Feature

The Vatican's gay hooker scandal

What you need to know about the male prostitution bust near the heart of the Catholic Church  

Papal usher Angelo Balducci is being accused of procuring male prostitutes through a Vatican choir member, in the latest sex scandal to hit the Roman Catholic Church. Balducci and chorister Thomas Chinedu Ehiem were tied to a gay prostitution ring through a wire-tap on Balducci's phone for an unrelated corruption case. (Watch a report about the Vatican's gay sex scandal.) Here's the essential facts of the "sordid" case:

Who are the men involved?
Balducci is a board member of Italy's public works department and an usher to Pope Benedict XVI. Ehiem, who allegedly set Balducci up with male prostitutes, is a Nigerian who sang with the Vatican's Giulia Choir for 19 years.

What is Balducci accused of?
The allegations that have generated all the news interest are that he paid Ehiem 50 to 100 euros a pop to arrange paid liaisons with several men. More serious - but less salacious - are bribery charges against Balducci over various public works contracts. He is currently in jail awaiting trial on those charges.

How did Balducci meet Ehiem?
They were introduced by an escort friend of the chorister around ten years ago. Balducci wanted to sleep with Ehiem, but the Nigerian says he is heterosexual. "Just the thought grossed me out," he says.

Who were the escorts?
The escorts hired to service Balducci's needs included a male model, a rugby player, actors, and a seminarian.

Does Balducci deny the charges?
Balducci says he's innocent of the corruption charges, but he doesn't exactly deny the gay prostitution allegations. "We are talking about things that are personal and private," his lawyer told CNN. "It is shameful that private matters are published, matters that have nothing to do with the charges. It is curious to find out how these private matters end up in the press."

What exactly did Balducci do for the Pope?
As a papal usher, or "Vatican Gentlemen," Balducci's job mostly involved greeting heads of state and other high-profile visitors and escorting them in to see the pope. The ceremonial position is unpaid. Balducci was also one of the papal ushers who carried the casket of Pope John Paul II.

How has the Vatican reacted?
The Vatican immediately dismissed Ehiem from the choir, and later suspended Balducci. The papal usher won't be welcomed back by the Pope, an unidentified Vatican source tells Reuters. "He obviously can't come back here after being accused of these things." Pope Benedict is "aware of the matter," a spokesman said.

How does this fit in with other Catholic sex scandals?
These allegations are arguably less serious than the recent spate of scandals involving Catholic clergy abusing underage boys and girls. Balducci is said to prefer the company of "older men, above 40 years old," with even 26-year olds being considered "too young." Also, neither Balducci nor Ehiem is a paid Vatican employee or part of the Catholic priesthood. But it's still "really a sordid affair," says CBS News analyst Fr. Thomas Williams, "and we really didn't need this right now."

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