Benedict may have given up his flashy red loafers, downgrading to brown ones made for him in Mexico, but he is taking “Gorgeous Georg,” as the younger German is known, to live in his new home, a monastery in the Vatican. Some cardinals are worried about the arrangement of having Gänswein serve two pontiffs, by day as prefect of the new pope’s household and at night as secretary to the emeritus pope.
“An 85-year-old man having such a beautiful companion with him morning and night to talk to and walk with,” Toibin said. “It’s like the end of a novel. It’s what all of us want for ourselves, straight or gay. It’s better than sex.”
I ask him whether he thinks the church will evolve under a new pope.
“Everyone is hoping for some change,” he said. “If you could see nuns making sermons. Clerical celibacy has to be abolished and soon. And we must quickly begin the process of allowing women into the priesthood.
“They need to think very carefully about not recognizing that gay people, like all other people, are made in God’s image. It’s just possible that they have more gay priests than they know. I think most gay priests are very good people in the priesthood for very good reasons, and actually faithful to the vows of celibacy. On the issue of gays, Benedict made things even worse.”
As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict called homosexuality a “more or less strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.” As pope, he reiterated the church view that homosexuals were “objectively disordered” and that men who had such tendencies could not be allowed into seminaries. He called gay marriage a threat to “the future of humanity itself.”
Toibin says that the church must have tolerance, and that its leaders have lost any sense of how their sanctimonious denunciations clash with their scandals and imagery, causing nothing but pain.
“I remember being at the Vatican at Easter 1994,” he recalled, “and watching all the cardinals and bishops, wonderfully powerful old men with great chins, sitting nobly with a long row of extraordinarily beautiful young seminarians standing behind, shading them with different colored sun umbrellas, some of which were pink."
“It was remarkable that none of them seemed to know what it looked like, and I watched it thinking, somebody must tell them.”