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From gay pope orgies to daydream romance, can history soften Catholicism?

in UNITED STATES, 08/11/2013

‘Gay brain’ scientist Simon LeVay’s new book is historical fiction but can the real homosexuality of past pontiffs encourage Pope Francis to embrace LGBTI equality?

Homosexuality is a good thing – and that’s as true for popes as it is for regular mortals. But because the Catholic Church considers homosexuality a ‘moral disorder’, we’re not likely to hear good things about gay popes. If we hear anything about them at all, it’s in the context of shocking misdeeds.

The 11th century Pope Benedict IX, for example, seized the papal throne by force of arms on three separate occasions; he also established a male brothel in the Lateran Palace and presided over unspeakable orgies there. Even the pope-friendly Catholic Encyclopedia says he was ‘a disgrace to the Chair of Peter’.

In my just-published novel, The Donation of Constantine, I portray a very different kind of gay pope. This one, Stephen II, lived in the eighth century, when popes still took their jobs seriously.

That he was gay is an invention on my part –we have no record of his sexuality. What we do know is that Stephen saved Rome from destruction by the Lombards. This he did by forming an alliance with the Frankish King Pepin the Short (the father of Charlemagne).

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