TRNAVA, Slovakia (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is rehabilitating a highly controversial, divisive and heterodox Slovakian archbishop who was sacked by Pope Benedict XVI after an apostolic visitation in 2012.
Faithful clerics in Slovakia fear that the rehabilitation could include the offer of a cardinalate to the disgraced Róbert Bezák, former archbishop of Trnava, who is reported to have been at the center of an extensive homosexual clergy network.
Bezák, former provincial of the Redemptorists in Slovakia, turned his diocese into a "kind of homosexual capital in the Slovak Church," notes Fr. Dariusz Oko, Polish theologian and whistleblower on the gay clerical lobby.
Reports suggest that Bezák frequented gay gyms and saunas and that he was responsible for creating a network of homosexual priests and ordaining seminarians who had been rejected by other seminaries because of their unorthodox attitudes or open homosexual inclinations.
"When others started to argue against it, Bezák had the support of many from a homosexual background in the Church," wrote Oko, author of the journal article "With the Pope Against Homoheresy" (Mit dem Papst gegen Homohäresie), which contributed to Bezák's removal.
Oko listed Bezák along with sexual predators like ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Bp. Gustavo Zanchetta and Fr. Marcial Maciel, noting that Pope Benedict XVI "forced many bishops to resign because of their involvement in various types of homosexual guilt."
"In recent days, precisely for this reason, two relatively recent bishops have been removed from office: Róbert Bezák (52 years old) from Trnava, Slovakia, and the Dominican Vilhelms Lapelis (51 years old) from Lipawa, Lithuania," Dr. Oko told Polish media Religia in 2012.
Calling out the scourge of "homoheresy," Fr. Oko maintained that perpetrators like Bezák had created "not only a homo-lobby but even a homo-mafia," shedding light on the Vatican's secretiveness regarding the reasons for Bezák's dismissal.
Pope Benedict XVI stripped Bezák of his archbishopric on July 2, 2012, after the prelate refused to step down following an apostolic visitation in January 2012 led by Jan Baxant, bishop of Litoměřice in the Czech Republic.
Bezák was forbidden to discuss the matter publicly, but spoke about it in a series of interviews that were turned into two books, Confession and Between Heaven and Hell, and a film, Arcibiskup Bezák Zbohom ("Goodbye, Archbishop Bezák").
Bezák was also accused of heterodoxy after he said in a televised interview that "Hell is the same thing as Heaven; the difference is in how the subject feels."
In a TV interview, he claimed that Pope John Paul II must have personal sexual experience to speak about it the way he does when he addresses the theology of marriage.
In a book titled Róbert Bezák: The Truth About the Dismissed Archbishop, Slovak Jesuit Fr. Šebastián Labo (who died in 2014, after the publication of his book) slammed the prelate for casting doubt on transubstantiation and "failing to affirm that the Eucharist is the real Body of Christ."
Labo accused Bezák of supporting women's ordination; of being "a convinced, albeit secret, supporter of Protestantism" for whom "papal primacy does not play a role"; and for mocking the "religious practices of sincere believers."
Clergy were shocked by Bezák's shameful treatment of retired bishops: Bezák changed the keys of the archbishop's house, forbidding his predecessor to enter, and he communicated this to him in a very disrespectful letter.
He also forbade retired auxiliary bishops to eat together, telling them that they were smelly because they are old. Both auxiliary bishops were forced to leave the archbishop's house and find alternate accommodation, despite being approximately 85 years old.
Two years after the archbishop was removed from office, Francis received Bezák at the Wednesday general audience of June 25, 2014, during which the prelate spoke briefly with the pontiff and handed him a letter asking for an audience.
Francis granted Bezák a private audience on April 10, 2015, following Czechia's Cdl. Miloslav Vlk's intervention.
Sources from Slovakia told Church Militant that "the tide turned rapidly under Pope Francis" with the current leftist president Zuzana Čaputová and her predecessor Andrej Kiska "shamelessly lobbying" for Bezák during their private audiences with the pontiff.
In December 2018, Francis gave then-President Kiska a gold medallion of the Madonna and Child as a gift to be given to Bezák — saying it was "from my heart." The president promptly and personally delivered it to the former prelate at the presidential palace.
The ex-archbishop scandalized faithful Slovakian Catholics by openly supporting Kiska's successor, Čaputová, in her presidential campaign, despite the leftist politician's militant advocacy for same-sex marriage and abortion.
"Čaputová put in a good word for Bezák when she met Francis at the Vatican in December 2020," a source said. "Issues of mutual interest, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice and the protection of creation" were also discussed, Vatican media reported.
On June 24, in anticipation of his visit to Slovakia, the pontiff hosted lunch for Bezák at Santa Marta and invited him to concelebrate at Holy Mass. Bezák even bragged that Francis brought ice cream for him after the meal.
Most significantly, Francis handed back the ex-archbishop the episcopal ring that Bezák had sent to the Vatican after his dismissal, accompanying one of his many appeals for his restoration.
"For me, this is rehabilitation; I don't need another one. Indeed, the door opened; the pope led me to the chapel of Santa Marta, and I had the opportunity to serve Mass alone with Pope Francis. I don't need more," Bezák told Slovak media.
Francis also sent a wreath to the funeral of Bezák's father in March and wrote the prelate a personal condolence letter.
"Bezák's rehabilitation was sealed through various symbolic actions during Francis' four-day visit to Slovakia in September, during which the pontiff publicly affirmed the disgraced prelate, signaling his inevitable return to power," a high-placed source said.
On Sept. 13, the second day of his pontifical visit to Slovakia, Francis received Bezák and his relatives at the apostolic nunciature in Bratislava. Vatican News Slovak Edition later reported the event even though it was not announced in the pope's official itinerary.
Bezák claimed he was invited to a meeting between Pope Francis and President Zuzana Čaputová in the garden of the presidential palace. He was, however, refused entry to the cathedral.
On the final day of his papal visit, while celebrating Holy Mass for over 40,000 people at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in Šaštín, Bezák joined the pope in concelebrating at the altar.
In an extended letter to Pope Francis, faithful Slovakian Catholics lamented the pontiff's support for the disgraced prelate, noting that Bezák had caused scandal by speaking at Slovakia's liberal music festival, Pohoda, which promotes casual sex and liberal political, cultural and ideological events.
"Bezák is also known for his frequent liturgical abuses and celebrating children's clown Masses with furry animals or Masses with rock music," the Catholics complained, comparing the prelate to "the infamous modernist archbishop of Vienna, Cdl. Christoph Schönborn."
No wonder he was "so attractive to all liberal and anti-Catholic media at home and abroad — since in Slovakia he was the only bishop with such an advanced and openly articulated modernist appearance," the letter lamented.
Bezák has consistently denied all charges against him and has maintained his innocence.