A former commander of the Swiss Guard, the small force of men whose job it is to protect the pope, says there is “a network of homosexuals” within the Vatican, the latest in a series of claims about gay priests working at the heart of the Catholic Church.
“I cannot refute the claim that there is a network of homosexuals. My experiences would indicate the existence of such a thing,” he told the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag
Mader, 50, from the canton of St Gallen, refused to comment on speculation that he had warned guardsmen about the behaviour of certain priests.
Earlier this month, the same newspaper reported the claims of a former, unnamed member of the Guard that he had been the target of more than 20 “unambiguous sexual requests” from clergy while serving in the force and had been sexually harassed by members of the Roman Curia, including on at least one occasion by a Cardinal.
Recounting a dinner in a Rome restaurant, the man was quoted as saying: “As the spinach and steak were served, the priest said to me: ‘And you are the dessert’.”
At the time, spokesman Urs Breitenmoser said the rumoured gay network did not pose a problem to the Swiss Guard, whose members, he said, were motivated by entirely different interests.
Mader, while he said he did not have a problem with homosexuality, said he feared that a network or secret society of gay people within the Vatican could pose security problems. He added that he would not have promoted a gay man in the Guard – not because of his sexuality but because “the risk of disloyalty would have been too high”.
Mader’s comments about the supposed threat posed by gay guards and priests drew criticism among rights advocates in Italy.
“Along with all gay people in the armed forces, I would advise Mader to become better informed,” said Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of Equality Italia Prima lobby.
The Swiss Guards have served as bodyguards and ceremonial guards to the Pope since the late 15th century.