Gay “clubs” operate openly in Catholic seminaries, the institutions that prepare men for the priesthood, the late Pope Benedict claimed in a posthumously published book that is scathing of the agenda of his successor, Pope Francis.
In a blistering attack on the state of the Catholic Church under Francis’ papacy, Benedict, who died on December 31 at the age of 95, said the vocational training of the next generation of priests was on the verge of “collapse”.
He claimed some bishops allow trainee priests to watch pornographic films as an outlet for their sexual urges.
Benedict gave instructions that the book, What Is Christianity?, should be published after his death.
It is one of a handful of recent books by conservative Vatican figures that have poured scorn on the decade-old papacy of 86-year-old Argentine-born Francis, who was elected after the resignation of Benedict in 2013.
The outpouring of new books contributes to “impressions of a mounting civil war in the church following the death of Benedict XVI”, according to John Allen, a leading Vatican analyst who writes for the Catholic outlet Crux.
The existence of “homosexual clubs” is particularly prevalent in the US, Benedict said in his book. “In several seminaries, homosexual clubs operate more or less openly,” he wrote.
He cited the example of an American bishop who allegedly let his seminarians, or trainee priests, watch porn films – “presumably with the intention of rendering them capable of resisting behaviours contrary to the faith”.
Bavaria-born Benedict, whose conservative position on doctrinal matters contrasted with Francis’ more compassionate approach, complained that his previous books were regarded as dangerously traditionalist by some elements of the church.
“In not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books are considered unworthy for the priesthood. My books are concealed as dangerous literature and are read only in hiding.”
Despite their many differences, Francis also warned recently that priests and nuns regularly watch porn.
He made the remarks in October, saying that indulging in porn is a danger to the soul and a way of succumbing to the malign influence of “the devil”.
Francis said it is a “reality” that some priests, seminarians and religious use pornography, and he warned that pornography represents an opportunity for the devil to enter the soul.
Speaking to priests and seminarians studying in Rome, Francis said he would not ask the hundreds assembled to raise their hands if they had at least one experience of using their phones to access pornography. But he asked them to think about whether they had experienced this or the temptation of pornography.
He was responding to a question about the ubiquity of the digital world and social media.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes pornography as “a grave offence” that “immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world”, injures the dignity of its participants, and “perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other”.