I think it's very important for Catholics to really understand what we are attempting to deal with in reforming the Vatican. Cardinal's like Sodano didn't hatch on their onesie or come to power in some sort of vacuum. When I write there is old old entrenched energy behind the current scandals the following illustrates what I mean.
Vatican Hall Of Shame
The Smartset - Tony Perrotett - 5/13/2010
“Lord, give me chastity and self-control — but not yet." — Prayer of the young Saint Augustine, c.380 A.D.
The scandals may be coming thick and strong from the Vatican at the moment, but the Church has always waged a losing battle with its own vice-ridden staff. (At this point in history we truly need to win this battle. For the first time in the history of the Church the laity is equipped to be an equal voice. The question is, do we choose to accept this challenge or will we believe a few ill defined statements concerning penance and conversion from Benedict will do the trick. The Church has been down this road before and it's never worked to trust that the power structure will experience 'conversion'. )
The problem was that transgressions from official policy often began at the top. Fellow priests put one of the first popes, Sixtus III (432-40), on trial for seducing a nun. He was acquitted after quoting from Christ in his defense: “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.” In the centuries to follow, political skullduggery and a corrupt election process thrust one improbable candidate after another into the position as god-fearing believers looked on in impotent horror. In fact, so many Vicars of Christ have been denounced as the “Worst Pope Ever” that we have to settle for a Top Ten list. (If the laity look on in impotent horror this time, it's because we've chosen too.)
1. Sergius III (904-11), known by his cardinals as "the slave of every vice," came to power after murdering his predecessor. He had a son with his teenage mistress — the prostitute Marozia, 30 years his junior — and their illegitimate son grew up to become the next pope. With top Vatican jobs auctioned off like baubles, the papacy entered its “dark century.”
2. The 16-year-old John XII (955-64) was accused of sleeping with his two sisters and inventing a catalog of disgusting new sins. Described by a church historian as “the very dregs,” he was killed at age 27 when the husband of one of his mistresses burst into his bedroom, discovered him in flagrante, and battered his skull in with a hammer.
3. Benedict IX, (1032-48) continually shocked even his most hardened cardinals by debauching young boys in the Lateran Palace. Repenting of his sins, he actually abdicated to a monastery, only to change his mind and seize office again. He was “a wretch who feasted on immorality,” wrote Saint Peter Damian, “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest.” (Kind of reminds one of Fr. Maciel--except for the repentance part.)
4. After massacring the entire population in the Italian town of Palestrina, Boniface VIII (1294-1303) indulged in ménages with a married woman and her daughter and became renowned through Rome as a shameless pedophile. He famously declared that having sex with young boys was no more a sin than rubbing one hand against the other — which should make him the patron saint of Boston priests today. The poet Dante reserved a place for him in the eighth circle of Hell.
5. All pretense at decorum was abandoned when the papacy moved to Avignon in southern France for 75 years. Bon vivant Clement VI (1342-52) was called “an ecclesiastical Dionysus” by the poet Petrarch for the number of mistresses and the severity of his gonorrhea. Upon his death, 50 priests offered Mass for the repose of his soul for nine consecutive days, but French wits agreed that this was nowhere near enough.
6. Decamping back to Rome, the papacy hit its true low point in the Renaissance. (Church historian Eamon Duffy compares Rome to Nixon’s Washington, “a city of expense-account whores and political graft.”) Sixtus IV (1471-84), who funded the Sistine Chapel, had six illegitimate sons — one with his sister. He collected a Church tax on prostitutes and charged priests for keeping mistresses, but critics argued that this merely increased the prevalence of clerical homosexuality. (Perhaps this explains why rape and incest don't mitigate abortion. This is however, classic Imperial Roman behavior.)
7. The rule of Innocent VIII (1484-92) is remembered as the Golden Age of Bastards: He acknowledged eight illegitimate sons and was known to have many more, although he found time between love affairs to start up the Inquisition. On his death bed, he ordered a comely wet nurse to supply him with milk fresh from the breast.
