14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 February 2019 — The newly released book “Sodom: Power and Scandal in the Vatican” can be taken as a scandalous revelation for some or as the confirmation of their suspicions by others. Either way, the 600 pages of the book will create a buzz about the inner life of seminars and parishes, all the way up to the religious elite.
By the French author Frédéric Martel, Sodom is being published simultaneously in eight languages and in twenty countries. The axis on which the text revolves is the extension of homosexuality in the Catholic Church, but it also touches on the crisis of values, pedophilia scandals, cover-ups and power struggles. Cuba is not on the sidelines and the island is signaled as one of the reasons for the fall of a Pope: Benedict XVI.
The author claims to have interviewed about 1,500 people during a field investigation that lasted more than four years. Cardinals, bishops, apostolic nuncios, priests and seminarians gave testimony. “A reality that I myself maligned, although many will consider it pure invention, a fable,” explains Martel.
Starting with the prologue, Sodom alerts the reader that the revelations refer to the dissolute behavior of those in the clergy who behave publicly as moralists but in private life engage in a wide range of sexual excesses and crimes ranging from orgies to corruption of minors and abuses.
The Cuban chapter is entitled The Abdication because it reports that the resignation of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was due, among other reasons, to the traumatic event that proved to him that the Church of the Island was not safe from evils such as pedophilia, which was known to have spread through several countries of Latin America.
In the most daring paragraph on that subject the author relates what happened in 2012, when the pope was flying to Cuba. “When the saintly father listened to what was said to him, and learned above all about the extent of the problem of the archdiocese of Havana, although he already knew the extent of the ‘filth’ of the Church (according to his own words), he now felt repugnance. According to one witness, the Pope, upon hearing this story, wept again.”
The “evidence” of these observations is obtained by Martel, according to he himself, from “three foreign diplomats accredited in Havana and several Cuban dissidents who remain on the island.” To the list of confidants are added “some Catholics from Little Havana in Miami, the Protestant pastor Tony Ramos of Cuban origin, as well as the journalists from WPLG Local 10. ”
The highlight of everything about Cuba is an encounter with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, in which, it seems, the main topic of the conversation was the Government’s relations with the Church. The interviewer physically describes the cardinal, presents a portrait of his personality, details the environment in which he lives and recounts the most familiar passages of his biography.
However, at least because of what was reported in Sodom, the journalist does not seem to have directly asked Jaime Ortega if he knew of cases of sexual abuse or pedophilia among his top hierarchy in the Catholic Church. Nor does it relate whether he asked him directly about his sexual preferences or whether he heard from him about this topic.
Other interviewees such as Orlando Márquez, Roberto Veiga, Monsignor Ramón Suárez Polcari, spokesperson for the archbishop, director of the Felix Varela Cultural Center and a layman named Andura express opinions on various matters, especially on what the Church had to cede in order to reach an acceptable harmony with the government, but rarely do they allude to the core of the investigation of Martel, who has said that “the Vatican has one of the largest gay communities in the world.”
Instead, in the chapter’s plot line, information of a political and diplomatic nature is juxtaposed, which the reader will be able to link in a cause-and-effect relationship with possible internal affairs of the bedroom. The author also takes the ingredients of the rumors and speculation which turns that part of the book into a bundle of gossip rather than a list of certainties.
After talking about Jaime Ortega’s concessions to the Cuban government, he says: “The regime knew perfectly the relationships, the meetings, the travels, the private life and the customs of Jaime Ortega, whatever they were, given his hierarchical level and his frequent connections with the Vatican, it is clear that the cardinal was guarded 24 hours a day by the Cuban political police.”
The idea seems a truth like a mountain, in a country with an extensive network of informers and a sophisticated political police trained in the methods of the German Stasi (Ministry for State Security) and honed with decades of experience, information gathering and the purchase of loyalties.
From a distance without coming to a conclusive statement, Martel adds: “One of the specialties of this police is precisely to engage prominent personalities by filming them in their sexual adventures, at home or in hotels.” A good listener with few words would suffice, but a journalistic investigation needs more than insinuations.
To fit his thesis, the author generously cites the testimony on Miami television of an ex colonel of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, Roberto Ortega, who “hinted that Archbishop Jaime Ortega would lead a double life: he would have had intimate relationships with an agent of the Cuban secret service.”
Frédéric Martel excessively bases his half-affirmations in “it is said,” “some sources affirm,” or “it seems that.” Too many voices that opt for anonymity, the absolute absence of testimonies from the victims and, of course, no probative documentation.
The scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church throughout the world have been mostly uncovered by those affected and by the voluntary declassification of some files. It would be a real miracle if the Cuban Church did not have similar cases in its 500 years of presence on the island, but obviously these have not reached the hands of the French author.
Instead of revelations, the section devoted to Cuba may seem to the eye of the local reader as a repertoire of gossip, a sequence of half-truths or stories shared from balcony to balcony. As it fails to convince of a dissolute life and the violation of a priest’s vow of chastity, it ends up making them seem like victims of intrigues and opinions issued by the laboratories of State Security.
It’s a shame, because the subject promises a lot. Sodom at least serves to bring to light a reason to open a public debate. It will be up to Cuban social investigators and journalists to take their questions to the temples and to the ecclesiastical authorities, to assume the responsibility of denying the false and revealing the true.
That this book encourages potential victims to speak could be its greatest achievement in this place where secrecy has become an inseparable part of life in too many orders: the State, the Church and the family.
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