Pope Benedict’s Gay Circus at the Vatican

The net was briefly ablaze last month with reports and youtube clips of these circus acrobats’ performance for Pope Benedict. Commentary was divided: queer and queer friendly sites simply asked us to enjoy the show – or noted wryly that the pope appeared to be doing so himself. Other less friendly sites expressed shock at the scandal of this homoerotic display in the hallowed halls of the Vatican. At the time, I read a couple of reports, watched the video – and moved on, without comment.

A more recent report by Randy Engel in Spero News caught my attention this week, for suggesting that there may well be something of more interest to it for LGBT readers, claiming that the performers are definitely gay aligned, if not specifically gay men themselves. It seems that they formed part of the gay circus, which performed as part of the Euro gay games in Barcelona, 2008.

On July 25-27, 2008, the Pellegrini Brothers appeared in the Gay Circus, a specially-staged 3-day event set within the framework of the XII EuroGames (“Gay Olympics”) in Barcelona, Spain. Up until this point, the Pellegrini name had been associated with well-known international circuses including the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus (USA), the Circus Knie (Switzerland), and the International Circus Festival (Monte Carlo).

Billed as “a show for people without prejudices,” that is “a gay and lesbian friendly audience,” by publicist Irene Peralta, the “Gay Circus” was created as an artistic tribute to gay culture and as a “contribution to the normalization of homosexuality.” It featured male/male performers in a homoerotic setting. Peralta told reporters that “Gay Circus will transform the traditional understanding of the circus.”

As always with Randy Engel, the piece needs to be read with a health warning. She is described as “one of the nation’s top investigative reporters”, but by whom? Well, her own website. She is indeed prolific, and has a track record of writing extensively about a supposed “gay mafia” in the Vatican, and has made extensive claims of homosexuality against numerous bishops and cardinals worldwide – and against some recent popes, most notably John Paul I and Paul VI. Many of her claims are at least credible, but not all are generally accepted as proven by more established journalists. In this piece, her claims about the Pellegrini brothers can presumably be quite easily verified, but I confess I have not had the energy to do so myself.

If you like, do the fact checking yourself – or simply take her piece at face value,  and enjoy its implications.

The Circus at the Vatican: Reflections on how it came to be

Saturday, January 08, 2011 By Randy Engel

“Topless Acrobats Perform for Pope”, “Bare-chested Acrobats Perform for Pope”, “Pope Captivated by Shirtless Male Acrobats”, “Surprise Strippers in Vatican!”

These headlines which flooded the Internet and international media following the Papal General Audience of December 15, 2010, held at Paul VI Hall in Vatican City were enough to unsettle even the most intrepid post-Conciliar Catholic.

The scandal in question involved the Pellegrini Brothers, heirs to the well-known Italian circus dynasty, who were invited to entertain the pope and his entourage and the more than 6,000 visitors assembled for the weekly audience during the Advent season in Rome. It was, however, not their short hand-balancing act, but rather their grand entrance and provocative salutation to the Holy Father that sparked controversy.

On cue, the four young men mounted the platform area, faced the pope seated across from his secretary and cardinals on stage, and then in a manner reminiscent of the Vegas Chippendale male strippers, peeled off their jackets revealing their bare muscular upper torso. The Fratelli Pellegrini were accompanied on stage by a statuesque, well-endowed brunette with stiletto boots who had been poured into a black skin-tight leather outfit and whose task it was to gather up the performers’ jackets, stroll across the stage and await the end of the exhibition. The only fashion accessory she lacked to complete the sadomasochist scenario was a whip.

The anti-climatic gymnast act completed, the Pellegrini Brothers followed by the madam in leather, left the stage to the sounds of clapping from an enthusiastic audience, including a smiling pope and host of cardinals.

Pellegrini Brothers Perform at “Gay Circus”

On July 25-27, 2008, the Pellegrini Brothers appeared in the Gay Circus, a specially-staged 3-day event set within the framework of the XII EuroGames (“Gay Olympics”) in Barcelona, Spain. Up until this point, the Pellegrini name had been associated with well-known international circuses including the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus (USA), the Circus Knie (Switzerland), and the International Circus Festival (Monte Carlo).

Billed as “a show for people without prejudices,” that is “a gay and lesbian friendly audience,” by publicist Irene Peralta, the “Gay Circus” was created as an artistic tribute to gay culture and as a “contribution to the normalization of homosexuality.” It featured male/male performers in a homoerotic setting. Peralta told reporters that “Gay Circus will transform the traditional understanding of the circus.”

The homosexual media touted the event as an opportunity for parents to introduce their sons to other forms of sexual love outside the traditional male/female model, and to give greater exposure to homosexuality as a legitimate sexual preference. Video selections of the Gay Circus show many children in the audience. Ticket sales were estimated to be over 12,000.

The theme of the Gay Circus centered upon the eternal struggle between Good and Evil. Sadomasochist elements which dominate gay culture were visible both in the costuming and demeanor of the performers. One aerial act featured two male “angels” in a tight embrace naked except for a g-string. Another, with two “devils” in black leather jockstraps and harnesses. A short video of the Pellegrini Brothers performance at the Gay Circus, which was very similar to the portion of their act performed at the papal audience complete with an opening strip scenario, showed two burly shirtless men acting as jacket attendants.

According to Gay Circus producer Genis Matabosch, artistic performance and quality were the primary criteria for casting, not sexual orientation. Matabosch admitted he did not know who among the cast was homosexual and who was not.

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This particularly includes the LGBT community, and so there was a strong anti-papal presence at the London Pride parade, with a banner, and leaflet distributors. The reporter in front of me was clearly preparing a program not on Gay Pride specifically, but a broader current affairs program on the papal visit, with gay and gay Catholic reactions just one element. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rex

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He was soon recalled to Rome to head the CDF (successor to the old and notorious Inquisition) , where he earned the soubriquet “God’s Rottweiler” for his enthusiasm and vigour in reigning in and silencing dissenting opinion:  opinions in dissent, that is, from the views of John Paul II and his own. Read the rest of this entry »

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Catholic Abuse: More Questions Than Answers*

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog