this burying Jesus under the fetid and putrid boot of their spiritual and ecclesial corruption.
When seen under this light, the actions and events surrounding the late Cardinal Keith O’Brien (UK) become all the more apparent and scandalous. But they illustrate to perfection the corrupt and toxic nature of persecution and victimisation of LGBTQ people, all because the Roman Catholic Church is too busy going to bed with extremist far-right ideologies, instead of focusing on Love and the Legacy left to us by Jesus’ teaching.
When the United Kingdom Parliament began discussing Prime Minister David Cameron proposed bill, to legalise same-sex unions – which later became Law under the name of Civil Partnerships – Cardinal Keith O’Brien came forward in public speeches, interviews and opinion articles written for the Press, exhibiting a vitriol arguably very similar to Cardinal Burke’s. The bashing and trashing of LGBTQ communities was so facetious, vicious, ferocious and victimising, that there were protests even from Roman Catholics. I remember an infamous article where Cardinal O’Brien claimed in a tempestuous invective that LGBTQ people were [quoting literally] “GROTESQUE”… The storm went on, but the Law did pass comfortably with a vast absolute majority of Parliamentarians in Westminster.
Not long after however, news broke of serious allegations against the Cardinal, by three priests in active functions and another former one, of grievous and highly improper sexual conduct towards them, allegations which emerged after a journalistic investigation by the newspaper The Observer. Although he denied initially, he later offered his resignation to Pope Francis. But Cardinal O’Brien was never prosecuted, and other than being instantly disgraced in the eyes of Public Opinion, forcing him to disappear quietly, he was never punished for his actions. Upon his death in 2018, his successor Leo Crushley declared:
“In life, Cardinal O’Brien may have divided opinion. In death, however, I think all can be united in praying for the repose of his soul, for comfort for his grieving family and that support and solace be given to those whom he offended, hurt and let down. May he rest in peace.”
Inevitably, the double-standards that permeate the whole handling of LGBTQ subject material are immediately apparent. LGBTQ people are in the words of the likes of Cardinal Burke and Cardinal O’Brien and other ultra conservative prelates, such a filthy bunch of “grotesque” people, no deference is usually afforded to them. Their integrity as Human Beings is of no concern in this promiscuous in-bed arrangement between the Roman Catholic Church, the Far-Right and the rich with too much money and scared to loose it. But we can be sure the choice of words will be far better, even for one of them, disgraced by deeds of sexual abuse. Remembering Cardinal O’Brien as an opinion divider is at best mild… Keith O’Brien did not just divide opinion with the hostile and aggressive invectives thrown at LGBTQ people. He aimed to hurt and offend, I believe. At least the sex abuser Keith O’Brien, a Cardinal, is afforded the best wishes and hopes that he may rest in peace. I concur, of course. Regrettably, in the eyes of the Church of Rome’s ultra-brutes, LGBTQ people are destined to Hell, even though they are not at fault, and mostly wish to be happy and recognised and respected with a companion, forming a family, a loving one. It all sounds far better than getting a minor of age under the cassock, in my book.
I should like to know Cardinal Burke’s opinion, although I am not sure I would bear the hassle of waiting for him to disentangle himself from 12 metres of silk, and emerge in one piece out of his Cappa Magna, in order to respond!
Pope Francis did the right thing. It is a start. And the rest?… Being LGBTQ is not a choice, therefore it is not a sin either. The sin is in misconduct, whatever the sexual orientation status. A father with a wife and children who sexually abused his daughter has committed a sin, a cleric who has pushed a boy into a corner and forced him into acts of a sexual nature, has committed sin; a gay couple who do not follow basic rules of mutual fidelity, loyalty, honesty and dedication, will be committing sin, no doubt. But a gay couple in a loving union, loving one another, dedicated, loyal and faithful to each other is chaste. The same sex attraction issue is entirely beyond their control and thus, as Clement of Alexandria implicitly suggested in his comments regarding Matthew’s Gospel passage about the Eunuchs, it is unwise to get married to a woman if naturally, one feels repelled by the very notion of sleeping with one.
Ultimately, we all, straight or gay, clergy or secular, good or not-so-good, will have to come to the foot of the Cross, and following on the steps of the crucified criminal, tell Jesus we failed on occasion, but we hope and ask He takes us with Him to Heaven. Our Humanity is too flawed. Only He can save us and I believe He will.