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In light of the high percentage of pro-LGBTQ cardinal electors who were appointed by Pope Francis, many people doubt that the next pope will be a pro-family, pro-life, heterosexually oriented orthodox leader who is open to different forms of liturgical expression such as the Traditional Latin Mass.
The declining health of Pope Francis has sparked speculation about who may be next to occupy the Chair of Peter as the earthly head of the Catholic Church.
Currently, there are 132 cardinal electors who would likely participate in any imminent conclave — 83 appointed by Pope Francis, 38 by Pope Benedict XVI and 11 by Pope John Paul II.
In most African countries, almost all Catholic bishops, priests and seminarians are heterosexually oriented. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to learn that a priest has fathered children. But it's very different for many Catholic cardinals, archbishops and priests in the United States, Germany, Ireland and many other countries in the West. Many are homosexually oriented.
This development — alleged by some to be an unintended side effect of the Church's celibacy requirement — has led many gay Catholic Church leaders to openly support the LGBTQ movement. They call for the blessing of gay and lesbian couples and advocate a change in Catholic Church doctrine on sexuality that has always taught that sex outside the marriage of one man and one woman is immoral and sinful.
The majority of German homosexual bishops, priests and women religious contributed to the recommendations of the German Synodal Way, which many saw as representing a break with the Catholic faith.
But the homosexual clerics and religious who fueled this split were emboldened because of weak moral leadership in Rome, as exemplified in Pope Francis' response to a question specifically about a sexually active gay priest, Msgr. Battista Ricca: "Who am I to judge?"
During his pontificate, Francis has offered cover to priests like Ricca and sexual predators like ex-Cdl. Theodore McCarrick, Bp. Gustavo Óscar Zanchetta and Fr. Marko Rupnick.
Francis' soft approach to scandal-ridden clerics comes as no surprise owing to the fact that only seven out of some 150 bishops credibly accused of abusing minors and adults have been laicized to date. Many of the prelates who will process into the Sistine Chapel secured their place in the College of Cardinals by following Francis' lead and covering up countless cases of sexual abuse in their home dioceses.
When it comes to heterosexual and homosexual behavior involving bishops and priests, most Catholics are unaware that celibacy has not been observed in the lives of prospective papal candidates.
The largest empirical research on clerical celibacy ever undertaken was conducted by the late psychotherapist Richard Sipe and South African sociologist Victor Kotze. When asked about their findings — that no more than 45–50% of priests practice celibacy at any given time — Cdl. Jose Sanchez, then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, responded, "I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of those figures."
Before his death in 2018, Sipe estimated that only 2% of Catholic priests achieve total celibate chastity in the course of their lives. This contrasts with studies showing that 63% of Americans who have been in a monogamous relationship say they have never cheated on their partner.
In light of the difference in partnering rates between heterosexual and homosexual males, one should not be surprised that gay papabile, who are increasingly outnumbering their heterosexual counterparts, are also more likely to have been and remain sexually active.
According to a 2012 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Institutes of Health, straight men between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having had a median of four sex partners, while gay men reported having 15.
Straight men between the ages of 35 and 39 reported a lifetime median of 10, while gay men reported a median of 67. In light of the remarkable difference between gay and straight sex partnering, one can expect that priests reported or caught engaging in a variety of sex acts will only increase as the percentage of gay bishops, priests and seminarians increases.
Imagine a cardinal who, while serving on a seminary faculty, sexually preyed on seminarians or novices; or, while working in a parish, impregnated a woman he was counseling. If he were to be elected pope and an intelligence service of a particular country were to uncover his past behavior, might he be blackmailed to allow the corrupt officials of that country to be afforded the right to appoint or dismiss bishops?
Might he also hesitate to discipline prelates and priests who were found to have engaged in predatory behavior with men, boys or women if these predators knew that the pope himself engaged in similar behavior when he was younger?
If priests who are believed to have led very holy lives are chosen to be exorcists lest the Devil reveal past sins the priest may not wish to be exposed, then so too must the cardinals choose a candidate whose past moral life prevents him from scandalizing the faithful or becoming a candidate for blackmail.
As Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill's use of the gay hookup app Grindr revealed, visits to gay bars and bathhouses that would have been hidden in the past are easier to uncover and expose today.
Even though homosexually oriented bishops are inclined to restore such priests to ministry after getting caught, there are a number of Catholics who still believe that those of us who make solemn promises, whether of priestly celibacy or marital fidelity, should keep them.
Catholics do not want to follow Churchmen who lead or have led double lives. The immoral lives of popes, bishops and priests is considered one major cause of the errant Protestant revolt. Unless cardinal electors want to precipitate another major split in the Church like those that occurred in the ninth and 14th centuries, they would be wise to elect from their ranks a truly moral and holy pope without worrying about how he interacted with seminarians he taught or with women he counseled; what apps he might have uploaded on his cell phone; what he watches on his computer; or what he does at night in his bedroom.
Given the fact that the last three popes — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis — have all been documented to have covered up the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, the way a cardinal has dealt with abuse should also be a major consideration when it comes to choosing Christ's next vicar on earth.
Catholics who truly care about the Church should be startled by the backgrounds of many of the current cardinal electors, among whom are prelates whose sex scandals have remained hidden and unpunished, as well as Churchmen who earned their promotions by covering up sexual abuse.
Unless the faithful demand accountability from those who may be chosen to walk in the shoes of the fisherman, Catholics should be prepared to accept the very real possibility that the next pope might be a closeted homosexual, a sexually active cleric, an unrepentant sexual predator or an expert at cover-up.
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