Friday August 04, 2017

August 4, 2017 Full Episode Transcript

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The Current Transcript for August 4, 2017

Host: Laura Lynch

STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE

Listen to the full episode

Prologue

[Music: Theme]

SOUNDCLIP

And right is a [beep] paranoid schizophrenic paranoiac. What he's going to do is “Oh! Let me [beep] thing and see if I can [beep] block these people the way I can [beep] Scaramucci for six months.

LAURA LYNCH: Ah! Mootch! We barely knew you, and your beeps [chuckels]. Anthony Scaramucci’s 10 year in President Trump’s White House was cut very, very short after this phone call to a journalist from The New Yorker. It was one in a string of seemingly made-for-reality TV moments from recent days,. That made us think it's time once again to check in with those who get their comedy material from places like the West Wing. Stay tuned for laughs. After that: God's closet.

SOUNDCLIP

The Catholic Church is the principal political agency of homophobic position in the world. Very powerful. I was collaborative of system.

LL: For years he was a closeted Roman Catholic priest, an official in the very Vatican office that wrote and enforced the rule that banned gay men from the priesthood. He left in a spectacular show of defiance, introducing his lover to the press. In half an hour, Megan Williams explores the reactions to the Vatican’s latest guidelines, renewing the ban on gay men in the priesthood. I'm Laura Lynch and you're listening to the summer edition of The Current.

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Too much material: A satirical look at the political year so far

Guests: Alexandra Petri, Terry Fallis, Maysoon Zayid

SOUNDCLIP

[Music]

VOICE 1: It is an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.

VOICE 2: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

VOICE 3: I'm having a good time. Tomorrow they will say Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I am not ranting and raving. I am just telling you. You know, you dishonest people. But… but…

VOICE 4: You're saying it's a falsehood and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.

VOICE 3: I was sitting at the table, we had finished dinner we're now having dessert, and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen, and President she was enjoying it. And I said: “Mr. President, let me explain something to you. This is a dessert and we've just fired 59 missiles…

VOICE 5: Do you think people should be concerned if the President then posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night and the Defense stayed out for hours?

VOICE 6: No. No. I think that the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. Like…

[Noise: Cross talking] What? What does it mean?

[Music]

LL: What does it mean? Indeed it's a question that's already been asked many times about U.S. President Donald Trump and his entourage. The first six months of the Trump presidency had been packed with haw dropping surprises, frights and intrigues. Not unlike a roller coaster season of reality TV. And so, well, we normally wait until the end of the year to unpack political absurdities with a panel of wits. We figured a mid-season check in was in order this year. We have three guests standing by, just waiting to jump in. Alexandra Petri is a humor columnist with the Washington Post and she joins us from Washington. Maysoon Zayid is a comedian and disability advocate. She is in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. And Terry Fallis is the author of the political satire: The Best Laid Plans, as well as five other novels. His latest, One Brother Shy, was out this spring and he is in Toronto. Hello to all of you.

GUESTS: Hello. Good Morning. Hello.

LL: President Donald Trump has certainly been taking up a lot of the political airtime this year. But in the last few weeks his new, and then just as quickly, former communications director Anthony Scaramucci almost stole the spotlight. So let's start there. Alexandra Petri What was the highlight of this last ten-day-ten-year for you?

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I think, to me, the highlight was the fact that he just really, everything, that he called him … that he was appointed communications director and telephoned the journalist for the New Yorker, of all the places, to telephone and did not understand the meaning of on or off the record and then became angry and felt betrayed by having voluntarily giving this on the record profanity lace [unintelligible] to Ryan Lizza. It was, just like… This was a man directing the communications, is the fellow delivering what just heard. I think that was “Oh! Man!”

LL: [Laughs] You are having trouble finding words and not to mention that he asked Ryan Lizza to tell him who his source was.

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Yeah. No. Threatening him saying “as a patriot”.

LL: [Laughs]

ALEXANDRA PETRI: You know when you call somebody up you say “as a patriot” and then, all of the follow up interviews he does not to understand why it was so bad. He is like, well, no, because our dads are friends because they did a project together. And I'm just asking him is like a member of the family to answer this question for me [chuckles]. Like, just… The funny thing too is that he's been cast out of the Trump orbit and he's one of the few people I think in the world for whom the thought of not getting to see or hear from Donald Trump every day is actually a very painful thought. The rest of us are like: “Yes!” That would be a boon undreamed of, in all regards!” And he's like: “No I can't be around Donald Trump. Cast me not into the outer darkness”. I mean he was the one trying to say he and Ryan's previous we're like Cain and Abel but should have been more careful about how that story ended.

