Elmar Mader headed the Swiss Guard, known for its distinctive red, orange and blue Renaissance-style uniforms, between 2002 and 2008.
In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag, Mader said his position gave him insights into the presence of gay people at the heart of the Catholic Church.
“I cannot refute the claim that there is a network of homosexuals. My experiences would indicate the existence of such a thing,” the 50-year-old said, according to a translation provided by the Guardian.
Since the 16th century, members of the Swiss Guard have sworn to protect the Pope with their lives.
The troop consists of unmarried Swiss men between the ages of 19 and 30, RNS reports.
Mader said the all-male environment of the Roman Curia was a “like a magnet” for gay men.
“A working environment in which the great majority of men are unmarried is per se a draw for homosexuals, whether they consciously seek it out or unconsciously follow an urge,” Mader said.
While Mader claimed that he doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality, he expressed a fear that gay people are “more loyal to each other than to other people or institutions.”
As a result, he said he would never promote a gay man in the ranks of the Guard, believing it would cause security problems at the Vatican.
Mader’s comments came on the heels of another claim by an unnamed former Swiss Guard who said he had been targeted more than 20 times by people within the Vatican looking for sexual favors.
The guard was reportedly fondled by clergy members and received intimate invitations from bishops and cardinals.
The guard said that one of the requests came during a dinner in Rome. “As the spinach and steak were served, the priest said to me: ‘And you are the dessert’,” the man is quoted as saying in Schweiz am Sonntag.
Rumors of a “gay lobby” inside the Catholic Church have been circulating ever since the final months of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy.
During an interview last year, Pope Francis joked that although people talk about a gay lobby, he’s never seen it on a Vatican identity card.
He went further to say that if gay people in the church “accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?”
Despite the softening in tone, Francis hasn’t strayed far from church teachings about homosexuality.
Since the church considers homosexual acts to be immoral, it preaches a “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude and asks gay people to practice abstinence.
Italian gay rights advocates were critical of Mader’s comments.
“Along with all gay people in the armed forces, I would advise Mader to become better informed,” said Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of Equality.
“Statistically, gays are the least violent group in human society so if the Pope were really surrounded by homosexuals, he could sleep easy,” said Franco Grillini, chairman of Gaynet.