Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sex and the City: the Collapse of the Holy Roman Empire

Becky Anderson, speaking from Rome for CNN yesterday, told of how 3 as yet-unnamed Cardinals compiled a secret dossier about a gay network of Vatican clerics who have made themselves vulnerable to blackmail by male prostitutes. They presented it to Pope Benedict XVI, and as far as Becky understood, he will pass it on to his successor. “The Italian media is awash with these sex scandals at the Vatican” she said.

She added that the British media is awash with the scandal of allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with four priests dating back to the 1980’s. The allegations are leveled at the top British Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was, until yesterday, proclaiming his innocence and insisting he would exercise his right to vote. He was going to resign in March but the Pope forced him out yesterday.
Benedict XVI’s reactions to the two latest scandals are hard to understand. In all the years that he’s had the opportunity to actively investigate child rape by priests and the bishops who protected them, he hasn’t lifted a finger. Cardinal Mahony is still set to vote in the enclave. Yet Benedict XVI forced the resignation of Cardinal O’Brien, who didn’t rape anybody as far as we know. Nothing has been proved against him, any more than anything has been proved against the group of gay clerics, whose resignation Benedict didn’t force.  

Our resigned Pope is being ill-advised. Didn’t anybody ever tell these fellows that once you tell or live a lie, you have to fabricate and fabricate, weaving for yourself an illusion that fools many at first but eventually you’re the only one who believes in it. At that point, nothing that you do makes any real sense.

The Catholic church is falling apart at the seams, as it was bound to one day. It has operated with immunity for way too long, protected by its own laws that make it unassailable. Its excuse? That the hierarchy answers to a higher law because they are men of God. Well, that would be great if it did and they were, but it clearly doesn’t because they aren’t. 

Notwithstanding which the Vatican still holds huge sway over many of its subjects who deny any wrong-doing, pretty much in the same way that anti-Semites deny that the holocaust happened. But the massive power it had over minds up to the 1970’s has been waning for a long time, and the velvet curtains that once shielded the Vatican’s corruption from the world so well get more and more moth-eaten.  

The fall of Rome. If the Catholic Church was what it represents itself as, it wouldn’t have had a reason to fall. But it’s always been about the accumulation of temporal power and wealth and, under the guise of spirituality, has had a two-pronged strategy for subjugating people and limiting their capacity to think for themselves. The first is fear-mongering, using guilt and threat of eternal damnation as tools, and the second is to demonize sex, pitting it against spirituality. 

Of course the height of spirituality is to have no sex at all. So the vow of celibacy makes priests, cardinals and the Pope, more spiritual than anybody else. They take the vows of poverty and obedience, too, and that allegedly adds to their special spirituality, makes them somehow closer to God. But the vows are just for show.   

Even if they haven’t accumulated personal wealth, which many of them have, Catholic clergy don’t experience poverty. They are well taken care of, they have decent clothes – some of them  very expensive clothes and jewelry -  a place to stay, food to eat, medical care if they get sick, a car to drive, petrol in the car. They can travel and their plane fare is paid for, and when they retire they have a home to go to. 
Monseigneur Rauber, Cardinal Danneels, Monseigneurs Vangheluwe and Jozef De Kesel who took over after Vangheluwe resigned when exposed for child abuse.

As for obedience, who do they obey? Not the rules of society. Priests answer to bishops, who answer to the pope, as do Cardinals. Oh wait a moment; some of those Cardinals elect that infallible being who answers to God. 

And we all know what happens to the celibacy vow. Well, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes all have minds of their own. They can at any time say "I can't be part of an organization where the reality doesn’t match the PR." 

But that would mean giving up a life that gives them enormous power, one of the perks of which is that they can commit or conceal crimes with impunity and make unwelcome moves on men lower down the hierarchy, and of course on children. And because they aren’t men of God but are just ordinary men with as much carnality, prejudice, inner conflict and self interest as the rest of us, they abuse their power, sometimes to the fullest extent that the abuse can stretch. 

Which is why Rome is falling, falling.