LL: [Laughs] Terri Fallis as someone who has worked as a political staffer, how would you have been feeling if Mr. Scaramucci, who we also know was the Mooch, had been threatening to fire you.

TERRI FALLIS: Well, I think I would have embraced the firing and departed the scene quite quickly.

LL: [Laughs]

TERRI FALLIS: He is quite stunning. Think of him as mini me in the Austin Power’s movies where…He models himself after Trump. He speaks like Trump; he uses the same kind of language. He swaggers like Trump without any justification for that swagger. And he was a disaster from the word go, and any one with the nickname the Mootch, it just seems like a bizarre appointment.

LL: Maysoon Zayid?

MAYSOON ZAYID: So, I kind of disagree with everyone. And I think Scaramucci was a really good guy and I am convinced a 100 percent that he was a mole.

[Laughter]

LL: Okay. Tell us more.

MAYSOON ZAYID: I think that he was sent to the White House to get close to them to get all the goods. I think he is the reason we have the grand jury. And the reason I think this, is because no one, no one could behave that way, unless they were paid to, unless it was for greater good. I mean the man lost everything. And by the way he is a genuinely good guy. That part is dead serious. He is a good guy. Like, I grew up around New York City and he is a good guy. But he shows you, number one: What will happen to America if we stay in a relationship with Donald Trump. Good people get destroyed and become the Mootch. But I am telling you. There is no way this man voluntarily did this. I believe he was the mole. He went in to nail Donald Trump and he didn't last because he was so good at it that over shadowed the [unintelligible]

[Laughter]

MAYSOON ZAYID: [unintelligible] Just not share air.

LL: We've heard from some of those people who were in Trump's orbit, too. There have been so many. So, I want to ask each of you in turn, your favourite quote from President Trump. Alexandra Petri.

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Well my favorite has to be, I think is underrated quote, when he's talking about history and he says: “Abraham Lincoln was a man that did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. 10 years before, 20 years before, what he was doing would not even have been thought possible. So, he did something that was a very important thing to do and especiallya t that time.”

LL: Okay. Maysoon Zayid.

MAYSOON ZAYID: I'm waiting for my favorite quote which is going to be: “I resign.”

LL: [Laughs]

TERRI FALLIS: [Laughs]

MAYSOON ZAYID: But up until then, I like the fact that he calls white people milk people. You know he's fighting for the milk people. He's fighting for the milk people. That's his code, for white people. So, I do enjoy “The milk people” but like I said my favourite quote is yet to come, when he says: “This job sucks. I am firing myself.” And he is gone.

TERRI FALLIS: [Laughs]

LL: [Laughing] And Terri Fallis, observing from north of the border.

TERRI FALLIS: Well, I remember when he said, I think it was during the campaign, where he said about his ability as a public speaker: “I have great words. I have the best words.”

[Laughter]

TERRI FALLIS: That may not count because it was before he took over, but maybe I just pick up a tweet he delivered on July the 12th. It open s with: “The White House is functioning perfectly”, and you know, need we say more than that?

LL: [Laughs] And that brings me to the next thing. Okay. We had [unintelligible]. Are there other tweets that any of you particularly remember [unintelligible] and Terri?.

MAYSOON ZAYID: I absolutely love yesterday's story. He was promoting his KKK rally in West Virginia and he said: “Tickets at this website”. It was his own website and he spelt it wrong and it was broken lens.

[Laughter]

MAYSOON ZAYID: That was extremely entertaining.

LL: Alexandra, what about you? Was it covfefe”

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I mean covfefe, sort of the classic, but I feel that is an actual recognizable type, that is like close to a human word. That… Everyone is like: “What could it possibly mean?” It means coverage. The press has better things to be doing than “What does covfefe mean? What is this strange word? What could it possibly be?” This is the sort of thing that people are like: “Oh, Man!” They do not have anything better to do with their time. No. I like…

MAYSOON ZAYID: I am sorry to push back Alex, but I do not thing you can ever assume anything means what it is supposed to, when it is the Trump crime family.

