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"Sodoma" explores the place of homosexuality in the heart of the Vatican

The author of this survey describes an institution imbued with sociability and references with strong homosexuality, even though it condemns this sexual orientation.

By Cécile Chambraud Posted today at 12h00, updated at 12h00

Time to Reading 5 min.

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Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, 2 February.
Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, 2 February. TIZIANA FABI / AFP

Pope Francis will receive it at the end of the week, and the biblical reference of the title clearly announces its intention. Sodoma, investigation in the heart of the Vatican (Robert Laffont, 23 euros), a book of 632 pages on homosexuality at the top of the Catholic Church, will appear on February 21 in twenty countries at a time, in eight languages. At the same time, a four-day summit on pedophilia will begin in Rome, to which all presidents of episcopal conferences in the world have been summoned. The subject of the book and the concomitance with the Roman summit have everything to feed a new episode of virulent internal struggles within the Roman power. Already attacked on its management of sexual abuse, the church could soon face a lawsuit for hypocrisy in its speech on sexuality.

The author of this survey is French. For four years, writer and journalist Frédéric Martel investigated in Rome and in many countries, including Latin America. He spoke with clerics, diplomats, politicians, journalists, gay activists, prostitutes, Roman policemen, Swiss guards and even a confessor of St. Peter – in total "Almost 1,500 people". He spent one week a month in the Vatican, regularly housed in the city-state or in two of his dependencies at the invitation of prelates who were also direct sources.

To shut up is to protect oneself

It describes an institution imbued with sociability, references, relationships with strong homosexuality, even though it made the condemnation of this sexual orientation – continuing to see a behavior "Inherently messy" – one of the structuring messages of her moral discourse, which she has opposed everywhere in homosexual marriage, that she condemns the use of condoms, including to fight against the transmission of HIV, and that she defends the chaste celibacy of priests.

Frédéric Martel does not attack the gap between the obligation of sexual continence imposed on priests and a much more complex reality. He even takes a comprehensive look at these ecclesiastics who arrange themselves as they can with their libido: "For me, a priest or a cardinal must have no shame to be homosexual," he wrote. The presenter of the Sunday magazine Soft Power, on France Culture, is not in a logic of denunciation of individual situations. He has chosen not to reveal the names of those concerned when they are alive – even if the book is littered with small pebbles that will be key reading for readers and the Vatican.

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