Zubeida Jaffer / COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALIM
Have you ever wondered how wealthy the church really is? In his book, ‘The Vatican Billions’, writer and philosopher Avro Manhattan gives us a glimpse of the true financial worth of the catholic church:
“The Vatican has large investments with the Rothschildsof Britain, France and America, with the Hambros Bank, with the Credit Suisse in London and Zurich. In the United States it has large investments with the Morgan Bank, the Chase-Manhattan Bank, the First National Bank of New York, the Bankers Trust Company, and others.
If you were tried for witchcraft in early modern Scotland, one of the surest ways to be convicted was to confess. Of course, you didn’t need to confess to be convicted, and confession wasn’t always voluntary. This problem led to a practice called “waking the witch”: a form of torture that involved depriving the accused of sleep for days on end, until they were so exhausted they would hallucinate and babble incoherently. These “ravings” would often later be used as evidence of guilt.
CHICAGO (AP) — One day in May of 1970, an 11-year-old boy and his disabled sister were sitting on the curb outside a Chicago tavern, waiting for their mother to come out. When a priest with crinkly eyes and a ready smile happened by and offered the family a ride home, they could not have been happier.
The boy, Robert J. Goldberg, now 61, would pay dearly for the favor, enduring what he describes as years of psychological control and sexual abuse he suffered while working as a child valet for the late Rev. Donald J. McGuire. He remained in the Jesuit’s thrall for nearly 40 years, even volunteering to testify on McGuire’s behalf during criminal trials that ultimately resulted in a 25-year prison sentence for the priest.
But today, Goldberg says he has finally broken the hold McGuire once had on him. And he has begun to tell his story, in interviews with The Associated Press and in a lawsuit he filed Monday in California state court in San Francisco.
The lawsuit charges that McGuire, a globe-trotting Jesuit with ties to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, abused Goldberg “more than 1,000 times, in multiple states and countries,” during sojourns to spiritual retreats throughout the United States and Europe.
Men circled the three women, their fists wrapped around thick iron pipes and wooden sticks. The women huddled on the ground at the center of their village in the western Indian state of Gujarat and whimpered as the crowd gathered. Two young men had died in the village, and the women were being called dakan, the Gujarati word for witch. They were accused of feasting on the young men’s souls.
In 1572, the killings began. That year, authorities in the tiny settlement of St Maximin, in present-day Germany, charged a woman named Eva with using witchcraft to murder a child. Eva confessed under torture; she, along with two women she implicated, were burned at the stake.
The pace of prosecution picked up from there. By the mid-1590s, the territory had burned 500 people as witches—an astonishing feat, for a place that only had 2,200 residents to begin with.
Why is it that early modern Europe had such a fervor for witch hunting? Between 1400 to 1782, when Switzerland tried and executed Europe’s last supposed witch, between 40,000 and 60,000 people were put to death for witchcraft, according to historical consensus. The epicenter of the witch hunts was Europe’s German-speaking heartland, an area that makes up Germany, Switzerland, and northeastern France.
Conventional wisdom has chalked the killings up to a case of bad weather. Across Europe, weather suddenly got wetter and colder—a phenomenon known as the Little Ice Age that pelted villages with freak frosts, floods, hailstorms, and plagues of mice and caterpillars. Witch hunts tended to correspond with ecological disasters and crop failures, along with the accompanying problems of famine, inflation, and disease. When the going got tough, witches made for a convenient scapegoat.
But a recent economic study (pdf), which will soon be published in the The Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, proposes a different explanation for the witch hunts—one that can help us understand the way fears spread, and take hold, today.
The medieval Church established its monopoly over the spiritual life of Europeans in the Early Middle Ages (c. 476-1000 CE) and consolidated that power throughout the High Middle Ages (1000-1300 CE) and Late Middle Ages (1300-1500 CE). Along the way, the Church became increasingly corrupt as clergy ignored the most basic tenets of Christianity to live lavishly on the tithes of the people. Parish priests became so synonymous with hypocrisy and sin that anti-clericalism was common throughout Europe well before the High Middle Ages and contributed to the development of alternative belief systems that the Church condemned as heresies.
There was little else the common people – or even the nobility – could do about clerical corruption because the Church held the keys to one’s eternal destination. One could only attain salvation and eternal life by following the precepts of the Church, and one’s alternative was an eternity in the torments of hell or a limited, but almost equally unpleasant, stay in the fires of purgatory where one’s sins were burnt away. Heaven, hell, and purgatory were regarded as absolute certainties after death and, since the Church made all the rules regarding where a soul would wind up, people were forced to accept the clergy’s atrocious behavior.
Faith is on the rise and 84% of the global population identifies with a religious group. What does it mean for the future?
How many believers are there around the world?
If you think religion belongs to the past and we live in a new age of reason, you need to check out the facts: 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. Members of this demographic are generally younger and produce more children than those who have no religious affiliation, so the world is getting more religious, not less – although there are significant geographical variations.
According to 2015 figures, Christians form the biggest religious group by some margin, with 2.3 billion adherents or 31.2% of the total world population of 7.3 billion. Next come Muslims (1.8 billion, or 24.1%), Hindus (1.1 billion, or 15.1%) and Buddhists (500 million, or 6.9%).
The next category is people who practise folk or traditional religions; there are 400m of them, or 6% of the global total. Adherents of lesser-practised religions, including Sikhism, Baha’i and Jainism, add up to 58m, or well below 1%. There are 14m Jews in the world, about 0.2% of the global population, concentrated in the US and Israel.
Imagine for a moment that a big, admired multinational corporation, one selling a beloved product, was employing large numbers of male pedophiles and rapists, operating in rings all over the world, and that their crimes had been uncovered in Australia, Ireland, Canada, the Philippines, Belgium, France, Austria, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Britain, Germany and the United States, and, further, that senior executives had systematically covered up and suppressed evidence, transferring and enabling hundreds of predators, betraying thousands of victims.
In the early morning light, on the day after Ash Wednesday, the primary day in the Church calendar for Christian penance, Giordano Bruno, one of the most original minds of the sixteenth century, rode into Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori on a mule. Stripped naked and gagged with a leather bridle to prevent him from shouting out heresies to those present in the plaza, Bruno mounted the pile of firewood, charcoal, kindling, and pitch. Tied to the stake, Bruno turned his head away in anger when a crucifix was held up to his face. The pyre was lit and the flames leaped to consume the heretic.
A look back at the victims of the Salem Witch Trials and the mass hysteria that led to their deaths.
On September 22, 1692, eight people were hanged for their alleged crimes as witches. They were among 20 who were killed as a result of the hysteria that took place in the New England village of Salem where fear of demonic possession struck panic among the Puritans and led to more than 200 accusations against anyone suspected of witchcraft.