[Laughter]

MAYSOON ZAYID: Like I like your thinking that covfefe means coverage. I t could also mean vagina. It could mean anything. It could mean anything.

[Laughter]

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Grab her by the covfefe.

[Laughter]

LL: Alright people. This is public radio.

[Laughter]

LL: Maysoon…

MAYSOON ZAYID: Hey, we can’t stoop to the level of the President on public radio.

LL: Exactly [Laughs].

TERRI FALLIS: That is right [Laughs].

MAYSOON ZAYID: He can say it, but…

LL: Sometimes you do not even need words, though. Maysoon what is your favourite image of the year?

MAYSOON ZAYID: Trump, Sisi and the devil that runs Saudi, I can't remember his name, groping the globe. The grope of the globe is my favorite image because it was like they stood together, they were honest, they were transparent and they were like: “We are evil.”

LL: All right. And they're touching this glowing, just to give people a better idea there is a picture of leaders touching this, for once of a better description, glowing orb in Saudi Arabia.

[Laughter]

LL: What crossed your mind when you saw that, Maysoon?

MAYSOON ZAYID: When I saw them groping the ball, first of all I, in that moment, I realized that Donald Trump is actually Muslim. And I say this as a Muslim. I saw in that moment that he was happier, and more comfortable than I have ever seen him. And I finally figured it out. He likes to project. And he has been calling Barak Obama Muslim all these years. It's him. He's the closet Muslim. And in that moment of him standing shoulder to shoulder with dictators, as want to be dictator, I saw his faith. I saw his true color shine.

LL: Maybe it wasn't so much the Muslim thing as the idea of being king. As you have a king in Saudi Arabia.

MAYSOON ZAYID: I think he might actually want to go further than King and become God.

[Laughter]

LL: At least soar on. Alexandra who are your other favorite political characters of 2017, other than Trump?

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Well I mean, character that I think is a good word because they're certainly not real people. They couldn't possibly be. No writer would be this sort of inept with all the things that people are saying. Scaramucci like, literally is a name of an Italian comeddia dell’arte. Like, it is a character that shows up with a specific mask and a personality. It is like, this is not… I think Bret Easton Ellis was saying on Twitter, he's like: “I see Steve Miller. I'm like yes I want to write a book about him”. I'm like you should not want anyone in your administration who Bret Easton Ellis sees of it is like: “Yes. This man. Books. Got to do it.” But I don’t know. I sort of loved Congress as like a cast of sort of, remarkably spineless wanderers sort of shrieking around the halls.

LL: Anyone in particular?

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Oh. I mean, can I say everyone but also Mitch McCannell.

LL: Who is the senator from Kentucky?

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Yes.

LL: Yes. Okay. And of course we cannot forget about the women of the White House, the women of the Trump family. Maysoon.

MAYSOON ZAYID: We try very hard to get that women, may I use the word complicit, in this whole thing. Uhm. I love Tiffany Trump and I put all my faith, all of my hope, all of my will to continue to fight for freedom in America, in Tiffany Trump. I believe that Tiffany Trump will eventually free us. I think she's the one who is finally going to put the final nail in his coffin. Still, all the information that Bud Miller needs and I thing that Tiffany is going to be a real hero.

LL: But she's barely been seen.

MAYSOON ZAYID: Exactly

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Aah!

TERRI FALLIS: [Laughs]

MAYSOON ZAYID: Eddie Murphy said this many moons ago. It is the quiet ones that you have to watch out for because they are the ones with all the skeletons in the closet. They open their mouth and bombs fly out. That was Eddie Murphy. And that is what Tiffany Trump is. She is our secret weapon. She will fee us. Kellyanne Conway amazes me. I call her sewer rat Barbie, and it is not a misogynistic thing, because she is Kellyanne Conway and I am not convinced that she is an actual human being. I am not saying this to dehumanize her. I am saying anyone that lies that much,, would definitely be sucked down into a hole to hell. So, she can’t possibly be real, she has to be SGI, she has to be a creation of the Trump universe.

LL: [Laughs] Terry give me your crack of this, anybody in particular aside from Trump stand out for you?

