"Welcome to Sodoma," Don Julius, a confessor at St. Peter's Basilica, tersely tells Frédéric Martel, as he describes in detail the gay nightlife of the Vatican.
"Every evening priests have these two options," says Julius. "Vatican 'in' or Vatican 'out'" — the first is code for sex with co-religionists or young seminarians; the second is a cipher for cruising in public parks, saunas or on the internet to pick up male escorts.
Cardinals and bishops generally favor the first cautious option of cruising within the Church. The wider public is largely unaware of the second option of commercial homosexual relations which constitute a very far-reaching option, writes journalist Frédéric Martel in his explosive exposé entitled In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.
The reader must be alerted to Martel's juicy journalism. He is refreshingly candid about his own homosexual proclivities, and his atheism leads him to pour scorn on deference to the "Holy Virgin" or "His Holiness" — which is why he refuses to capitalize such titles.
"Luckily, in France we believe more in poetry than in religion," the son of French laïcité (secularism) sneers.
However, even if Martel's journalism borders on gay activism, his research is meticulous and extensive. But, as he puts it, he "sometimes has to attribute to hearsay what could have been written as fact."
Martel's exposé unwittingly debunks the dominant media and Vatican narrative of clerical pedophilia. The problem, as Church Militant, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the John Jay report and others have repeatedly identified, is homosexual predation or ephebophilia — sex with post-pubescent young men.
The prevalence of gay prostitution among clergy establishes this with startling certitude for the "most highly prized" pick-up place is "none other than St. Peter's Square: the Vatican is the only real 'gaybourhood' in Rome." Three of the seven cardinals criticized by Viganò in his Testimony regularly use male prostitutes.
My sources in the Vatican did confirm the problem of priests going to prostitutes, especially when they were in Rome for further studies. This was a while ago, and I had assumed that the prostitutes were women. I asked no further questions.
Martel interrogates the "rent boys" hired by homosexual priests. The epicenter of this activity is Roma Termini, the main railway station in Rome, named after the ancient Baths of Diocletian (Latin, thermae), which lie across the street from the main entrance.
"Mohammed," a young Tunisian migrant who defends Pope Francis' immigration policies, is one of the 60 migrant prostitutes Martel interviews to investigate the commercial sex relations between the Muslim rent boys of Roma Termini and the Catholic priests of the Vatican.
"With the priests, we get along quite naturally," Mohammed tells Martel. The "homosexual priests" adore Arabs and "orientals" and love this migrant sub-proletariat, Martel notes.
The legalization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage and the proliferation of gay bars and saunas and digital apps have resulted in the market for male street prostitutes drying up in Rome. Priests keep this market alive — because it keeps them anonymous.
So how do the rent boys identify the men they are servicing as priests?
"You can tell from their crosses when they undress," says Florin, a Romanian prostitute. The crosses are unlike the crosses or baptismal medallions worn by laypeople.
Florin reveals how priests pay him to go on holiday with them.
"I went away for three days with a priest. He paid for everything. Normal." Florin also points to the regularity with which clergy hire him: "They pay a kind of subscription. And they're given a discount."
"I have a cross around my neck too, I'm a Christian. It creates a bond! They feel safer with an Orthodox Christian, it's reassuring for them!” says Christian, who is from Brașov, Rumania. "I talk to them about John Paul II, whom I like a lot, as a Romanian; no one liked that pope more than I did."
Christian says that priests mostly take prostitutes to a hotel. Christian shows Martel the list of clergy contacts on his phone — the numbers are genuine; the names are most likely fake.
Another clue, according to Gaby from Iași, Rumania's second-largest city, is that clergy "never use coarse language" and always want to go to hotels because they haven't got a house. The priests also don't want to sleep with Italians; migrants won't report them to the police.
It is the "excessive tenderness on the part of the priests" which is a giveaway and a number of priests "always want to help us" and "take us off the street," says Gaby. Priests are into "saving" their clients.
Police officers and carabinieri confirm the clerical recourse to gay prostitution through incidents of priests being robbed, kidnapped, beaten, blackmailed, arrested and even murdered while cruising for rent boys. The priests remain silent because the price for registering a police complaint would be too high.
Police sources also corroborate journalist Andrea Pini's account of gay men murdered by prostitutes in his book Omocidi (Homicides). Clergy are over-represented among the victims, police tell Martel.
An exception to migrant male prostitutes is Francesco Mangiacapra, a high-class Neapolitan escort and law student, who is willing to reveal his real name.
Mangiacapra's database is brimming with priests: "Priests are the ideal clientele. They are loyal and they pay well. If I could, I would work only for priests. I always give them priority."
Was it difficult to build this client base? It started quite naturally when priest clients would recommend him to other priests or invite him to parties where he met potential clerical clients.
"It wasn't a network; these weren't orgies like people sometimes think. They were just very ordinary priests who simply recommended me in quite a mundane way to other priest friends," he disarmingly comments.
In 2018, Mangiacapra revealed the sex lives of 34 priests in a 1,200-page dossier using their photographs, audio recordings, and screenshots of his sexual exchanges with them. The Preti gay (gay priests) file revealed dozens of priests celebrating Mass in their vestments and then stripping naked and performing sex acts via webcam.
Mangiacapra sent the file to Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples. His revelations to the media can be viewed on YouTube. Despite this, he has 30 regular priests at the moment; others whom he suspects are clerics and he confidently confirms that priests have become his "speciality."
The most hard-hitting part of Martel's investigation into male prostitutes is the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS afflicting gay clergy. Martel's conversations with the rent boys of Roma Termini confirm that priests are among the least prudent clients when it comes to sexual acts.
"As a rule, priests are not afraid of STDs. They feel untouchable. They are so sure of their position, of their power, that they don't take these risks into account, unlike other clients, they have no sense of reality. They live in a world without AIDS," Mangiacapra observes.
Studies have corroborated the significant proportion of clergy with AIDS within the Catholic hierarchy. A U.S. study based on the death certificates of Catholic priests concluded they had an AIDS-related mortality rate four times higher than the general population.
Another study, based on the examination of 65 Roman seminarians in the early 1990s, showed that 38% of them were seropositive.
Martel completes his investigation into gay clergy prostitution with visits to Rome's hospitals. Priests and bishops with STDs and AIDS frequent the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute, preferring it to the Gemelli Polyclinic, which is linked to the Vatican.
Professor Massimo Giuliani from San Gallicano confirms this crisis: "Priests are one of the social categories at highest risk and the most difficult to reach in terms of AIDS prevention. ... To talk about the risk of AIDS would mean acknowledging that priests have homosexual practices. And obviously the Church refuses to engage in that debate."
"Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power," Oscar Wilde is alleged to have said. Tales of homophilia in Catholic corridors of power would have scandalized even Wilde, the homosexual poet and playwright, who repented and converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.