We're hesitating between "no comment" and "oh, puhleeze!"....
by Nicole Winfield
VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man says he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work.
In an interview published Sunday, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico told La Repubblica daily he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity."
Vatican teaching holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with compassion and dignity but that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."
The Vatican said Saturday it was suspending Stenico after he was secretly filmed making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex was not sinful during a television program on gay priests broadcast Oct. 1 on La7, a private Italian television network.
While Stenico's face was blurred in the footage, church officials recognized his Vatican office in the background and suspended him pending a church investigation.
There have long been allegations that there are gays in the Roman Catholic priesthood, but the Stenico case is unusual because he is a relatively high-ranking Vatican official. He heads an office in the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy — the main office overseeing all the world's priests.
The case comes at a particularly sensitive time, just two years after the Vatican issued tough new guidelines effectively barring gays from the priesthood — seen in large part as a response to complaints about a "gay subculture" in U.S. seminaries.
The guidelines say the church cannot admit men to the priesthood who practice homosexuality, or have "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support so-called gay culture." However, the document said that if the gay tendencies were just a "transitory problem," the men can be ordained deacons if they successfully overcome those tendencies for three years.
In the Repubblica interview, Stenico said he had never been gay and was heterosexual, but remained faithful to his vow of celibacy. He said he expected to be fully exonerated after a review.
"It's all false; it was a trap. I was a victim of my own attempts to contribute to cleaning up the church with my psychoanalyst work," La Repubblica quoted Stenico as saying.
Stenico said he had met with the young man and pretended to talk about homosexuality "to better understand this mysterious and faraway world which, by the fault of a few people — among them some priests — is doing so much harm to the church," La Repubblica quoted him as saying.
Italy's Sky TG24 said Stenico had written a letter to his superiors with a similar defense.
Calls placed to Stenico's home and office went unanswered Sunday.
In 2006, the Vatican denied Italian newspaper reports that an official in the office of the Secretary of State had been involved in a fight with police after he was stopped in a neighborhood frequented by transvestites and male prostitutes.
In 2002, a former official in the papal household, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, resigned as archbishop of the Polish city of Poznan over accusations that he had made sexual advances toward young clerics. He denied the accusations.