TERRI FALLIS: Well I was going to say Kellyanne. You know her kneeling on the couch in the White House, her creation of this fantastic term, alternative facts, which just plays so much into Donald Trump’s penchant, or habit, or addiction to lying. But Michelle Spicer, I mean you kind of stole all of our thunder, Laura, when you played all those clips at the front end because hearing Sean Spicer again talking again about the inauguration numbers, that is the bizarre thing. I had forgotten about that.

LL: Sean who? [Laughs]

TERRI FALLIS: I have it right about him, but certainly about those early scandals. They have been coming. I call it the Trump fire hose. There is so many of them, they come so frequently and so fast that I had forget the ones that happened early on in the ten year. And anyone of those, for another president would have brought him down. So, it is just, if this were a sit com, we would be telling the writers room to tone it down a bit.

MAYSOON ZAYID: And I think that would be very wrong for us to forget the Nazi Steve Bannon.

LL: [Laughs] I am glad you are bei Kellyanne Conwaygn so subtle here, Maysoon.

MAYSOON ZAYID: It is so overwhelming that it is easy. But you know, my favourite Steve Bannon story is Steve Bannon was fined thousands of dollars for melting a Jacuzzi with acid. We talk about Scaramucci being a mafia characture, I am from Jersey. The only reason you melt a Jacuzzi is to melt the body. So let’s not forget president Bannon.

LL: Terry I just want to come back to you, for a second, because Canadian politicians can't be entirely left out of all of this. They haven't forgotten how to lend themselves to satire up here. What fatter has been coming out of the Great White North?

TERRI FALLIS: Well, you know, I've got nothing.

LL: [Laughs] Oh my Gosh!

TERRI FALLIS: I mean the United States and Donald Trump has sucked all the air out of the room. The only thing I can think of is, we have got president, [laughs] sorry, or prime minister.

LL: Oops.

TERRI FALLIS: Oops. Freudian slip. See what I mean? Dominate everything. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Who would have thought that, Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, would never have been on the cover of Rolling Stone, but here we have our golden boy on the cover. And declaring that people wish that he could be the president of the United States. We are poking some fun at that, north of the border, but it is response to a very real situation in the U.S.

LL: But not, and also to mention just briefly in that article, he admits to developing this strategy over this infamous boxing match that he had. He was trying to choose the right opponent for him in the boxing ring, which happened sometime age, that some people has say helped his political career. Alexandra, is there an international politician that you have seen trying, excuse the expression, to fight for their space in the political pummelling ring.

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I feel like you're leading, this is all leading to a handshake Joe because What I feel is…

[Laughter]

TERRI FALLIS: Exactly.

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I love that like, masculinity is like taken over to the point that you can't just like, like Donald Trump keeps thinking “Oh you know, Macron, he loves to hold my hand. He has to be..” And so like, our world leaders are wasting maybe 30 minutes of their time cumulatively, just for aggressively shaking hands, until like the veins pop out on their arms, because anything else would be an unthinkable loss of face. Just like, they were playground bullies in fifth grade who were like more subtle and sort of like nuance in their approach to masculine posturing that this is becoming.

LL: What did you think when you saw Trudeau on the cover of Rolling Stone or have you even seen that yet?

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I did see that. And my thought is I want to know as little as possible about Justin Trudeau so that I can feel that he is entirely perfect meme who hold puppies and that, in theory, if lived in Canada things would be perfect. Any actual information about him is anathema to me. I just want a smooth a golden dream. That's all.

[Laughter]

LL: Maysoon, it is only August. Where do you see all of this heading in September and beyond?

MAYSOON ZAYID: Well I am extremely, extremely concerned for my friends in Canada. I am extremely concerned. What I think is going to happen, is I think is that when the Predator in chief comes back from his vacation, he is going to nuke Canada. And the reason is that he is going to nuke Canada, is because Justin Trudeau is a 10 and Donald Trump is a negative 666. So that is what I see happening.

[Laughter]

MAYSOON ZAYID: And I'm concerned for you guys. I'm concerned of the aftershock that is going to come towards us. This is my concern. So maybe Justin needs to mess up his hair and ugly it up a little to save the world.

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Messy Won’t help.

[Laughter]

TERRI FALLIS: That is right.

LL: I just have to note for the record that based on a recent transcript that was leaked of a conversation between Trump and the president of Mexico, when Trump actually said: “You know we don't even pay attention.”

TERRI FALLIS: We do not even know who they are.

