Spiegel has an eyebrow-raising interview with David Berger, a former high-flying Catholic priest and theologian who quit earlier this year after coming out as gay. He claims, among much else that "a large proportion of the Catholic clerics and trainee priests in Europe and the United States are homosexual." The main emphasis, though, is on the German church that nurtured Joseph Ratzinger. He depicts a perfumed, rarefied world in which closet cases give career leg-ups to similarly-inclined younger colleagues who don't rock the boat while aristocratic Nazi sympathisers meet up in grand houses to theorise about how Jews, freemasons and homosexuals are taking over the world:
These groups are very careful about who they invite. They meet in very high-class venues, sometimes in former aristocratic residences or in luxury hotels. Old men smoke fat cigars, drink expensive red wine and eat well. It is a parallel world whose inhabitants seek to defy the modern world....
For many years, there were "gentlemen's evenings" in Düsseldorf that were organized by a tax consultant. They increasingly became a focal point for a right-wing Catholic network. At one of the meetings, which were regularly visited by senior clerics, the man sitting next to me, a retired university professor, was railing against gay parades...
According to Berger, developments such as the rehabilitation of the Society of St Pius X (including the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson) show the rising influence of such reactionary groups, and that "views that used to be exchanged discreetly at gentlemen's evenings or in the editorial conferences of newspapers and magazines have now been declared part of the official doctrine of the Catholic Church by leading clerics." In that context, it's interesting to note the consternation the Pope's recent softening of the anti-condom line has caused among arch-conservatives (though not, for once, Damian Thompson). They perceive, perhaps, that even the smallest crack in the absolutist facade of Catholic doctrine might provide an opening through which the modern world can squeeze in.
Berger thinks that "many gays are attracted by the clear hierarchies of the male world of Catholic rituals" and discusses the strange phenomenon (found also among some Ango-Catholics) of clerics giving each other female nicknames. All this is tolerated, even tacitly encouraged, so long as celibacy (or at least the illusion of celibacy) is maintained. Indeed, he maintains that "the fact that many prelates had homosexual tendencies is certain to have made them more ready to help me get positions" - something evidenced by "unmistakable looks, hugs, stroking of my upper arms and excessively long handshakes".
"The fiercest homophobia in the Catholic Church," he believes, "comes from homophile clerics who desperately suppress their own sexuality."
For Berger, the dream of "leaf gold and Brussels Bobbin lace" eventually turned into a nightmare. He's now a high school teacher.