Roman Catholic Sex Scandal, or Why should we be shocked at the RCC?
Every day of the past week (3/15 to 3/21) the New York Times has run story after story after sad story on the growing sex scandal that is rocking the Roman Catholic Church (RCC)all over the industrialized world. I could go in that vein by the way, providing links to these ugly shenanigans for some time but there is no need. Of course it would be the case that Ratzinger (now Benedict) would have been responsible for moving some of these priests around, ones he knew had an experience of molestation from one church to another to avoid unpleasantries. One response by the RCC spinsters has been to point out that other churches have had their own sex scandals. Let me translate this response. Ours is the final word on morality, and the dignity of beings. We know and respect the rules God has given us better than contemporaries. Sex scandal? Uh well our behavior isn't any worse than other churches."
This is not really the mark of an organization interested in taking responsiblity for its rather loathsome and secretive actions regarding all this sex with children they've been having. Nor is it the mark of a body that can be taken seriously on any moral issue. Nor, I hope to show, has it ever been an organization deserving of our respect.
It is almost too easy to point out, as many have, the hypocritical cheek with which this racket operates. They spend no small amount of money opposing gay marriage in Maine, say (nearly two million) and other places besides, but are not interested in beefing up a staff of ten to quickly process the almost endless multitude of charges that seem to be coming in (ten is really the amount of personel the RCC seems willing to spare). It is too easy to point out that the RCC has been terrifically hypocritical on matters of moral and ethical action. No doubt they would argue that their work is vastly more important, and godly than its earthly abuses. It is funny though, or would be in other circumstances, that this body points its finger at us and presumes to dictate on terms of sexual moralilty. A group of largely pasty old virgins, liberaly sprinkled, it appears, with a healthy portion of sexually un-,repressed pedophiles thinks it is in the best position to dictate morals and to tell the rest of us what is sexually healthy and acceptable. They think they are still the best group to make these proclamations despite the fact that the RCC sex scandal now encompasses, the US, Brazil, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand (and those are just the most numerously reported countries)and more countries are sure to follow. Odd that. This dark religious tale seems even worse when we consider the treaty between the Vatican and Italy where Vatican officials enjoy a great deal of immunity from prosecution, and the general kid gloves treatment given the RCC by authorities in nearly all the industrialized West.
While it it expeceptionally easy to kick this Church in the gut at the momemt, I think that there is an important element of this sordid affair that isn't being addressed.
Historical context. And with that element it seems that we might batter the RCC leadership with even more vigor.
Several newspapers, both electronic and not, have reported on the current scandal and what effect it is having on the RCC's numbers, and the morale of the priests still in the cloth as well as the morale of Catholics in the face of it. While intersting, a scandal on this scale is not out of the ordinary for the RCC. The history of the RCC simply isn't pretty and the ever widening sex scandal represents only the latest, though admittedly one of its/their more grotesque, moral atrocities. So I would like to essay a brief list of the bullshit, and horror this august body has inflicted on the world. After this review, I hope you will see that it deserves all the respect of Scientology, and that its leader, Joe Ratzinger (now calling himself Benedict followed by some combination of Roman numerals) should only be taken as seriously as one would take Tom Cruise when he is ranting about psychiatry.
Lets start off with the easy ones.
The Inquisition (currently called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) The duty of this office, according to Pope John Paul II was to, "promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence." It has of course served this function in spectacularly immoral ways historically.
The Catholic Inquisitional movements were largely about rooting out and supressing heresy. That is to say, they were involved most directly in supressing doctrines that might supplant their own authority. Though they also handled the banning of heretical literature, victimless crimes like witchcraft, blasphemy, and of course that most ancient of Christian crimes, being Jewish were all part of the Magesteria of authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. To these ignoble ends the Catholic Church approved of the most horrible torture one can imagine. They also confiscated property and sentenced an inordinate amount of people to death.
Of historical note was the Inquisition's treatment of Galileo Galilei in 1663 for his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. This work compared the hypotheses of Copernicus and his heliocentric model, with the Church supported ideas of Ptolemy (which held that the Earth was the center of the universe and did not move). For this work, Galileo was ordered to stand trial. The charges? He held opinions contrary to RCC doctrine. Thus was he "vehemently suspected of heresy." Which was crime enough to be arrested and imprisoned for the rest of his life, and to have his books banned by the moral, and reasonable RCC. He was also forced to recant-under threat of torture. Pope John Paul II kinda, sorta apologized for this behavior by the RCC (to the extent that this den of vipers will apologize for anything). But Ratzinger is having none of that.