[Laughter]

LL: Terry, you've been watching the political game for a long time. Do you see a return to sanity in politics or was it ever really there?

TERRI FALLIS: Well, I didn't think sanity was present in politics. And then Trump came along and now I think well actually that was quite sane back then. This is off the scale and it's hard to fathom. I saw a great image on Facebook yesterday at the White House with a circus big top over top of it. And in one image I thought that was just, captured it perfectly. I don't think I see no evidence to suggest that we're going to see a return to sanity certainly in the U.S. any time soon until Trump, as Maysoon said decides: “This is too much work” and not what he signed on for and turns the reigns over to Mike Pence, which I'm not sure is a good thing. But not until then because Trump has no control at all.

LL: Alexandra, last word to you what are you looking forward to in the fall?

ALEXANDRA PETRI: Well.

LL: Or dreading.

ALEXANDRA PETRI:I do not think the fall will happen.

[Laughter]

ALEXANDRA PETRI: I will believe in the future. I feel like time is just sort of, you know when you look go into a black hole, and gradually like everything dilates. Like the past 10 days have been enough time for life to evolve out of nothing. I do not think we are getting to the fall.

[Laughter]

LL: Alright. Well, my thanks to all three of you. It's been a lot of fun. We didn't even get to the Democrats. Maybe we'll call you back again soon.

[Laughter]

LL: Thank you very much.

TERRI FALLIS: Thank you.

ALEXANDRA FALLIS: Thank you.

LL: Alexandra Petri is the humor columnist with The Washington Post. She joins us from Washington. Maysoon Zayid is a comedian and disability advocate. She's in Cliffside Park, New Jersey and Terry Fallis is the author of the political satire: The Best Laid Plans, as well as five other novels. His latest is called One Brother Shy. He was in Toronto. The CBC News is next then a documentary by journalist Megan Williams takes us into some thorny territory, tackling homosexuality and homophobia in the Catholic Church. God's Closet, after the break I'm Laura Lynch and you are listening to the summer edition of The Current.

[Music: Theme]

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ENCORE | Vatican expert says homophobia in Catholic Church due in part to high numbers of gay priests

LL: Hello I'm Laura Lynch and this is the summer edition of The Current.

[Music: Theme]

LL: Late last year, the Vatican introduced fresh guidelines on how to educate its all-male seminarians. What it called “the gift of the priestly vocation” included a renewed ban on accepting gay men into the priesthood or as the Catholic Church put it—“men who practice homosexuality, have homosexual tendencies or support gay culture.” Despite these guidelines the Vatican, has recently been rocked by allegations of homosexual impropriety. In July, there were reports in Italian papers of the police busting up a gay orgy at the home of monsignor Luigi Capucci, next door to the Vatican. Capucci has served as the secretary for Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for legislative text, a position he no longer holds. The Vatican's stance against accepting homosexual relationships, despite the open secret of gay priests, is explored in today's documentary. This is a re-airing of God's Closet by freelance journalist Megan Williams.

SOUNDCLIP

KRZYSZTOFER CHARAMSA: I am Krzysztofer. In English, Christopher. Krzysztof Charamsa. I’m Polish priest and I am gay. [chuckles] And I'm so happy that I can say it.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Krzysztof Charamsa and I meet over cake and coffee in the historic centre of Barcelona. He's strikingly handsome with sparkling blue eyes and dressed in a crisp shirt and tailored jacket. We're sitting under the stone arcade of a kid-friendly cafe that was once a cloister. It seems an apt place to meet a reformed Catholic priest.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: The Catholic Church is the principal political agency of homophobic position in the world. Very powerful. I was collaborator of system.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: For more than a decade, Krzysztof was an official in the Vatican bureaucracy. But not just any Vatican office—he worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Think of it as the Catholic Church's politburo—the office that writes and enforces Catholic rules. For much of his time there, Krzystof's boss was Joseph Ratizger, the cardinal who went on to become Pope Benedict the 16th, Francis's predecessor. While moderate clerics defended celibate gay priests, Ratzinger set in motion a purge of homosexuality—not just the act—but the orientation. A church document he drafted referred to gay people as "intrinsically disordered" with a tendency toward "moral evil”. Then in 2005, the Vatican instituted a ban on gay men from entering the priesthood. Yet, despite knowing he himself was gay, Krzysztof kept silent.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: I remember people who ask my opinion about this project and I cannot say nothing. In this time, I must confirm, yeah. This is good. This law is good. And I remember I cried this day in my office, that I cannot say that it's paranoiac law.

