The wide range of Martel's research is impressive. His investigation was carried out over four years, in Italy and in over thirty other countries. Between 2015 and 2018, he lived in Rome an average of a week a month. During some of this time in Rome, he was lodged within the Vatican and in other residences in the holy see. He also went to about fifty Italian cities. The thirty other countries included Argentina, Chile, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Great Britain, and the United States. Most of his interviews were recorded, with the agreement of those being interviewed, so that he now has over four hundred hours of recordings. He worked with over 80 collaborators around the world, who worked as translators and researchers.
He conducted over 1,500 face-to-face interviews, which included 41 cardinals, 52 bishops and monsignori, 45 apostolic nuncios, secretaries of nunciatures or foreign ambassadors, 11 Swiss Guards, and over 200 Catholic priests and seminarians. There were 130 interviews with the 41 cardinals. Of these 41, 34 are named, while 7 remain anonymous because they asked to speak "off the record." Martel says that he did not wish to "out" any living priests, and therefore he has covered many people in anonymity. All of his 28 sources within the Roman Curia, who were openly gay with him, remain anonymous.
Martel is a well-known French gay journalist, and his being gay allowed him to gain access to the hidden gay community in the Vatican and elsewhere. Although he was baptized in the Catholic Church as a child, he now identifies himself as a "Catholic atheist," as someone who values the Catholic cultural traditions of France, but without any Catholic faith.
Martel's book also relies on many written sources: there are over a thousand references to books, articles, and other documents (including police reports), with citations in a document of 300 pages available online (www.sodoma.fr).
The breadth of Martel's research and the number of sources he can cite to support his claims are stunning to many of his readers. Nevertheless, many of his critics--like James Martin and Paul Mankowski--say that he has no proof for anything, and they use words like "innuendo," "gossip," "guessing," "imagining," and "bitchiness." One reason for this, is that Martel often has to shroud his sources in anonymity, and so, his critics complain, his readers are forced to trust Martel to be a reliable reporter.
Mankowski complains about Martel's "shoddy use of sources":
"When the source is named, the offending cleric he informs against is not ('Sometimes I find monsignori, archbishops and cardinals making passes at me'); conversely, when the offending cleric is named, the source who informed on him is not ('I was told by someone close to him . . .').
"One jaw of the vise is always missing; they never come together in a grip. Martel's revelations, even when most useful in the course of reform, all slip away into innuendo: '[Archbishop Paul] Marcinkus was homosexual: he had a weakness for Swiss Guards. He often lent them his car, a metallic grey Peugeot 504 with a lovely leather interior. At one point I remember that he was going out with a Swiss Guard, and it lasted for some time.' The source? 'A layman close to the archbishop who worked in the Vatican at the time.'"Mankowski is mistaken, however, in saying that "one jaw of the vise is always missing," because there are many cases in Martel's book where he names both the accuser and the accused. For example, one of Martel's first contacts within the Vatican was Francesco Lepore, who had been Pope Benedict's Latin translator. Lepore identified himself to Martel as a gay priest. A few months after first meeting Martel in 2015, Lepore sent a letter to Pope Francis telling him that he was leaving the priesthood and coming out publicly as gay. Lepore provided extensive testimony about the gay underworld in the Vatican, and he told Martel that around 80 per cent of the Vatican was homosexual (18-19). Some of the people who protected Lepore as a practicing homosexual in the Vatican are named. When some of Lepore's superiors wanted to remove him from the Vatican, Mgr Stanislaw Dziwisz, the personal secretary to Pope John Paul II, intervened and had him appointed private secretary to Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who was aware of Lepore's homosexuality. Later, the pain of living a double life became so unbearable for Lepore that he intentionally used his Vatican computer to access various online gay sites and left his session open so that it could be spotted. He was asked to leave. Tauran rebuked him--not for being gay but for being so stupid as to be caught (20-21).
"Over the course of about a dozen interviews, Francesco Lepore told me about the mad gaiety of the Vatican. His testimony is incontestable. He has had several lovers among archbishops and prelates; he has been propositioned by a number of cardinals, whom we discuss: an endless list. I have scrupulously checked all of those stories, making contact myself with those cardinals, archbishops, monsignori, nuncios, assistants, ordinary priests or confessors at St. Peter's, all basically homosexual" (19).But still the "endless list" here remains anonymous to the reader, which is why Mankowski complains that we are forced to trust Martel without being able to see the proof for ourselves. In his response to his critics, Martel explains:
". . . To demand concrete proof of the homosexuality of the majority of cardinals is to consign oneself to failure from the outset, because even when you have such proof (which I do for the majority of them), the law prohibits the disclosure of their private lives. As I specify at the end of the book, by indicating their names, I had fourteen lawyers working with me on In the Closet of the Vatican. It is not difficult to infer that some tangible evidence could not be published. In France, Italy, the U.S., and the United Kingdom, among other countries, the law is such that revealing the homosexuality of a person, even if you have proof, may be considered an invasion of privacy. But it is not simply a legal problem--it is also a moral one. Journalistic integrity--at least mine--forbids 'outing' people. I made the choice not to 'out' living cardinals and priests; I stand by this choice, and I have stuck to it . . . . In the end, I would rather be accused of 'insinuations' than to commit 'outings.'"
". . . Requiring 'proof' either naively ignores this situation, or it functions to silence the researcher and the journalist. It deprives us of a key to general understanding of the system. One may very well have reliable information, written documents, and firsthand testimony--as I do--but it is impossible to produce them legally. The demand for the publication of evidence encourages the continuation of the lie and possibly also the cover-up of sexual abuses. . . . Rejecting my book on the ground of 'innuendo,' 'insinuations,' and 'gossip' thus comes down to maintaining a 'state lie' and, in a way, to allowing the crisis of sexual abuse to continue."Much of what Martel presents is a matter of public record where both the accusers and the accused are named. That is so, for example, with the case of the Marcial Maciel scandal. The founder and leader of the Legion of Christ, Maciel was one of the most influential clerics in the Catholic Church. Beginning in the 1940s, he was accused of sexual abuse. In 1956, he was suspended by the Vatican. But then he was pardoned and found innocent by Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, although the Vatican had a thick file of complaints against him. Eventually, hundreds of victims, including children and seminarians, were identified. It was also found that he had six children by two women, and he had sexually abused his own sons. Although John Paul II was repeatedly informed of Maciel's crimes, the Pope refused to have his friend Maciel punished. In 2005, Benedict XVI stripped Maciel of his duties, but there was no other punishment: he was not arrested or excommunicated. He died in 2008. And thus one of the greatest sexual predators of the past 50 years lived out his life while being protected by the Church.
Martel has also been challenged by some readers who say that he has no proof or evidence to support his account of Jacques Maritain as a latent homosexual. This is an important point for the general argument of Martel's book, because of the prominence he gives to "the Maritain Code" in the history of homosexuality in the Catholic Church. Maritain was a Thomistic philosopher and theologian who had great influence over the Catholic Church, particularly at Vatican II and during the papacy of Paul VI, who was a friend of Maritain's. Maritain condemned homosexuality as a mortal sin, and he tried to persuade his homosexual friends--Andre Gide, Jean Cocteau, Julien Green, and Maurice Sachs--to suppress their homosexual inclinations. Martel argues that he was thus recommending his own choice as a homophilic man sexually attracted to men who chose to suppress and sublimate his homophilic desires so that he never engaged in homosexual acts, and so that he could channel his erotic longings towards the love of God. He was a homophile but not a homosexual.
Martel suggests that a majority of the post-war cardinals and bishops chose this same psychic strategy--the sublimation of their homophilic sexuality into faith and chastity. This was the "Maritain Code." This prevailed until the end of Paul VI's papacy. But then with Pope John Paul II's papacy, most of the cardinals and bishops shifted to practicing their homosexuality in secret, while condemning it in public. This history is conveyed in the 9th Rule: "The homophiles of the Vatican generally move from chastity towards homosexuality; homosexuals never go into reverse gear and become homophile" (169).
Martel has three kinds of evidence that Maritain was a sublimated or repressed homophile. The first is the fact that he surrounded himself with homosexual friends. The second is that, as Jean-Luc Barre reported in his biography of Maritain and his wife, when they married, they made a secret pact to remain chaste, so that they could devout all of their eroticism to the love of God. They never had children, and it's possible that they never consummated their marriage.
The third line of evidence for Maritain being a homophile is his passionate love in his youth for Ernest Psichari, who died in World War I in 1914. Through Jean-Luc Barre, Martel has had access to the unpublished correspondence between these two young men--175 love letters. Here are some excerpts from Maritain's letters to Psichari (166). "I feel that our two strangers are penetrating one another gently, timidly, slowly." "Ernest, you are my friend. You alone." "Your eyes are splendescent [sic] lighthouses. Your hair is a virgin forest, full of whispers and kisses." "I love you, I live, I think of you." "It is in you alone that I live." "You are Apollo." "I love you, I kiss you." Well, you get the idea.
Barre has said in interviews with Martel that Maritain was surely sexually attracted to men, even if he never acted on his inclinations and remained chaste. (Martel identifies Barre as one of the "main editors" for Martel's book.) If so, then Maritain practiced what his teacher Thomas Aquinas identified as "loving friendship" (amor amicitiae), as contrasted with "concupiscent love" (amor concupiscentiae).
Remarkably, this seems to be what Ratzinger has recommended, and what has been put into the Catechism of the Catholic Church--that those with homosexual "inclinations" can strive for "Christian perfection" by being chaste in refraining from homosexual "acts." But even if such a chaste Platonic homophilia is achievable by a few people like Maritain, one must wonder whether this would be unnatural for most homosexuals.