Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ultra-conservatism and homosexuality uneasily combined in the high echelons of the Catholic Church: Der Spiegel interview

Excellent interview on Der Spiegel's English Edition with theologian David Berger, talking about his experience moving within the ultra-traditional circles that seem to have taken power with Ratzinger while also being closeted.

"Berger: I kept having to listen to inhuman views. For example, Hitler was praised for having interned and murdered homosexuals in concentration camps. The point came when I couldn't remain silent any longer ...

SPIEGEL: ... after you and your career had profited for a long time from contact with these right-wing circles.

Berger: Ever since Pope Benedict XVI, at the latest, you have to be anti-modern to have a career in the Catholic Church. I criticized the relatively progressive theology and left-wing church policy of Karl Rahner. That is how people noticed me. Because I was an expert on the medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas, I was invited by almost all right-wing conservative groups to give lectures. I was in touch with the Sedevacantists, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, Una Voce, Opus Dei and the Servants of Jesus and Mary.

SPIEGEL: What went on at the meetings?

Berger: 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.

SPIEGEL: And what do they discuss?

Berger: They talk about a supposed Jewish global conspiracy or about how to keep emancipators, freemasons and gays out of the church. 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 the gay parades on Christopher Street Day (in Germany): "Instead of standing in a corner, being ashamed of themselves and just shutting up, they behave like pigs gone wild."

SPIEGEL: Why didn't you turn your back on the church at that point?

Berger: Many gays are attracted by the clear hierarchies of the male world of Catholic rituals. Among clerics I discovered extremely effeminate behavior of the sort I knew well from certain gay scenes. People give each other women's names and attach very high importance to clerical robes in all colors. Just think of the nicknames Bishop Walter Mixa (who recently stepped down amid accusations of violence and financial irregularities) and his housemaster friend gave each other: "Hasi," or "bunny," and "Monsi," short for monsignore.

SPIEGEL: Did you get the impression that your homosexuality may even have helped your career?

Berger: In clerical circles I kept getting shown through unmistakeable looks, hugs, stroking of my upper arms and excessively long handshakes that one didn't just appreciate my work a lot. The fact that many prelates had homosexual tendencies is certain to have made them more ready to help me get positions. "

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