[Music: Piano]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Kryzstof has spent most of his life in the Catholic Church. He joined the seminary as a teenager in Poland then later in Switzerland; always sure he was meant to become a priest. He says during his training, no one ever uttered the word homosexual. But he knew that's what he was.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: I know homosexuality only from the church. You know, I hated my sexuality. I was terrified by my being and in this time, I wanted to be priest and I know that the homosexuality is something wrong.

[Music]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: As he struggled in silence, Charamsa rose through the ranks of the Vatican. He was well-respected for his intellect. He taught theology at a pontifical university and held a prestigious office with good pay and benefits. But as the anti-gay position at the Vatican grew, Krzysztof says he moved deeper into the closet. That is, until he met Eduard, a man from Barcelona, and he was forced to make a decision.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: When I discovered that I loved this man, I think you must say who you are. For us, there was no possibility to double life. For me and for my partner, it was impossible. Impossible to think all life, no. No. In this church, many priests have said to me, “But why? You can continue. Your relationship is good. It’s fantastic. You are happy. He's a very good man. Why you cannot continue? You have work. You have money. You have your pension and you know what begin when you say that you are gay and you have partner.” The answer of the church—in Italiano—Fuori! In Italian—Fuori! Out! You are not one of us.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Did you have a sense it was now or never, because you were in your forties?

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: [Chuckles] You are very human. It's a very good observation. For this decision, you must have energy and when you are 50, when you are 60, it's game over. Game is over.

[Sound: Bells ringing in St. Peter’s Basilica]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: In the fall of 2015, when several hundred bishops descended upon Rome for a Vatican meeting on family and sexuality, Krzysztof made a move that changed his life.

[Sound: Krzysztof Charamsa speaking in Italian at a press conference]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: I remember it well. It was in a restaurant across the river from the Vatican. There, in front of several dozen journalists from around the world, he introduced his gay partner Eduard and came out.

[Sound: Krzysztof speaking in Italian]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: But not only. He also denounced the office he'd worked in, charging it with promoting "paranoid homophobia”. And he apologized for his own complicit silence.

[Sound: Applause]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: He was almost immediately fired from the Vatican and defrocked.

[Sound: Bells ringing in St. Peter’s Basilica]

CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS: I found it very odd that he would do this the day before the Synod. I mean even people who approve of his decision may have found it a bit interesting to pull off kind of a thing like that. It seemed to be a bit artificial or a bit, I don't know.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: I meet Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins at a small Vatican guest house around the corner from the Canadian Embassy to the Holy See. Just down the street, the dome of St. Peter's Basilica gleams in the sunshine. It's during the week-long Synod—or meeting—on the family that Pope Francis called to update the Catholic Church's stance on everything from offering communion to divorce and remarried Catholics, to how it welcomes gay members. A few days earlier, Krzysztof had come out and denounced the Catholic Church for homophobia.

CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS: I think it had very little influence or none, no influence on the Synod itself because we’re not talking about this.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Cardinal Collins is what's known as a doctrinal hardliner—a strong believer that what the Catholic faithful want just as much as compassion, are cut and dry rules on how to conduct their lives. He was part of a group of cardinals that signed a letter later leaked, where they warned the pope about the danger of reformer bishops taking the Catholic Church down what they saw as a slippery slope of adapting to modern times. One of those dangers? Acceptance of gay couples. But Cardinal Collins insists that Krzysztof’s charge of "paranoid homophobia" is not behind the church's take on gay men and women.

CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS: I mean really, I think that's just simply unfair. I think that the church, the Catholic Church, is faithful to its teachings, the teachings of Christ. It needs to teach them always with compassion and understanding. But to accuse anyone of being phobic or antagonistic, that's a bludgeon. That's a pre-emptive club that can be used to shut down people's freedom of speech.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: [To Cardinal Collins] Even with language “intrinsically disordered”, that doesn’t strike you as phobic?

CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS: That language probably is a kind of language that is such a technical theological language and that is interpreted by people. Disordered is being something you're—a very, very kind of a negative term. What it is saying the order of creation is that the sexual relationship between a man and a woman faithful in love and open to the gift of life, so something that is not in harmony with that is—that's where you get the terminology.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: He says, if anything, it's not the church's position that needs to change, but the language it uses. He suggests making it easier to understand, or conveying the concept through parables. Still, it boils down to the same thing.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: But your advice to gay couples—two women or two men in a loving gay relationship—is to… what?

CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS: I would say that my advice to all people is to live a good and faithful life of chastity. To get anything else from the message of our Lord is I think, rather, would be rather strange and not very good.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Chastity—when applied to gay couples, Collins clarifies—means no sex life.

CARDINAL THOMAS COLLINS: We're dealing with a tendency or inclination. But we're not slaves of anything—not just this—but anything in life. We all inclinations to do all kinds of things and what it means to be free is not to be a slave of one’s inclinations. We're not defined by that. So when a person puts people in boxes—boom, like this—we just find that to be very narrow.

[Sound: Bells ringing]

ROBERT MICKENS: I think unfortunately because of the whole ethos in the church and teaching around homosexuality and the fact that there seems a large number of people in the priesthood and religious life who have homosexual orientation, I think what you end up having are a lot of self-loathing, homophobic homosexuals in the priesthood.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: That's Robert Mickens. We're on our way to the Foreign Press Club in Rome, just around the corner from the Trevi Fountain and a short walk across the Tiber River from St. Peter's. Robert is a Vaticanist, or Vatican expert. He moved here to Rome almost 30 years ago as a seminarian. After deciding the priesthood wasn't for him, he worked as a journalist at Vatican Radio for a decade or so, then as a reporter for various Catholic publications. Mickens says one way the Catholic Church has tried to avoid the issue of gay priests is through language. Euphemism.

ROBERT MICKENS: One of the things that you’ll hear the culture warriors—self-styled Orthodox Catholic priests and bishops do—is use language which is explicitly not PC language. So they'll say “same-sex attraction” or “homosexual tendencies”.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Robert says what's unusual about Pope Francis is that he's the first pope who has actually used the word gay. Robert says the Vatican wasn't always so condemning of homosexuality. In the 1980s when he attended a US seminary, there was a willingness to talk openly about everything from the fear of being gay to concerns about celibacy. Then with Joseph Ratzinger at the helm of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that dialogue was shut down, and gay priests in the church were driven deeper into the closet. That’s when terms like "intrinsically disordered" came about.

ROBERT MICKENS: As a minister, you know yourself. I'm homosexual, I'm a gay man. But my church for whom I've given my life in ministering tells me that I'm intrinsically bad. That is a burden under which a lot of men in the priesthood labour because there are a lot of gay priests. Whether they are open about that to themselves or others, whether they are celibate or whether they are sexually active, there are a lot.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: There are no reliable official stats on what percentage of Roman Catholic priests are gay. In a 2002 poll by the LA Times, 15 per cent of American priests self-identified as either gay or "somewhere in between but more on the homosexual side." Twenty-three per cent for younger priests. But many gay priests I've spoken to say it's much, much higher—closer to 70 per cent. Robert Mickens himself planned to become one.

ROBERT MICKENS: All I wanted to be was a good priest.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: But when he was in his final year as a seminarian in the US, he began a relationship with a fellow seminarian. That took him by surprise.

ROBERT MICKENS: I never—I was a hockey player. My father was a construction worker. I didn't ever play with dolls or anything when I was a kid. I never saw myself as fitting any kind of gay stereotype. And I was probably very afraid of it as I think of it now.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Robert spoke with some older priests about it, one who was gay himself. They tried to convince him that it was just a phase and even told him he should marry a woman. By this time, he was studying here in Rome and had fallen deeply in love with another seminarian. After months of torment, that's when he took the step of leaving the seminary and the easier one of stepping out in Rome.

ROBERT MICKENS: Starting to go to gay places, you know, clubs, nightclubs and the beach.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: What he discovered, was just how many gay men there were at the Vatican.

