He looked like a priest with whom I’d corresponded after mutual friends put us in touch, a man I had wanted to consult about gay clerics in the Vatican Curia.My friends told me that this priest was gay, politically savvy, and well connected to the gay Church hierarchy in Rome. He had told me that he’d be away and couldn’t meet. Yes, his plans had changed, he said, but he was leaving again the next day and would return only after I was gone.Despite headlines about a powerful “gay lobby” within the Vatican, and a new Pope promising reform, the Catholic Church’s gay cardinals, monks, and other clergy inhabit a hidden netherworld.In Rome, the author learns how they navigate the dangerous paradox of their lives.
“Sex addiction feels extremely personal when you’re the partner because it affects the most intimate part of your relationship in a way that, say, alcohol or drugs just don’t,” she explains.“I could have dealt with a gambling addiction or alcoholism – anything but this,” Rachel confirms.Like most partners, she initially didn’t buy into the concept of sex addiction (“it sounded like a pretty weak excuse for an affair”) and even when she did start to believe that her husband’s behaviour was compulsive, her friends didn’t (“they’d look at me in despair, asking since when had sexual desire became a monster that can’t be controlled”), leaving her feeling isolated.Yet as I looked at the man more closely, I saw that it was definitely him. During the previous few days, I had heard a lot about this man.When we were alone, I spoke his name, telling him mine. I had heard that he is a gossip, a social operator whose calendar is a blur of drinks and dinners with cardinals and archbishops, principessas and personal trainers. We left the sauna and, after further conversation, civil but stilted, went our separate ways. But in Rome these days the topic of gay priests in the upper reaches of the Holy See is hard to avoid.