Ah, the catholic church. Politics does its best but for a really potent scandal you have to look to catholicism. And what better location than the beating heart of catholic activity, Vatican City in Rome?
Pope Benedict’s household was all of a twitter in March 2010 after a Nigerian chorister got the sack for procuring male prostitutes for one of the pope’s married gentlemen-in-waiting.
Angelo Balducci has the wonderfully high-camp titles of “Gentleman of His Holiness” and “Papal Gentleman.” Senior adviser to the “Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples” – the outfit that manages the Roman Catholic church’s international missionary activities – he acts as a ceremonial usher in the papal household. The ‘Holy Gentlemen’ are required by catholic rules to “distinguish themselves for the good of souls and the glory of the name of the Lord”.
But in February Balducci distinguished himself by getting arrested for corruptly awarding public work contracts. The investigation subsequently revealed, by-the-by, that apart from the financial corruption wiretaps recorded him negotiating to buy the services of male prostitutes from Thomas Chinedu Ehiem, a young Vatican chorister. Among the rather eclectic collection of rent boys was a young man studying to become a priest.
Quickly fired from his job of singing in St Peters because of his pimping activity, Ehiem immediately sang like the proverbial bird for the media. He only made matters worse for the hapless holy man. He’d known Balducci for over 10 years he said and “he asked me if I could procure other men for him. He told me he was married and that I had to do it in great secrecy.”
Ehiem went on to say that he procured at least 10 male prostitutes for Balducci, including two ‘black Cuban lads’, a male model from Naples and a rugby player from Rome.
Catholicism of course considers homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered” and takes a dim view of adultery too. Prostitution may be little more acceptable – wasn’t Mary Magdalene a prostitute? But taken in all, and especially if the financial corruption charges stick, Balducci’s behaviour poses a delicate problem for the Vatican and for the pope.
Why? Because the catholic church holds the “Gentlemen of His Holiness” in such high regard that there’s no provision for sacking them. Bit like the pope’s own position in fact. The holy gents are held to be beyond reproach. Now that’s what I call having faith. (For a more positive story on catholicism, click here.)