PHILADELPHIA — “Horseplay,” a term used to denote child rape, is, says Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, part of a sinister glossary of euphemisms by which the Catholic Church’s bureaucracy obfuscates in documents the church’s “pattern of abuse” and conspiracy of silence “that goes all the way to the Vatican.” “Benevolent bishops” are those who allow predatory priests, shuffled from other dioceses, to continue as priests.
The fuse for the national explosion of fury about sexual abuse by Catholic clergy was lit in Boston — the excellent 2015 movie “Spotlight” recounts The Boston Globe’s victory over the stonewalling Catholic hierarchy in 2001-2002. But the still-reverberating detonation occurred last August in a Pittsburgh grand jury’s report on the sexual abuse by approximately 300 priests of at least 1,000 victims in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
It’s hard out here for a pope. See, when it comes to religious history, the list of Catholic Church transgressions makes for pretty uncomfortable reading. Despite exalting virtue and kindness in its teaching, church leadership has spearheaded a long history of outright unforgivable Catholic actions.
You might remember some of these improprieties from school – the Inquisition, Joan of Arc, and the trial of Galileo should all ring a bell. But not everything here is medieval. Though Vatican violence goes way back, a number of disturbing episodes are from recent history. Some of this repugnant behavior comes from popes, some was church-endorsed, and some, most unsettlingly, was just straight-up regular church practice.
Dark church history contains scandal after scandal rife with every vice and taboo you can imagine. When the church was at the height of its power (at which point it was the most powerful organization in the Western world), it’s safe to say everything went to its head. Combine that with church leaders seeming to stubbornly resist adapting to changing morality and you’ve got a whole lot of unforgivable moments on your hands.
A new wave of sex scandals and allegations he personally covered for an abusive cardinal have Pope Francis under fire. But is he in trouble?
n August 2013, Józef Wesołowski, the Vatican‘s ambassador to the Dominican Republic since 2008, abruptly abandoned his island home. He’d been a staple on the waterfront in Santo Domingo, the capital city, where—often dressed like he was out for a jog—he assumed a laid-back and less-than-holy presence. The shoeshiners knew him casually as “the Italian,” because of the way he spoke Spanish with a distinct accent. (He was actually Polish.) He often had beers in the sun at a popular restaurant. He seemed, well, normal.
The plaintiff in the landmark supreme court case revealed she was paid to change her mind about abortion. Have anti-abortion activists no shame?
Thanks to her newly public deathbed confession, we now know that’s what Norma McCorvey, best known for being the plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the 1973 landmark supreme court case abortion rights case Roe v Wade, did.
Like many Dominican monks of his time, Bernard Gui rose through the ranks of the Inquisition. At the age of 35 he was named Grand Inquisitor of Toulouse, a repressive office he held from 1306 to 1323. The church hierarchy rewarded his efforts with a 1314 appointment as the Vicar of Toulouse, and he was sent on several papal missions to Italy and the French court. [Lea, Inq II, 104]
Gui was a four-star general in the war on heresy. He wrote its principal battle plan, a handbook for Inquisitors entitled Practica Inquisitionis Hereticae Pravitatis: a “guide for inquiring into heretical depravity.” A classic interrogatory manual of the medieval Inquisition, it detailed forbidden beliefs, practices and rituals, and set out formulas of abjuration to be repeated by those the Church Militant had tortured into submission. Interrogatory torments administered before the tribunal did not count as punishment, but as the means of extracting “confessions.” Official penalties included death, imprisonment, exile, confiscation of property, and enforced pilgrimage to distant sites.
“. . . millions of witches, sorcerers, possessed and obsessed were an enormous mass of severe neurotics [and ] psychotics. . . for many years the world looked like a veritable insane asylum. . . .” (Gregory Zilboorg).
“. . . the witch-craze was neither a lynching party nor a mass suicide by hysterical women. Rather, it followed well-ordered, legalistic procedures. The witch-hunts were well-organized campaigns, initiated, financed and executed by Church and State. . . .” (Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English)