Quattrocchi also considers the relationship between the pope and his private secretary Georg Gänswein [pictured at left]. Gänswein is remarkably handsome, a cross between George Clooney and Hugh Grant, but, in a way, more beautiful than either. In his book, Quattrocchi prints many photographs of the pope in his papal clothes, and many of Gänswein looking sultry, like a film star, and a few of the two together, taking a walk or the younger man helping the older one to put on a robe or a hat. He writes:
About ten years before he became pope, when age was beginning to take its toll and was maybe sharpening the secret internal rage, Ratzy [Ratzinger] met Don Giorgio [Gänswein]. And it was a spark of life amid the doctrinal darkness … So we can at least imagine how a pure soul becomes inflamed when it meets its soulmate, when a nearly 70-year-old prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith meets a brilliant 40-year-old priest from his native Bavaria who shares the same outlook on the world … When we see the photos, which we publish in this book, of Georg putting Ratzy’s little hat on for him, handing him his stole, watching his back, looking after him, accompanying him and helping him as he walks, we cannot help being moved.
It seems to me that Quattrocchi is pushing his luck here. In his attacks on homosexuals, Ratzinger was using his full skills as a hardline Catholic theologian; he was indeed displaying himself as doctrinaire, but he was operating during the papacy of Wojtyla. He could not have issued his declarations without the agreement of the pope. While there is something oddly emphatic and absolute and oddly hateful in his diktats, it should be understood that he has taken this tone on other matters besides homosexuality. He may well have taken it out of pure conviction and seriousness; to suggest that this most ideological of figures may or may not be homosexual himself simply because he has made so many statements on the matter seems unfair to him. And in his way of wearing clothes, he is not different from any other member of the Church hierarchy. It is unlikely they all get pleasure from wandering around looking like elderly fashion victims, even if some of them, including Ratzinger, seem to do so. It may depend on who is taking the photographs. And it seems natural that Ratzinger would have a private secretary who is also from Bavaria and with whom he seems to share an ideology. It might be pure coincidence that he is one of the most handsome men alive.
The problem is that, after all that has been revealed, many of us who were brought up in the Church now know that we once listened to sermons about how to conduct our lives from men who were child molesters. And that senior members of the Church hierarchy protected these men, believing that the reputation of the Church was more important than the safety of children, and that Church law was superior to civil law. When they were found out, their sorrow was not fully credible. Thus, when we think of the Catholic Church, we think of secrecy, half-hearted apology, studied concealment.
This makes it difficult for Ratzinger, who is probably the most intelligent and articulate pope for many generations, to be heard properly when he speaks about matters of faith and morals. He wishes to make it clear, from a position that is starkly coherent, that moral values are not relative values, but absolute ones, that we must follow God’s will, and that the Catholic Church is in a unique position to tell us in some detail what this entails. However, rather than listening to this message or bowing our heads as he offers us his blessing, because of what has happened, because of a new suspicion which even the most reverent feel about the clergy, we will find ourselves examining Ratzinger’s clothes and his accessories, his gestures, and checking behind him for a glimpse of the gorgeous Georg with whom he spends so much of his day.
To read Tóibín's review in its entirety, click here.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Pope's "Scandalous" Stance on Homosexuality
Oh, Give It a Rest, Papa!
And a Merry Christmas to You Too, Papa
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
Keeping All the Queens Under One Roof
Homosexuality and the Priesthood
The "Ratzinger Letter" of 1986 as "Theological Pornography"
Bless Me, Father
The Inherent Sensuality of Roman Catholicism
The Allure of St. Sebastian
What Is It That Ails You?
A Humorous Look at Internalized Homophobia
A Catholic's Prayer for His Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI