The Smiling Pope: Our First Gay Pontiff?

Pope John Paul I

Richard Cameron, at  Mystic Gay, has adopted as patron Pope John Paul I, widely known during his very brief tenure as the “Smiling Pope”. In one of several posts, he quotes from Wikipedia to support a claim that he was remarkably gay friendly:

“During his time as Patriarch of Venice he became particularly outspoken on issues of sexuality, and controversially advocated greater tolerance and acceptance in the Church for gay men and women.


Before his death Pope Paul VI even permitted Luciani to address the Vatican cardinals on the possibility the Church might encourage homosexuals to enter into long-term loving relationships. This received a poor reception, but in conclusion he stated that, “The day is not far off when we will have to answer to these people who through the years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose human dignity has been offended, their identity denied and their liberty oppressed. What is more we will have to answer to the God who created them”

(Follow this link to read more).

In a subsequent comment on this site, he describes John Paul I as our first “semi-openly gay” pope.  Is this true?  I have no idea, but would love to know more.  Perhaps this is one for our historians to explore further.  I find particularly intriguing Jayden’s statement that he is

“the only Pope in recent history without an officially authorized biography from the Vatican”.

This would be entirely consistent with the clear practice of the Vatican historians to exclude gay and gay-friendly people and teachings from the official histories.

Does anybody know more?


Since wrting about JP I, have found that there have been fairly credible reports of homosexual relationships on the part of Pope Paul VI, especially before his elevation to the papacy.  See, for instance, Wikipedia, or the article  Paul VI’s Homosexuality:  Rumour or Reality?

(Health Warning:  the article comes from a very dubious source, a website that is clearly very hostile to V II and all the post-conciliar posts, including those well-kown ultra-progressives, John Paul II and Benedict XVI .  Yes, really.)

Still, the report itself is detailed, and collects allegations from a range of sources, with substantial corroborating detail.

Have a read and see what you think.

17 Responses to “The Smiling Pope: Our First Gay Pontiff?”

  1. Phillip Clark Says:

    *sigh* Such a light for the Church gone to waste…

    Everyone knows that his death wasn’t simply “natural” imagine the changes and vigorous discussions on so many different matters that could have sprung up within the Church if he had lived! Oh well, I still have hope that someday we will have an equally progressive candidate succeed the late Pope John Paul I as Bishop of Rome.

    • queeringthechurch Says:

      Since writing the post, I have learnt a little more. It has been claimed that the choice of the papal name “Paul” was a direct reference to a former lover.

      Thank you for your contributions, Phillip. I hope we will be hearing more from you.

  2. Richard Cameron Says:

    Thank you so much for this!

  3. Richard Cameron Says:

    Speaking of biographies, British scholar Paul Spackman wrote what looked to be the first full scale biography of JPI in English (God’s Candidate, Gracewing, 2008) and failed to mention a single one of JPI’s public statements in defense of homosexuals – among other omissions.

  4. Richard Cameron Says:

    The above quotes from Wikipedia have since been removed, through the intervention of the author of the conservative blog, On Pilgrimage. This would have been done within the last few weeks, since I simply ‘ cut and paste’ in mid July.

  5. Jayden Cameron Says:

    For those who are interested, Wikipedia have since restored the gay friendly quotes in an enlarged section entitled, The Moral Theology of JPI. This appears to be part of an on-going debate about the authenticity of these statements. What we really need is a gay-friendly scholar of impeccable credentials with the appropriate skills and scholarly method who can access the primary source materials in Italian. Lucien George (Murder in the Vatican) does not fit the bill here, nor does the author of the blog, On Pilgrimage, who appears not to have a name and who is presently railing against the health reform bill being debated in the US.

    • queeringthechurch Says:

      There you have it. Are any of you impeccable scholars, fluent in Italian, who can take up this task?

  6. Jayden Cameron Says:

    Here is an interesting dialogue on the alleged quotes from Joseph O’Leary’s homepage (
    Since I’m new to this blogger experience, I hope it’s not considered inappropriate to copy comments from one blog and post them in another (I assume not).

    Unfortunately there are no citations to validate these 2 statements that JPI is credited with making.

    Posted by: Jim McCrea | August 17, 2009 at 07:19 AM

    I have added the reference to Lucien Gregoire, who unfortunately is a conspiracy theorist. The alleged statements are not incompatible with the general tenor of Luciani’s approach. In those years some were developing a climate of toleration toward gay couples similar to that which Paul VI urged in the case of contraception (letter to Cardinal O’Boyle), notably Jan Visser, co-author of Persona Humana; this was blown away by John Paul II and his Theology of the Body, etc.

    Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | August 17, 2009 at 07:19 PM

    Thank you Spirit for this interesting insight into what might have been in the Roman Catholic Church. The fact of homosexuality being what it is, it is not impossible for a thinking Pope to have posited the problems of the non-acceptability of an authentic approach to matters of a sexual nature.

    Posted by: Father Ron Smith | August 18, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    Yes, the “non-acceptability” — Rome’s eternal “non possumus” — has to do with a pathology of infallibility that always brings the sad Galileo episode to mind. Luciani in the alleged quotes is expressing simple common sense, but this is as shocking in some Roman circles as was in 1600 the idea of the earth going round the sun. Eppur si muove…

    Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | August 18, 2009 at 04:06 PM

  7. Steve in MD Says:

    My personal opinion, from all the reading I have done, is that the gays came along conveniently to become the whipping boy for the church, as the sex scandals unfolded.

    First we must ask why the scandals (which also occured in Ireland) were hidden and allowed to continue for decades. The only obvious answer I can fathom is that the rot reaches all the way to the top.

    Second, the church blamed the gays. While I’m sure some gay priests were involved, there is more to the story. Rape is not a sexually motivated crime. It is a crime of establishing the power structure, where the strongest rape to humiliate the weaker. This is exactly what happens in prison rape, and what happened in the church.

    And why were there apparently very few female victims. First of all, until very recently, only males could be choir boys. The population of potential victims was primarily male. And the male rape makes better copy for the media.

    So, just as the church was a monster re the inquisition, the earth is flat, the murder of tens of millions of Muslims “in the name of God during the crusade (they haven’t forgotten – eg think 9/11), and the thousand year dark ages of zero social progress and endless wars. With the church always allied with the tyrants of Rome, etc.

    And last but not least, lets not forget the hatred of Jesus own people the Jews. Brought to the world for a 1000+ years by the vatican. This hatred culminated in hitler using the hatred of jews as a lever to get elected in Germany, and we know where that one led. And essentially, it wasn’t until 1962 that the church more or less repudiated that hatred. 50 million deaths too late.

    And now we have Benedict unecommunicating the Williamson bishop, who is a holocaust denier. the church did it for unity, It sure seems like the true reason was prob money, since williamson, himself a madman hater, has a worldwide flock of 600,000.

    Pardon me while I go puke. And think about the descendants of my grandparents siblings who never left Eastern Europe. And of whom all contact was lost during wwii.
    And may God Bless Senator Ted Kennedy, and his three brothers, who all were murdered in serving their country. And who while a strong Catholic, was a supporter of Gay peoples equality, a womans right to choose and not be controlled by the church to which she does not belong or believe. For Sen Kennedy was obviously a cafeteria plan Catholic, who took the good of the church, and rejected its power mongering.

    • queeringthechurch Says:

      Many thanks Steve, for this most apposite comment, which is bang on. In my research for the long-promised wrapping up of my series on abuse, I came across two crucial statistics: it now seems quite widely accepted that about half of all priests are “gay”: but about two thirds of the victims of abuse were girls. Simple mathematics shows that if these figures are correct, then the so-called celib ate heterosexual priests are twice as likely to have been child abusers.

      Of course, it is far more complex than that – both figures are very coarse guesstimates; we should be looking at the historical figures for when the crimes were committed; we must remember the adult victims in seminaries and convents, as well as the children. But it is clear there is absolutely no evidence that gay men, especially not openly gay men who have integrated their sexuality into their lives, were the major culprits. There is a clear scapegoating process here, whereby the church authorities are determined to deflect attention and blame from the real cause: their own unjustified insistence on compulsory celibacy and autocratic control. This ecclesiastical power grab of recent centuries is entirely unjustified.

      I am determined to develop this theme further over the next few days. Watch this space.

  8. Jeremiah Says:

    I’ll never forget the story told to me by a religious, now deceased. He was stationed for a while at the English College for late vocations in Rome, and went to Venice on holiday with a couple of seminarians. In that enchanting city, he and one of his companions became lovers. Feeling guilty, my friend went to confession in San Marco – and told his story to a Monsignor who was on duty in one of those open Baroque confessionals (he knew he was a Monsignor by the violet piping on his cassock). Here is what the anonymous prelate told him: ‘We must always respect the teaching of the Church, which represents the wisdom of the centuries. But you must also listen to what God is telling you, in this experience.’ At this point, my friend was in tears, and the Monsignor came over to his side of the confessional and embraced him. Years later, on the election of John Paul I, my friend recognized him as that wise and accepting counsellor.

  9. Jayden Cameron Says:

    A lovely anecdote. How many stories of Luciani exist of this nature. If true (and I have no wish to doubt it), then the ‘Monsignor’ would have been Archbishop Luciani (appointed Patriarch in 1969) who was known to take ordinary confessional duties in the Basilica. This quote from New Advent may illuminate the issue: “Instead of addressing patriarchs as “Vostra Beatitudine”, archbishops as “Your Grace”, bishops as “My Lord”, abbots as “Gracious Lord” one may without any breach of etiquette salute all equally as Monsignor. …The most venerable patriarch bears the title Monsignor as well as the simplest honorary chaplain” The Archbishop’s casual dress would have been indistinguishable from an ordinary Monsignor. Thank you for this.

  10. Br Jordan OP Says:

    Oh Please

    You wish he was gay. He was friendly, as I am because the homosexual act is sinful and evil. However the person is not. The homosexual is just gravely ill.

    Br Jordan OP

    • queeringthechurch Says:

      To say that the ‘homosexual is just gravely ill’ is to ignore the considered opinions of the physical and mental health professionals, and can hardly be regarded as ‘friendly.’
      To describe the acts as ‘sinful’ is within the formal teaching of the church, but ignores the part of conscience for individuals. To describe them though as ‘evil’ goes way beyond church teaching, according to which they would be only within the third order of teaching, along with many other relatively minor issues.

  11. Jayden Cameron Says:

    Hmmm. This looks like the comment of someone who very much wishes that Luciani NOT be gay. Describing him as ‘friendly’ in the face of the available evidence is a bit ingenuous.

    It is a beautiful day today here in Prague. I just finished having a wonderful lunch by the river, fresh water fish broiled on a bed of wild herbs, accompanied by a tall, cool glass of Pilsner beer. All seemed right with the world and I felt peace in my heart. Then to come back to my apartment (also on the river) and read a comment of this nature! I take my hat off to you folks at Queering the Church, Wild Reed, On Bilgrimage, Enlightened Catholicism, for dealing with this level of ignorance day after day after day. You are braver souls than I, and must be blessed by the Spirit with a very special charism of service and heroic witness.

    • queeringthechurch Says:

      Thanks for the concern and appreciation, Jayden, but you put yourself down too much. I love the eclecticism and broader approach of Gay Mystic – I wish I had more time while travelling to look it up more frequently. I find the range and broader perspective of your posts breathtaking and refreshing.

      Thanks for keeping it up while juggling a demanding job at the same time.

  12. r borris Says:

    This makes me sick. These fucking religious fakes should be hanged and I don’t mean by the neck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: