Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

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Vatican Corruption

March 27th, 2010 · 23 Comments

John Paul II and Paul VI did not listen to the cries of violated children. Why?

I have a few sources with Vatican connections and have received fairly reliable second-hand information, and my guess at the scenario is this. 

John Paul, for reasons he refused to explain even to a cardinal who questioned him, would not act against abusers. John Paul was a lousy judge of character. His priest–“friends” in the Krakow chancery were all in the pay of the Communist secret police, and gave them detailed information about the precise location of Wojtyla’s bed, which medicines he took, who his pharmacist was, etc. The priests were supplying information potential assassins in return for permission to study aboard for career advancement. When this was finally discovered after the fall of communism, John Paul’s secretary kept it from him -  why disturb an old man, he explained. 

The only explanation John Paul gave for his refusal to act against prominent abusers is that “they” wouldn’t let him act – a nameless they, but in the context, the curia. There are persistent stories that the Vatican offcials recieved gifts, such as $100,000 mass stipends, from Maciel, and priests who belonged to the Legion and to the congregation founded by fake stigmatist Gino Burresi worked for Sodano, protecting their corrupt bosses 

Ratzinger was an academic; I presume his first contact with the case of a sexually abusive priest was in Munich; he did not handle the Hullermann case well- he simply turned it over to a subordinate and did not check up on it. When he became head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger, as John Allen explains, got only a few abuse cases, mostly involving solicitation in the confessional. The others went to other dicasteries, which mishandled them. 

Ratzinger was determined to crack down, and therefore took over all the cases in 2002. He was horrified by what he read, but was limited in what he could do by John Paul and especially by Sodano. He was determined to end the abuse if he became pope, and has done a lot, although not enough, especially in regard to bishops. 

But the full truth has not come out, and secrecy lets the cancer spread. There have been worse situations. As the book Fallen Order demonstrates from contemporary documents, a 17th century pope appointed a man he knew was a sexual abuser to head the Piarists – which then collapsed as the members who were sincere Christians rebelled against the papal attempt to make them a pedophile organization. 

Secrecy may bring about worse disasters. Probably 7-10% of priests have had sexual contact with minors; maybe a smaller percentage of bishops, but still a substantial number of bishops are abusers. Have cardinals abused minors? Suppose one of them becomes pope? The papacy survived the pornocracy of the 9th century and the corruption of the Renaissance, but the internet would flash the news around the word if a pope was accused of abuse. Could the effectiveness of the papacy survive that? 

Tags: Pope Benedict · Vatican · clergy sex abuse scandal

23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sister Maureen Paul Turlish // Mar 27, 2010 at 8:06 am


    In a press release from the Holy See on March 9, 2010, “concerning cases of the sexual abuse of minors in ecclesiastical institutions,” Director Fr. Federico Lombardi simply repeated some of the more clichéd responses and predictable excuses to the church’s ever widening problems of sexual abuse, particularly that of minor children.


    The institutional Roman Catholic Church has reacted to the continuing sexual abuse debacle neither rapidly nor decisively, contrary to what Lombardi states and the Vatican has attempted to distance itself from what has happened in country after country, first categorizing it as an “American problem,” then as a “homosexual problem.”

    What was done by church leadership in the United States, for example, it was forced to do by the pressure of public opinion after records, files and correspondence were forced into the public venue in 2002 by Judge Constance M. Sweeney, a very brave, grounded and principled Catholic woman in Boston, Massachusetts.

    The church’s response continues to be re-active rather than pro-active while minimizing the systemic and endemic abuse of power and authority which has enabled and exacerbated it on the one hand while covering it up whenever and wherever possible on the other.

    The “wide-ranging context” is that in countries from the United States, Canada, Australia and Ireland to Austria, the Netherlands and Germany, church authorities have repeatedly and consistently disregarded the institution’s own moral and Canon laws as well as the existing laws of the countries’ in which these horrific crimes against humanity took place.

    The church has lost its way.

    Lombardi does not mention nor does he admit to the well documented widespread cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by bishops and other church officials in many countries like the United States, that makes the church’s sexual abuse problems particularly egregious.

    If church authorities had done the morally right thing initially, one wonders how many children would have escaped being sexually abused by a particular priest?

    As Patrick Wall, a former priest himself, states:

    “The Roman Catholic Church has the largest body of knowledge of non-incarcerated sexual offenders in the world.”

    Who, one has to ask, would have more knowledge of the internal machinations utilized to cover-up and protect sexual predators from public scrutiny than Pope Benedict in his former position as Head of the Holy Office?

    When are people of good will going to say, enough!

    When are state legislators going to change the laws so that justice can be pursued for the thousands upon thousands of victims of childhood sexual abuse who have been unable to access let alone obtain justice?

    In most states and probably in most countries, existing criminal as well as civil laws give more protection to sexual predators and their enablers then they do to victims of childhood sexual abuse by anyone. The problems with statutes of limitation which have expired are probably much the same in Germany and other European countries as they have been is in so many jurisdictions in the United States.

    This is deplorable and should not be the case.

    The removal of all statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children is the single, most effective way to hold predators and enabling institutions accountable before the law. More than that, window legislation allows a set time frame for previously time barred cases of sexual abuse by anyone.

    It is possible to change the laws in order to give some semblance of justice to those ravaged at so tender an age. What is needed to effect that change is the will to hold all sexual predators of children accountable along with any enabling individuals or institutions.

    The state of Delaware is one of a very few states in the United States which has removed all criminal and civil statutes of limitation in regard to the sexual abuse of children by anyone. It also legislated a two year civil window for previously time barred cases, again, by anyone. That window closed in July of 2009.

    In a civil suit, unlike a criminal suit, the burden of proof that any sexual abuse took place is on the plaintiff. The burden is not on the accused individual or institution to prove innocence, at least not in the United States.

    Every victim of childhood sexual abuse should have a right to the pursuit of justice at the very least!

    What people seem to forget is that children’s rights are human rights, that children’s rights are civil rights and that the hierarchy, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, has violated those children’s rights in the most profane of ways, not only by covering up for sexual abusers, mostly priests, but also by enabling the further abuse of untold numbers of children by these particular individuals who were known to be dangerous predators.

    If Delaware can do it other states and other countries should be able to do it as well, and hold sexual predators and any enabling institutions responsible, especially when those institutions choose to ignore their own internal laws.

    I was privileged to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of the 2007 Child Victims Law in Delaware.

    No rules and no laws of any religious organization or denomination should be allowed to trump the laws of a civilized society where the protection of children is concerned.

    Not only should the institutional Roman Catholic Church be held to the highest standard as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it should be leading by example and showing what can and should be done to protect children from sexual exploitation, from what really is another example of trafficking in individuals for purposes of sexual exploitation, nothing less.

    By any objective standard the church has grossly violated the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child for decades.

    Is it is time, perhaps, to formalize those violations as the crimes against humanity they truly are?

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Victims’ Advocate
    New Castle, Delaware

  • 2 Mary Parks // Mar 27, 2010 at 8:34 am

    The silence after these latest posts is moving.

    JPII criticized the press for reporting abuse and coverups. Benedict as Ratzinger was harsh with those who wanted canonical justice in the Maciel case. Perhaps he was embroiled in a 3-way struggle with Pope and curia. Makes no difference. These men put their focus on the institution and on clerics, not on the sheep. They sowed the wind. Benedict is, perhaps unjustly, reaping the whirlwind.

  • 3 Tony de New York // Mar 27, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Heads had to roll!

    Enough is enough, the pope should come clean in his affairs in Munich, open de files i believe he will be revidicated.

  • 4 Lorenzo-NY // Mar 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Excellent analysis. It should give pause to those who want to fast track JP II for sainthood. I suspect that the “Santo Subito” movement right after his death was self serving, led by groups like the Legionaires which had received preferred protection under his pontificate. John Paul did great things, his naivete and narrow ideological focus also caused him to miss the hypocrisy which reigned among some of those he trusted. The Maciel affair is perhaps the biggest fraud ever perpetrrated against the Church, when you consider its sphere of influence, money and reaching the highest levels which gave this world class charlatan the highest forms of protection. The whole expanding story of sexual abuse and orchestrated cover up is the most powerful crisis since the Reformation. Let history jostle and digest the facts of John Paul’s pontificate before we rush to canonize him. Once canonized a person is by and large catapulted beyond criticism. What we need is the whole truth and nothing but the truth if we are ever to fix the system.

  • 5 glorybe1929 // Mar 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    The Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, will never “come clean” they cannot survive the Instant Communication of the Internet.
    Thank God for the Internet. We never would have had a “” lone journalist” brave enough to tell the hideous stories of the RCC. Now we have millions. Thanks be to God.

  • 6 Dan Shea // Mar 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    It is an institution of the bishops, by the bishops, for the bishops. So, if Ratzinger resigns, nothing changes. What needs to happens is for secular leaders to cease diplomatic recognition of the Vatican as a “sovereign state” and treat it like any other private religious institution. Otherwise, the institution will continue to hide behind the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and the pope behind “head-of state imunity.” Reagan did it, Obama needs to undo it. Same for Merkel, the Irish, etc. THEN, you’ll see some change.

  • 7 glorybe1929 // Mar 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Amen to Dan Shea! The World Court…if it can be trusted..Who knows now days?

  • 8 Jeannie Guzman // Mar 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Maybe we should change the name of the Priest Pedophilia Scandal to “SchtuppedGate!” Why? Everyone has been schtupped . . . from the kids who were molested, raped, sodomized and abused to their parents and siblings, who had to cope with the aftermath of abuse and the people in the pews, who like Good, little, Cookie-Cutter, Pre-Vatican II Catholics believed it would be a Mortal Sin to even listen to criticism of the Church, much less priests committing the most heinous of all despicable sins: Molesting a child or teen! How do I know? I was one of the naive little Pre-Vatican II Catholics, who believed everything that our dear nuns and priests told us, particularly the lessons that we would “Go to Hell,” if we brought “Scandal Against the Church!” Yep! We’ve all be “Schtupped,” in one way or another!

  • 9 Sara // Mar 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Hear, Hear! to Dan Shea’s suggestion to unrecognize the Vatican as a State, and treat it as an organization. But let me add an additional matter. The Vatican has many Treaties with national states, called Concordats, that actually hand over to Church Officials normal functions of sovereign states. For instance the Nazi State concluded such a Concordat with the Vatican in the spring of 1933 that is apparently still in force. It provides for Vatican supervision of religious teaching in schools, general operation of schools in majority Catholic areas, and direction of Social Work. The last we heard of this Concordat was in 1990 during the negotiations to unify E and W Germany — there was considerable protest among East German Women when they understood some state functions and services would be subject to Vatican Rules. So, I would assume it is still in force, and one way or another as Merkel works her way through the German crisis, this Concordat will make yet another appearance. I believe the Irish State has a similar Concordat.

    Years ago, while researching quite another topic, I read through considerable correspondance in old State Department files regarding concerns with the operation of the Military Government of Germany in the immediate post war years — 1945-1949. One primary purpose of Military Government in the US zone was de-nazification, and that included firing nazi teachers, and cleaning out the curriculum. The Vatican kept up a constant drum of protest against denazification decisions, not so much because they supported Nazi Ideas or persons, but because they believed themselves the ultimate executive decision makers with regard to educational personnel and curriculum, and they had a Treaty to prove it! They kept the State Department busy responding to complaints — but at least in the US occupation system, they didn’t have direct access to the War Department, so most of the complaints went into the files after a polite note of receipt had been sent back to the Vatican.

    Anyhow, there are many operative Concordats, and they all need to be examined to see whether they offer special legal protections to Catholic Church Personnel that protect them from criminal and civil law. At least diplomatic recognition does not extend to handing over control of any US domestic institutions, such as the schools or public social work.

  • 10 Joseph Curtin // Mar 28, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Sara said: “I believe the Irish state has a similar Concordat [to that of the Germans].”

    In fact, not. No concordat between the Vatican and Ireland was ever concluded, or proposed. In a country in which the Church was historically treated with such deference, the need for one would not have arisen.

  • 11 Father Michael // Mar 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    ONLY under pressure did the American Bishops put together their present policy that while focusing on errant priests conveniently excludes them. If I were a member of the American Presbyterate I would be tempted to storm the bishops’ collective “Bastille” and demand that they be made accountable as well. They’ve hung you out to dry boys! The seven to ten per cent of clergy who have been involved with minors (from Dr. R. Sipe, the US Bishops estimate is 4%) would not have been able to wreck the lives of half the young people (80 - 85% teenage boys, a bit of classical antiquity that got stuck to the Church?) if they hadn’t been reassigned, protected and hidden by bishops. If the pope is serious about holding people to account, then kick Cardinal Law out of his comfortable, three figure assignment, and publically demand all bishops who’ve enabled this nonsense to resign. Then consult with local laity and clergy and appoint spiritual and pastoral guys who have hearts and back-bones to replace the castrated, “company men” mediocrities.

  • 12 GregK // Mar 29, 2010 at 8:29 am

    How can those of you who believe that the Vatican is corrupt continue to attend RC worship and, presumably, donate?

    How can you continue to believe that God protects Rome against error in faith and morals in the face of all this?

    Yes, I realize that the narrow definition of infallibility is not compromised by the wicked behavior of clerics, but it strains credulity to believe that God supernaturally protects the church against an error on obscure theological points in precisely defined situations while allowing the church to continue in this filth. That seems like a very weird notion of God.

  • 13 Carlo // Mar 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm


    why do you identify the Church with some particular group of men? And why the corrupt and not the saintly? Do you have a good headcount of both? Which group is larger? Just curious…

  • 14 Joseph D'Hippolito // Mar 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Carlo, those same “group of men” claim to hold the Keys of the Kingdom! Here’s a comment from somebody at Rod Dreher’s blog that poses the problem succinctly (misspellings included):

    Here is a problem that seems to stymie the Vatican heirarchy. To me as a laymen, (not a Catholic or Christian), the RCC claims absolute moral authority. It’s heirarchy is based on Apostolic Succession, from St Peter to the present. It holds the Keys to the Kingdom, sending one to Heaven or Hell. A big responsibility.

    However, by their very behavior, pederast priests and the bishops who enable them make this a mockery. If their own priests and bishops by their actions, clearly do not buy into this, by behaving in a manner surely to put their own souls at risk of eternal damnation, why should the layman?

  • 15 GregK // Mar 29, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Carlo — I am not identifying the church with a group of men. I’m asking people who do believe the claims of the RCC how they can continue to do so in light of this scandal.

    JDH — the comment is apt, bad grammar and all! :-)

    It is certainly possible to wrangle and twist and make little excuses and still defend the RCC — even given all this evil. But what you end up with is so tortured, so weird, so twisted, it seems hardly worthy of belief.

    The idea that God is particularly worried that the pope makes theologically correct statements under precisely defined conditions (that most people don’t even understand), and therefore protects him from error by a divine charism, but He *does not* intervene in any way to stop his hideous, horrible, evil monstrosity …. That seems to make God into a weird character with OCD, and, IMO, bears no similarity to the God revealed in Christ.

  • 16 Father Michael // Mar 29, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Greg, the same God who revealed himself in Christ allows children to be molested and tortured in their families, by their own parents. He allows them to be sold into prostitution and slavery.

    He allows all kinds of unpleasant and horrible things. Even in the context of non-Catholic Christianity he’s allowed things like the Lutheran suppresion of the peasant rebellion and the persecution by Lutherans and Calvinists of the Anabaptists. Not to mention Luther’s savage anti-semitism. How about Apartheid in South Africa, backed by those pious folks from the Gereformde Kerk, much as black slavery, and later segregation was supported by many southern fundamentalists. If I follow your logic, how can I believe in Christ at all. Where the Heaven or Hell is he?! Why doesn’t he intervene and keep his professed followers from doing such terrible things? Could it be that he gives all his followers, pastors and lay, that bothersome something known as free-will? Could it even be that given the human propensity to misuse freedom, to sin, he would guarantee that (in some way) his message and teaching would be protected through the centuries. Protected in such a manner that his people would at least know what’s true and right, whether they choose to comply with his will or not?

    I’m often sympathetic to that bumpersticker from a few years back; “I love Jesus, it’s Christians I can’t stand.” But then I remember who I am and what I’m capable of doing without his grace. By all means let’s hate perversion, lies and corruption, but let us first of all hate them within ourselves.

  • 17 Father Michael // Mar 29, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    My apologies to Dutch and Afrikaans speakers. I meant to write Gereformeerde Kerk. Het spijt mij echt!

  • 18 Joseph D'Hippolito // Mar 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Father Michael, you’re right about the presence of free will. If God created us in His *free* image, and God is the ultimate free Being in the universe, then He would be violating Himself if He violated that *free* image.

    But I believe that Greg K. was not criticizing God or Christ. He was criticizing how stereotypical Catholic apologetics on this subject make God look like anything but God — at least the God revealed in the Scriptures.

    On that point, he’s completely right.

  • 19 GregK // Mar 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Just for truth in advertising’s sake, let me say clearly that I have completely lost my faith.

    Nevertheless, JDH is right. I have no intention of criticizing God or Christ or belittling anyone’s faith. I’ m not bitter at God or anything like that, and I think faith is a good thing.

    However, I see a lot of dishonesty in people about religion. On the one hand we have the “attack irrationally” folk, and on the other we have the “defend irrationally” folk.

    I would just like to see honesty.

    Fr. Michael — Imagine, please, that you are the son of drunk, abusive Pentecostal minister who gets messages from God about the theological errors of his denomination. The good reverend frequently waxes eloquent on various nitpicky theological issues, and is praised for uncovering ideological inconsistencies.

    The abused son might cry out to God, “One of these times when you’re talking about the theological errors of supralapsarianism, could you please say a word about the drinking and the beatings?”

    That’s the point I’m trying to make about the Vatican.

    From a Catholic apologetic standpoint, God is really really worried to make sure the pope never errs on a matter of faith or morals when he speaks as universal pastor. He has special graces to ensure it. But he doesn’t do anything to keep abusive priests out of the pants of young boys.

    In my mind that is a very, very strange God, and it doesn’t sound one bit like the God of the law or the prophets or the Gospels.

  • 20 Joseph D'Hippolito // Apr 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Greg, that’s because most of institutionalized Christianity — Catholic, Pentecostal, Protestant, Orthodox, you name it — has rejected the revelations of Scripture for their own pet theologies, intellectual fashion, power, prestige, political influence, wealth, you name it.

    Think about these words from Christ: “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the Earth?”

    Those are some of the most underappreciated — and haunting — words in Scripture. Effectively, it is an indictment of those who claim to hold authority in His name. Whether those “authorities” are Catholic is a secondary — and, ultimately, irrelevant — issue.

    Greg, God will prove you right. God is not the “God” of the theologically obsessive. He is the God who inspired James to say that true religion is caring for widows and orphans (as examples of all the vulnerable and needy) in their distress. He is the God Who will judge those Who have dragged His name and His people through the sewer.

    But what about now, you ask? Well, we fight. We fight those who would shackle God into theological boxes to justify their own arrogant groupthink. We fight those who misuse their authority to ingratiate and engorge themselves. We fight those “religious” people who give the Richard Dawkinses and the Christopher Hitchenses reasons to disregard God.

    God created us in His free image, Greg. He gave us free will and for him to violate that free will would be to violate His own image in us — indeed, His very self. He has also given us the choice between “life” and “death” (and I don’t mean that in the politicized “pro-life” sense).

    Try reading Habbakuk, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 23, I Samuel 2: 12-35, Deuteronomy 30: 11-20.

    Besides, Greg, isn’t it possible that God is scourging the Church as we speak? Isn’t it possible that all the lawsuits are God’s way of wrenching the Church away from its love of power, prestige, wealth and self? I’m not saying that I know for sure; I don’t. But it’s worth thinking about.

  • 21 GregK // Apr 2, 2010 at 5:46 am

    JDH - it is certainly possible that this is God’s way to judge and cleanse the church. Didn’t Benedict say something about how the church might be better off as a smaller “remnant”?

    I share your disregard for the apologetics / theology game. I was obsessed with that stuff for years and found that it leads absolutely nowhere (except to more and more obsession). The arguments are just plain horrible.

  • 22 Father Michael // Apr 2, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I agree with Joseph’s last paragraph. I suspect this is a chastisement meant to bring the Church to a place of transparency and humble service. Whatever our individual takes is on how discipline and authority in the Church are supposed to work, I think we all agree that power, even pastoral power, brings with it awful temptations to undermind the true message of Christ. How often this temptation has been given into by so many Christian leaders.

    To my knowledge, The Netherlands doesn’t have the state registration in the Church that Germany and Austria do. Years ago a cousin in Holland told me that though he didn’t go to church regularly he still considered himself Catholic and was proud of his religion. I wonder how many Dutch (and French, Swiss, etc.) would say that now. I’m feeling apprehensive as to what he’ll tell me when I write.

    My Irish connections are still going strong but they tend not to expect much that’s heroic from the hierarchy and just focus on The Lord and their parish.

  • 23 Geno // Oct 13, 2010 at 11:20 am

    My God’s not the ‘King James Version, The Torah or Koran.’
    My God’s a God of nature, not a God of man.
    And in the winter of my life,
    when my leaf falls from the tree,
    I’ll go into the mulch pile,
    and my God will recycle me.

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