ROME – A prominent advocate in the fight against clerical abuse has said that during a recent private audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis told him he’d read Inside the Closet at the Vatican, a book about homosexuality in the Catholic Church, and said that he was already aware of many of the priests mentioned in it who are gay.

“He said he read it. He said it was good and that he knew of many of them. We discussed good gays and the gays who are evil, but because of power,” the advocate said in a text message obtained by Crux.

The message from the person was sent to Frèdèric Martel, French journalist and author of Inside the Closet at the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, a book published Feb. 21 that details the presence of homosexuality in the Catholic Church and that is the product of four years of research and interviews with more than 1,500 individuals in 30 countries, including 41 cardinals, 52 bishops, and 45 apostolic nuncios.

Crux verified the text message with the sender, who prefers to remain anonymous.

In the past, Francis has often used conciliatory language when it comes to homosexuality, starting with his now famous line “Who am I to judge?” and more recently he stated that homosexual tendencies “are not a sin” during a March interview with the Spanish news outlet La Sexta.

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Though Martel made clear that his book is not about the abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church for the past decade, he said that “the book gives you the key to sexual abuse in the Church” in a May 9 interview with Crux in Rome.

“Homosexuality has no link to sexual abuse,” he underlined, adding that statistically most cases of abuse involve heterosexual men with young girls and women as the principal victims.

“But when you look at the Church there is a singularity where 80-85 percent of the victims of the priests are boys or men,” Martel said. “In the Church the link is clear.”

According to the author, most of the homosexual clergy he has interviewed “have a sexuality that is sublimated and repressed,” which in his view leads not only to living a double life and even crime, but also creates problems in terms of accountability.

“All the stories of cover-up are intrinsically linked to homosexuality,” Martel said. “In 90 percent of the cases the bishop who covers up is himself homosexual. When something happens, he is afraid of the scandal, he is afraid of the ‘mediatization’, he’s afraid of the trial because he fears that his own homosexuality may be revealed.”

The world that the French journalist attempted to unveil in his book is one of lies and deceit, which opens the door to a culture of secrecy where “there is a lot of blackmail,” he said.

Martel’s view on the Church’s abuse scandals puts him at odds with the perspective of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who, in a lengthy essay written for the Bavarian magazine Klerusblatt on April 11, made the case that the clerical sexual abuse scandals are due to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and a post-Vatican II “collapse” in Catholic moral theology.

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“This is nonsense,” Martel said about the essay. “The confusion is that the problem of sexual abuse is sexual liberation, when all the priests who abused never lived the sexual liberation.”

“The abusers are priests, they are not the homosexuals in the gay parade or women who have sex before marriage,” he said.

Martel’s book drew considerable criticism when it was initially published.

“People have said I don’t have proof, but I have proof,” he said, “when I talk about apartments, perfume or clothes, I have the proof. I cannot share the proof because it’s not possible and there are legal issues.”

The author said that so far, his book has sold over 300,000 copies worldwide and has been published in eight languages with more on the horizon – including a new English translation. In France alone, the book has sold 100,000 copies, making it one of the most sold publications on religion in decades.

“The reception of the book depends on the state of Catholicism in each country,” Martel said. “Some countries are ready to listen to this kind of stuff, France for example. Italy is not.”

In Italy the book sold only 10,000 copies and the author blamed a complacent local media that he believes is unwilling to ruffle the feathers of the Vatican.

Another source of criticism for the book was its release date, which coincided with the beginning of the summit of bishops on the protection of minors at the Vatican called by Francis to address the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

Martel discredited these accusations, stating that the writing of the book began years before the news of the summit broke and was originally scheduled to be released in October, but had to be postponed to allow for its translation in several languages.

Once it was clear that the release was going to occur in February, which saw not only the beginning of the summit but also the opening of the film “Grace de Dieu” detailing the case of French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin who was convicted for sexual abuse cover-up in March, “we adapted to that agenda,” Martel said.

“Whenever I would have decided to publish this book, it would have been in the middle of the sexual abuse crisis,” he said, citing the explosion of the crisis in Chile, the accusations of pedophilia against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the letters by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about homosexuality and cover-up in the Vatican.

“One day my book will be seen as a book that helped the Church,” Martel said, “and the people who now lie all the time about sexual abuse are in fact contributing to destroying the Church.”