8. The vicious Rodrigo Borgia, who took the name Alexander VI (1492-1503), presided over more orgies than masses, wrote Edward Gibbon. A career highlight was the 1501 “Joust of the Whores,” when 50 dancers were invited to slowly strip around the pope’s table. Alexander and his family gleefully threw chestnuts on the floor, forcing the women to grovel around their feet like swine; they then offered prizes of fine clothes and jewelry for the man who could fornicate with the most women. Alexander’s other hobbies included watching horses copulate, which would make him “laugh fit to bust.”After his death — quite possibly poisoned by his pathological son, Cesar Borgia — this pope’s body was expelled from the basilica of Saint Peter as too evil to be buried in sacred soil. (Which begs the question as to why such evil ever gained access to the Sacred soil.)
9. Julius II (1503-13) is remembered for commissioning Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. He was also the first pope to contract “the French disease,” syphilis, from Rome’s male prostitutes. On Good Friday of 1508, he was unable to allow his foot to be kissed by the faithful as it was completely covered with syphilitic sores.
10. Incurable romantic Julius III (1550-55) fell in love with a handsome young beggar boy he spotted brawling with a vendor’s monkey in the streets. The pope went on to appoint this illiterate 17-year-old urchin a cardinal, inspiring an epic poem, “In Praise of Sodomy,” probably written by a disgruntled archbishop in his honor.
One should not think just because the top ten in the Hall of Shame ends at the period of the Trenten Reformation, that anything really changed. It didn't change. The immorality went further into the closet as the Vatican became preoccupied in trying to maintain some semblance of secular power in the changing secular landscape of the Reformation and Enlightenment.
The Hierarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church is the only major Western institution which has not undergone radical transformation in how power is shared and exercised. It has maintained the same power structure for 1700 years, virtually untouched by any evolution in secular governance or notions of human potential. It has managed to maintain sole control of a vast amount of wealth with no transparency and no accountability. It has protected it's own interests far and away above the laity it supposedly exists to serve or the teachings of the God it professes to believe in.
Over and over Catholics have been given the excuse that all of the excesses happen because the institutional expression of Catholicism is still after all, composed of mere flawed men. The Church is a human institution (but it has a Divine insurance policy). Mistakes will be made. A true Christian neither condemns nor judges, but forgives seven times seventy---and oh by the way, your salvation depends on your forgiving us, and believing in our sacramental magic. One of the truths of our faith is that your personal salvation is not dependent on us changing anything. It's the exact opposite. Why if we changed something this might harm our ability to give you your salvation, the magic might not work and then you would surely go to hell. Trust us.
And so Catholics continue to trust them. We have pored all kinds of prayer and energy, money and deference, blind loyalty and uncritical obedience into an upside down funnel which eventually spills onto the hands of the Papacy and through them the Vatican bureaucracy.
Unfortunately there was usually no room for the Holy Spirit in that funnel and so the Spirit blew Her winds into Western secular society. It was secular institutions that became more transparent, more equal, more accountable, less discriminatory, and more committed to extending human rights to every human person. It was the official church who railed against this progress and supported the forces marshaled against these changes. We were told that although we couldn't always trust our leadership, we could trust ourselves even less. Trust us, we know what's better for your salvation than you do. A Pinochet is better than an Oscar Romero. Latin is better than English, but a Latinized English is better than no Latin. It is better for both the mother and child to die, than to purposely choose to save the life of the mother. It is against life to extend the theology of self defense to any issue involving women. It's better to receive your Lord from an unrepentant clerical pedophile than from a married priest, or God shudder, a honest gay priest. As for women, fuhgeddahaboutem. Trust us.
Not any more. Not this kid. I will not pore any more energy, prayer, money, or uncritical obedience into maintaining a Vatican culture which is rooted in the worst of human impulse and has never purified it's act. While it's true John Paul II was hardly Benedict the IX, he was still involved in the same energy every time he supported, promoted, or extolled the virtues of Maciel. To me this says he either knew about Maciel and chose to support him anyway, or he was incapable of seeing the kind of energy around Maciel. In either case the end result was the promotion of the ages old evil with in the Vatican itself. On a spiritual level there is no practical difference between enabling through naivete or enabling through purpose. Evil is served.
If even the best of our leadership can't see the evil they actively support through their naivete, it's time Catholics admitted: We can't trust them. It's past time we started poring our energy into changing this system once and for all.