ROBERT MICKENS: And I was running into all kinds of priests and even seminarians. People that worked at the Vatican. In gay bath houses, I would meet priests there. I've met people who are bishops today. I pity these people because I know that they must live—they live double lives. I don't know how they do it. I think people end up self-destructing. They're also, I think, I know a number of priests to have partners or special friends from various stages of platonic to full-blown, almost like husband-to-husband relationships, you know? The church and certainly the Vatican is an extremely homoerotic place. Take a walk to the Vatican museums. It's all male genitalia all over the place. I mean it's quite something. Look at the rituals. The young men who sing at these things. It's all men up there. And they bring out the pretty ones. Look at the bishops. Look at who their secretaries are. It's always the pretty one. And they’re blind to it. They're nothing going on but it's eye candy. They love surrounding themselves. They wear dresses, for God's sake. It's very homoerotic.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: But, says Mickens, dare to own it publically at your peril.

ROBERT MICKENS: In the Vatican, it's basically, as long as you're discreet and you don't get caught. But once you do, you're all on your own. We're not going to help you.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: So, why all the denying about gay culture in the church?

ROBERT MICKENS: I think the church wants to keep this issue a taboo so that those pious young men will continue to think of priesthood as the noble way rather than thinking that well, I am gay and maybe that's what I should live my life as, as a gay man. The church loses. The church loses if we allow people to live openly their sexuality, their homosexuality, because we lose a great pool of our resources for ministry.

[Sound: Bells ringing]

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: I love this city.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: What do you love about it?

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: So here you have theatre.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: Back in Barcelona, Krzysztof is facing the reality of starting over. In Rome, he was fired from his professor job and now, he can no longer teach in any Catholic university.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: I have nothing. Pension. Nothing. I begin like person—I don’t know. After studies and begin looking for the work without security, without medical security or social security. Nothing.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: He's written a memoir and has become an advocate for gay rights. He says he’s grateful for the freedom he feels as a gay man in Barcelona, and for the love of those most important to him.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: Oh, to have family like mine—to have reactions, friendly—for your coming out, as I have. It was incredible. With all this pressure of Catholic mentality, they accept only me. [Crying] And you know, only in this time I understand fully the love of my family. Only now, I know that they love me with all their hearts.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: But with that love comes suffering. While Krzysztof relishes his new-found freedom in Barcelona, back in Poland, the Catholic Church and its message about gay people still wield huge influence.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: Here these people are happy. Here we have freedom. We have tolerance. We have respect for your dignity. But when I think about my Poland, my family—when I say to my mother, here people come to me and congratulate with me for coming out. They say here, nobody congratulates. Here, people stay in silence, don't speak with me and in the street, when I meet somebody, they laugh. Children of my brother return from school crying because another children say that they are sick like their uncle, who is sick. And they suffer for me. And you know, here I’m so happy, so free, but I think about my family and my family must suffer in place of me.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: But even the pain his family has experienced hasn’t left Krzysztof bitter about his church. In fact, he sees coming out not as a rejection of the Catholic Church, but as something far more positive.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: Eduard was for me, the last gift of God. The last light. It was my experience which I give to my church. I am gay and I am happy.

[Music]

MEGAN WILLIAMS: I ask Krzysztof what he thinks needs to change for the Catholic Church's message about being gay to finally change.

KRZYSZTOF CHARAMSA: I don't want to condemn people who are in closet. But I think that this strong, unhuman conservative position of the church is fault of us who are in closet. Gay people in the church, with many, many suffering, with many pain, and who are good priest but who support this position. Every priest, every bishop, every cardinal who is gay must come out.

[Music: Piano]

LL: You you've been listening to God's Closet, a documentary produced by freelance journalist Megan Williams and The Current documentary editor Josh Block. It first aired last January and Megan Williams will be here with you all next week hosting the summer edition of The Current. So, stay tuned for that. That is our program for today. Stay tuned to Radio 1 for a new episode of The Current summer series the Disruptors. On today's episode we're asking how powerful is mainstream feminism today. We'll hear from writers Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Justa Chrisman who stake out dueling positions on contemporary feminism with new manifestos. That is coming up next on the Disrupters with host Anna Maria Tremonti. Now finally, we're going to end on a musical note after our political panel earlier in today's show. We hope you laugh but you may have been tempted to scream, cry, pull out your hair. Well Nat King Cole has a message for you. I'm Laura Lynch. It's been a great three weeks here thanks for listening to The Current.

SOUNDCLIP

[Song: Smile by Nat King Cole]

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it's breaking

When there are clouds in the sky

You'll get by

If you smile

Through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That's the time

You must keep on trying

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