Ratzinger, shuffler of child molesting priests, has said this of the RCC's behavior regarding Galileo, "The Church at the time of Galileo kept much more closely to reason than did Galileo himself, and she took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's teaching too. Her verdict against Galileo was rational and just and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune.” Her verdict was just and rational? This can only be stated by people who have shoveled shit so long they can no longer smell that which they shovel. When the Inquisition is involved, torture isn't too far behind. Think for a moment about this just and rational response. The RCC saw to it that Galileo Galilei spent his final nine years of life under house arrest (originally he was to be more forcably imprisoned)all for writing a book and making a case for a reasonable hypothesis. He had the unfortunate temerity to disagree with the Ptolemeic hypothesis.
Witchhunts (more Inquisitional fun!)
Wikipedia on this is priceless.
A witch hunt is a search for witches or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic, mass hysteria and lynching, but in historical instances also legally sanctioned and involving official witchcraft trials(emphasis added)
European witch-hunting sent thousands first to torture, then fire for a generally unpleasant Christian themed end of life ride. No evidence could pardon you after being accused. Maybe you could confess and repent and you would be spared death, or failing that at least be granted the garrot before the fire. Your property would be confiscated. And you would likely, man, woman or child, loose your life were you accused in the hay day of European witch hunting movements. Ah well, as the bible says, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." There is nothing quite like condemning people to death for imaginary crimes. If you are thinking about taking up the charge, you will definately need the manual Malleus Maleficarum commissioned by the supersticious oaf, Pope Innocent VIII and written by the even more credulous oafs, Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer. Click on the link to see a great swath of ugly nonsense. We needn't spend much time on this as the particulars of this ugly chapter of RCC history are pretty well known.
Then there is the unpleasant Inquisitional tale (1858) of Edgardo Mortara. Edgardo was a young Jewish child (one among many)whose ill health worried his 14 year old caretaker, frightened for his Jewish-baby-soul, baptised him without his parents knowledge, and most certainly without their consent. However this was enough for the Church, and certainly enough for its office of the Inquisition. Baptism conferred the status Catholic to the boy and this meant that he could not, in the Papal State of Bologna, be raised by his non-Catholic parents. The police came and took the boy, and whisked him off to Rome. Clearly this is an organization that loves families. The story of Edgardo Mortara produced something of an international backlash against Pious IX. None of it resulted in the return of Edgardo, but it certainly was nice to see that people resisted RCC power.
Okay lets slip out of the Inquisition and into other RCC bullshit.
The RCC was largely opposed to the Enlightenment.
The RCC favored Franco and his fascist regime. In fact the RCC has come under fire for beatifying nearly 500 nuns and priests killed in the the Spanish Civil War. These were men and women who supported fully what could well be called a terrorist government. Well done morons.
Pious XII endorsed Hitler. Slick move asshole.
The RCC endorsement of Mussolini, while a slightly rockier relationship, was no less committed.
From Mussolini to today the RCC leadership has demonstrated that it is a horrible horrible, unethical organization with almost a complete disregard for concepts like integrity, honesty, and freedom.
Here the Church is almost genocidally imbecilic and dishonest to boot. On the continent of Africa where the use of a condom can make the difference between life and death, the RCC actively tries to restrict their distribution, while at the same time spreading lies about the efficacy thereof.
In an interview, one of the Vatican's most senior cardinals Alfonso Lopez Trujillo suggested HIV could even pass through condoms.
"The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom," he says.
Some priests have even gone so far as to say condoms are laced with HIV/AIDs. Regrettably they are also saying most of this nonsense in the developing world where access to information that would render their faux authority null is extremely limited. It is in the developing world where the RCC is probably the most detrimental because it can influence policy with its wealth, and its ability to mobilize a credulous and largely uneducated people. The RCC even opposes use of condoms between married couples where one is infected with HIV/Aids and the other is not.
This was just a survey of the bullshit in which the Catholic Church (it's leadership at least) seems to glory. Priests turning the confessional into a glory hole represents only the most recent strata of unpleasant corruption, exploitative sexuality and predation, and utter dishonesty. Beneath the current sex scandal lay layer after layer of grotesque history, wherein an obvious quest for temporal earthly power is laid utterly bare.
The NY Times coverage of the RCC sex scandal continues more or less unabated, and NPR, the BBC and numerous other news outlets have joined in. This may be the first time in centuries a Pope has been forced to step down (though this is admittedly an unlikely scenario). But what isn't unlikely is that this will damage the RCC's ability to act as a credible moral authority.