Maike Hickson

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New book suggests Benedict’s trip to Cuba was German Pope’s last straw before abdication

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PARIS, February 19, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) -- Frédéric Martel, in his upcoming book In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, dedicates a whole chapter to Pope Benedict XVI's 2012 visit to Cuba and what he learned about the moral corruption in the Catholic Church of that country. Martel, based on several sources, claims that Benedict was so overwhelmed by the moral “filth” (his word as spoken earlier, in 2005) that he wept. Martel claims that it was this discovery that led Pope Benedict to start considering his abdication.

Martel, who shared chapter 23 (“The abdication”) of his book with LifeSiteNews – said that he “traveled five times to Havana for this investigation,” interviewing numerous Catholic laymen, dissidents, journalists, and clergy. His finding is that, due to the dictatorship and lack of a free press (“censorship on the island is total”), there developed over decades in Cuba – and especially the Archdiocese of Havana, its capital city – an indulgent culture of sexual debauchery among the clergy. Since the Cuban government is interested in keeping control over the Catholic Church, it contents itself with keeping photographs and other recordings in their files – in part for the purposes of blackmail –  but otherwise does not react against this immoral subculture, Martel suggests.

Speaking about Pope Benedict XVI, Martel says that, when this Pope went to Cuba in 2012, he “was aware of sex abuse in Latin America, but he still underestimated the extent of it. This pope, who wasn't very familiar with the Hispanic world, “didn't know that paedophilia had become epidemic there,” and, for some reason, he thought that “Cuba had been spared.” Martel does not know when exactly the Pope was informed about the moral corruption on the island, but he did learn about it. “What I have been assured of by two different Vatican diplomatic sources is that Benedict XVI swiftly started to discover the extent of sexual corruption in the local Church.”

The state of the moral corruption in the Catholic Church of Cuba has been confirmed at large by a Vatican specialist in Rome, also confirming Martel's claim that there are even members of the Vatican curia who go to Cuba in order to participate in the moral debauchery there. This well-informed source also said that Pope Benedict had little experience with Latin America and that, next to his trip to Cuba, his trip to Mexico (which was part of his 2012 trip) also contained its own discouraging challenges.

Martel furthermore describes, based on the reports from several sources, the moral situation in more detail. As Roberto Veiga, former director of a Catholic journal in Cuba, is quoted as saying: “In the Church here in Cuba, exactly the same thing is happening in terms of sexual abuse as is going on in the United States, Mexico and the Vatican,” and he then adds: “Black masses on Sundays, orgies, cases of paedophilia and prostitution: the Cuban Church is very compromised.”

While Martel points out that there are many rumors – including a published testimony by a former colonel of the Cuban Army – about Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino's own purported homosexuality, Martel leaves this question open. But since Ortega was the archbishop of Havana from 1981 until April of 2016 when he was just about to turn 80 years of age – Pope Francis left him to remain in his office until late in his age – the Cuban prelate’s reputation comes into question based on the credible reports of moral corruption in his archdiocese.

Martel says Ortega's former vicar general, Mgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes – who is now a parish priest in the parish of San Agustin – is “close to Ortega” and that he was never appointed bishop “perhaps because of his double life: his homosexuality and sexual adventurism are well documented.”

Veiga, tells Martel that “here in Cuba there have been lots of paedophilia scandals, a lot of sexual corruption, a real moral failure of the Church. But obviously the press has never mentioned it.” He adds that the government uses the information it has on these compromised clergymen as “blackmail.” Continues Martel “Rumors of the homosexuality of numerous priests and bishops in the Cuban episcopate are so common in Havana that they have been passed on to me with many details and names by almost all the people I have interviewed on the island – more than a hundred witnesses.”

Martel also claims that Vatican diplomats – among them Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Beniamino Stella, as well as now-Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu and Monsignor Fabrice Rivet – are well informed about this moral corruption in Cuba. As is Archbishop Nicolas Thévenin who held office in Cuba. Martel adds that “Georg Gänswein, whose assistant Thévenin had been, is also aware of the contents of the file.”

LifeSiteNews reached out to Archbishop Georg Gänswein, summing up for him the main argument of this chapter of the Martel book and asking him for confirmation of this story and if he had ever spoken with Dr. Martel. Archbishop Gänswein responded, saying “I do not know Frederic Martel” and that he has had “no contact” with him. The German prelate added: “More I cannot say about it.”

Pope Francis relied on Cardinal Ortega in dealing with Cuba. Several Reports have it that Ortega hand-delivered letters from Pope Francis to both Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro.

Further describing the moral decay in the Church on the Cuban island that Pope Benedict XVI learned about in 2012 during his visit, the French author speaks about the “impressive number of homosexuals among the priests and bishops of Cuba,” adding: “Protected at the level of the episcopate, this genuine Freemasonry has become very visible, spilling out of the closet. They are also very 'practising'. So I am given lengthy descriptions of the famous Sunday evening mass in Havana Cathedral which, in the 1990s, became a very popular hook-up spot in the capital.”

“I am also told about instances of 'internal' sexual abuse,” Martel explains, “perpetrated by prelates on seminarians or young priests. A certain number of monsignori are also reputed to use escorts, abusing these young men while paying them desultory sums.”

A dissident living in Cuba told Martel that Archbishop Ortega “is aware of everything” but that he “closed his eyes,” also in order not to damage his own career. Ortega is also said to be too close to the Communist government and to effectively allow the Communist government to influence the Catholic Church in Cuba. Ortega is described by dissidents on the island as a compromiser and as someone who is “defending the regime,” in the words of the activist Antonio Rodiles. “He never criticizes their human rights record or the political situation.”

In the face of such a scope and depth of corruption, Pope Benedict XVI is said to have “wept” when he more fully learned about it. “According to one witness,” says Martel, “the pope, listening to this story, wept once again.” During his trip to Cuba, Pope Benedict is said to have been “saddened and deeply overwhelmed by what he had just learned about the extent of sexual abuse in the Cuban Church.” The Pope is said to have been exhausted and in physical and moral pain, “a genuine Calvary,” as those who witnessed him then say. Martel claims that it was then that Pope Benedict started to consider his resignation.

Father Federico Lombardi – who had accompanied Benedict to Cuba as his press speaker – reportedly told Martel: “Yes, it was at the time of his trip to Mexico and Cuba that Pope Benedict XVI began to consider the idea of stepping down.” Martel says he spoke with Lombardi five times during his research.

“A few days later, the pope decided to resign (but he would only announce his decision publicly six months later),” says Martel, adding that “Cuba would prove to be one of the last stops along the stations of the cross of Benedict XVI's pontificate.” Martel adds that Benedict himself, in his own book Last Testament, identifies “the trip to Cuba as the crucial moment,” but then mainly pointed to his physical fatigue.

Martel himself, however, thinks that it was not only the health that led the Pope to make his decision, and he himself makes a list of 14 possible reasons for this papal resignation. He also states that “Nowadays, few journalists, theologians or even members of the Roman Curia whom I have met consider Benedict's resignation to have been linked to his health.” Even some cardinals told Martel that there were “other factors.”

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.