Presented Without (Much) Comment: Did Benedict Resign Because of Naughty Times in the Vatican?

Don’t know what to make of this one, really, (any of you know how rigorous La Repubblica is in its journalism?), but here’s the Grauniad’s gloss on that paper’s report:

A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.

The pope’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called “Vatileaks” affair.

El_Greco_049

Last May Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.

According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising “two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red” had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.

The newspaper said the cardinals described a number of factions, including one whose members were “united by sexual orientation”.

In an apparent quotation from the report, La Repubblica said some Vatican officials had been subject to “external influence” from laymen with whom they had links of a “worldly nature”. The paper said this was a clear reference to blackmail.

It quoted a source “very close to those who wrote [the cardinal’s report]” as saying: “Everything revolves around the non-observance of the sixth and seventh commandments.”  (h/t GOS)

Correlation is not cause, even if La Repubblica really has this story nailed, though I can certainly see how such a report might confirm someone in Benedict’s position in their conviction that it might be time to take a hike.

I’m not a Catholic myself, as I’m guessing most of you know, and I’ve never reported on the Vatican (though I’ve been a guest inside its walls on a couple of occasions).  So I can’t claim any insight into the politics behind St. Peter’s Square.  So here’s Charlie Pierce with a more informed take:

La Repubblica is not a scandal sheet, regardless of what you’re likely to be hearing from members of the Clan Of The Red Beanie over the next few days. The Italian press is famous for journalistic, ah, entrepreneurship*, but this newspaper notably has not been a big part of that culture…

What gives me a little pause is that the “secret gay cabal” theory is an old favorite among those curial powerbrokers for whom Machiavelli was something of a wimp. It also has been a regular trope of conservative Catholics seeking to defend the institutional Church’s inexcusable behavior in the face of the sexual abuse scandal, largely through the rancid technique of implying that being gay and being a pedophile are so closely allied that the former have a reason for covering up for the latter. (The linked piece from the Telegraph makes it clear that “the other side” that so exercised Dreher was not a “Lavender Mafia,” but the usual cast of institutional authoritarians up to and including John Paul II) It also is an old-line reactionary conspiracy theory beloved of, among other people, the late crackpot Malachi Martin.

…There’s a helluva lot more in the VatiLeaks documents than sins of the flesh. There’s a whole rat’s nest of bribery, nepotism, influence peddling and many other things not unfamiliar to those of us who have covered the state government here in the Commonwealth (God save it!)…

Go read the rest of what Pierce has to say; it’s all good.

One last note:  as we all know, the US Catholic Church (or rather its princes) have spent a lot of time in recent years injecting their claims of moral authority into civic debate.

That they have some reason for humility before the temptation to thus lecture the rest of us we all know.  With this, assuming it proves out, we now have one more reason to add to an already ample tally to point and laugh each time they once again condescend to lecture the civil body.

*I can attest to this “entrepeneurship” myself.  I was a cub reporter, a stringer for Time, in London when Calvi, the Vatican’s corrupt banker (early 80s edition) was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.  I did a little reporting on that story, though bigger wigs than I got most of the fun.  I did come across one delicious unpublished detail, though:  an Italian TV news team, too late to film the body in situ bought a blow-up sex toy in Soho, dressed it up in a dark suit, and filmed the resulting ringer.  Awesome.

Image:  Diego Velasquez, Portrait of Cardinal Inquisitor Don Fernando Niño de Guevara, 1596-1601

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86 replies
  1. 1
    Doug Galt says:

    Ok, I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a network of gay prelates in the Vatican.

    I don’t know about the blackmail part one way or the other though.

  2. 2
    burnspbesq says:

    I don’t know enough about Italian politics to even engage in baseless speculation about cui bono, but the timing is, umm, interesting, given that there is an election in Italy this weekend.

  3. 3
    MattF says:

    Now, that last story is real journalism… for two reasons: A) It’s obviously true, B) It was never reported.

  4. 4
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Well that explains the costumes and pageantry.

  5. 5
    Ben Franklin says:

    I always suspected some institutional orgiastic unions within those hallowed walls.

    Wasn’t Benedict in the Hitler Youth? When he is grossed out, there’s no where to go.

  6. 6
    scav says:

    low gratified snicker

    even if only a plausible rumor –it’s got enough company for an encore

    evil rumbling gratifed snicker

  7. 7
    Comrade Mary says:

    Is it just me, or does that inquisitor have a pink cast?

  8. 8
    Librarian says:

    When has the Vatican not been a “seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting”?

  9. 9
    Robin G. says:

    I am shocked, SHOCKED to find there is gambling going on in this casino!

  10. 10
    Robin G. says:

    @Librarian: That reminds me, has anyone seen The Borgias? Is it any good?

  11. 11
    Ben Franklin says:

    I sense the fragile fabric of our social contracts are fraying…..

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....alers.html

  12. 12
    beltane says:

    When reading stories like this, it always helps to keep in mind that the Catholic hierarchy is largely made up of emotionally stunted men who are probably not really aware of their own hypocritical. It’s been a long time since the church attracted the best and brightest of the world, so they are stuck with mediocrities at best and misfits at worst. Unfortunately, I do not see any charismatic reformers on the horizon.

  13. 13
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Robin G.:

    That reminds me, has anyone seen The Borgias? Is it any good?

    I enjoyed the first couple of episodes, but then it seemed to become muddled and soap opera-like. I trailed off and didn’t watch the rest, as I was bored with it.

  14. 14
    beltane says:

    @burnspbesq: It could possibly help Beppe Grillo and his “f*ck-it all” movement, but I don’t see any Vatican scandal being able to phase the Italians who are naturally very cynical about these things.

  15. 15
    Keith G says:

    I would doubt that this would lead a pope to resign. Buggery, intrigue and blackmail are as common to the Vatican as are candles and incense.

    That would be like a Republican office holder resigning after it was shown that she was heartless and ignorant.

  16. 16
    Maude says:

    @Comrade Mary:
    Not just you. He’s in the pink, aside from his robe.

  17. 17
    beltane says:

    What the world needs is for Antonin Scalia to be chosen as the next pope. Just as the Constitution does not require that a Supreme Court justice be a law school graduate, there is no requirement that a pope be a priest. Scalia would be happy beyond his wildest dreams, and Obama would get to appoint his replacement. Sounds like a win-win to me.

  18. 18
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Italy is a clown show, all of it, top to bottom, but no more so than with their media and their politics.

    Personally, I was convinced until this report broke that the Vatican was packed floor to ceiling with priests and kidnapped altar boys frantically fucking each other into exhaustion, but since the Italian media has reported that something like this might actually be the case, I no longer believe it.

  19. 19
    Zifnab says:

    @Ted & Hellen: Oh whatever. The soap-opera parts were the best ones.

    @Robin G.: If you enjoy watching an elderly Spanish gentleman and his hot kids outwit rival aristocrats, war, plot, and have sweet sexytimes with the peasantry then you will not be disappointed.

    The entire bit with the French King’s invasion of Spain is just fantastic, top to bottom. Everyone’s an asshole, and you’re only rooting for the Pope because he’s the clever asshole. Totally loved it.

  20. 20
    NotMax says:

    a network of gay prelates in the Vatican

    The church, quite possibly. The Vatican? Not so much a possibility of shadowy cliques of any significant membership. The entire population of the Vatican is around 800 (including personnel posted abroad diplomatically).

    Politically, there has been a growing rift between Italy and Vatican City since 2008, when the latter announced unilaterally that it would thenceforth only selectively abide by Italian law. Do recall some movement in the direction of either abrogation or severe dilution of the Lateran Treaty under the Berlusconi government being reported intermittently.

    Aside from ill health, get the feeling that Benedict’s removal was given a secular political push to avoid a face-off between Italy and Vatican City over enforced political neutrality, extraterritoriality, and perhaps sovereignty. That it might well be closely related to maneuvering by the current caretaker Monti government (caretaker because of his resignation in December) over elections should not be discounted.

  21. 21
    Redshirt says:

    And why would this be a big deal? Was the Pope in a gay orgy? How would his resignation help?

  22. 22
    The Other Chuck says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Wasn’t Benedict in the Hitler Youth?

    Yes, but pretty much every kid his age was.

    They’re blackmailing gay prelates. The guy wears Prada slippers.

  23. 23
    beltane says:

    @Redshirt: That’s what I don’t get. I’m pretty sure everyone assumes there is a network of gay clergy. Are there incriminating photographs of Benedict himself? That’s the only way this makes sense to me.

  24. 24
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    Politically, there has been a growing rift between Italy and Vatican City since 2008, when the latter announced unilaterally that it would thenceforth only selectively abide by Italian law.

    Could it be because Italy raised the age of consent from age 12 to age 14 in 2006? The mind races.

  25. 25
    Petorado says:

    It’s a failed business model to ever mix human spirituality with a bureaucracy steeped in power, money, prestige, and a strong influence over a flock of true believers.

  26. 26
    beltane says:

    @Petorado: Are you sure about that? One could argue that the Roman Catholic Church has had the most successful business model in the history of humanity.

  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    I don’t care and if the entire church evaporated into thin air tomorrow the world would be a better place.
    Don’t think so? Name 5 positive things the church has given the world.
    I’ll wait.

  28. 28
    Danack says:

    Just to point out some things that are obvious:

    1) Ratzinger covered up the abuse done by people who are now senior clerics in the Vatican.

    2) He also conspired with other people who are now senior clerics in the Vatican, to cover up abuse.

    3) These people from 1 and 2 are the ones who are committing the naughty acts*.

    4) Any attempt by Ratzinger to force them out of the Vatican would almost immediately result in lots of details coming out about exactly what Ratzinger knew about the rape of children, and how he helped cover it up.

    5) There’s probably quite a bit of information about Ratzinger coming out anyway from the lawsuits in the US.

    6) Cardinal Bertone is an evil shit. Between him and the rest of Ratzingers cronies who got promoted, they’ll probably be able to control who is the next Pope. Hint – it’s not going to be someone who is able to reform the Vatican.

    If they elect someone who wants to continue the coverup then the Catholic church will have lost the final remnants of legitimacy it has, and should be treated solely as a criminal organisation.

    *It’s “funny” how in the Vatican’s eyes going to gay bars and visiting gay prostitutes is a worse crime than raping or enabling the rape of children.

  29. 29
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    Archbishop [Georg] Gänswein will move with Pope Benedict XVI when he retires on Feb. 28, but he also intends to retain his role as head of the Pontifical Household.

    There have long been rumors of Benedikt’s involvement with Georg Gaenswein, who was just raised to archbishop as one of Benedikt’s last acts in office, after less than a year as bishop.

  30. 30
    Randy P says:

    any of you know how rigorous La Repubblica is in its journalism?

    I believe La Repubblica was the main source persisting on the “yellowcake uranium” story in the leadup to the Iraq War, due to involvement by Italian intelligence.

    So I think they have some pretty good investigative journalists.

  31. 31
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Ruckus:
    The Sistine Chapel. The Jesuits. I’ll work on some more.

  32. 32
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    any of you know how rigorous La Repubblica is in its journalism?

    Italian newspaper journalism has a sensationalist style baked into it, but that’s more a reflection on the amount of intrigue baked into Italian politics — and the relative lack of any kind of investigative journalism on broadcast media.

  33. 33
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    There have been repeated exposees of gay priests in the vatican.

    Here’s one in Italian from 2010:

    http://blog.panorama.it/italia.....a-completa

    Summarized here in English:

    http://w%20w%20w%20.thedailybe.....iests.html

    Here’s one in German, from 2007:

    http://www.stern.de/panorama/k.....00113.html

  34. 34
    Mark S. says:

    @beltane:

    It’s been a long time since the church attracted the best and brightest of the world, so they are stuck with mediocrities at best and misfits at worst. Unfortunately, I do not see any charismatic reformers on the horizon.

    Growing up Catholic, it never made any sense who got promoted in that organization. I’ve known a few extremely intelligent priests who never got promoted to anything, while the few bishops and such I’ve seen have rarely struck me as particularly intelligent or even very virtuous.

  35. 35
    Sad_Dem says:

    If this gets resolved with a collective knife fight/dance number in St. Peter’s Basilica, I would want to see it. My money’s on the gays.

  36. 36
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    @RobNYNY1957:

    That last article says that the Vatican maintains a fund to pay for the support of priests’ children, when they need because of this guy, who not only fathered children, but raped some of them:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcial_Maciel

  37. 37
    Robert waldmann says:

    I read La Repubblica because I consider it to be the least aweful Italian paper, but I do not consider it reliable at all.

  38. 38
    SRW1 says:

    “… including one whose members were “united by sexual orientation”.”

    As long as these ‘orientations’ are directed towards adults of either sex, or should these gentlemen so prefer, inanimate objects, it would only be a matter of hypocrisy and could be dealt with by the RCC moving into the 21st century.

    The sad part is that, as recent history teaches, there are possible meanings of ‘sexual orientation’ which are entirely unacceptable.

  39. 39
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    A friend of mine was a virgin until he entered a Catholic seminary. Within a week, he was having sex two or three times a day, as he recounts the tale, and then adds, “But I could have had sex as often as I wanted.”

  40. 40
    Hattie says:

    So what Do they wear under those skirts?

  41. 41
    Rob Lll says:

    Any follow-ups to this post need to be illustrated with one of Francis Bacon’s screaming pope paintings. So appropriate to these vile men.

  42. 42
    Faux News says:

    That pic of Andrew Sullivan as the Pope is fantastic! He does look like he lost weight. I guess the Pilates are working out well for him.

  43. 43
    gbear says:

    @beltane: What makes you think that Scalia would feel the need to resign from the Supreme Court if he was named Pope? His ego is bigger than both jobs.

  44. 44
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    From a quiz on Catholicism:

    What do priests wear under their robes, anyway? For each possible kind of underwear (including boxers, ladies’ and commando), estimate the effect it has on the amount of time it takes for a priest to have a quickie with the head usher in the vestry between masses. For this exercise, assume that the priest is mostly a top, and the head usher is versatile and hasn’t gotten a single goddamned blowjob from his goddamned wife since their goddamned honeymoon.
    While describing what precautions must be taken to make sure no stains get on the priest’s chasuble (and while enumerating the possible sources of stains), you may assume that his cassock has so many stains from sacramental wine that only the biggest load of cum would be detectible from the front row of pews, even by the head usher’s wife, and she’s had her suspicions for a while now about that fruity priest and that son of a bitch husband of hers who keeps trying to stick his cock in her mouth.
    Bonus points: Compare and contrast the priestly cassock to the Scottish kilt in terms of climbing a ladder ahead of someone, doing a Marilyn Monroe impression on a subway grating, and concealing what television network censors discreetly refer to as a “tenting issue” when the priest is standing next to an altar boy or the Scot is standing next to a sheep.

  45. 45
    BArry says:

    @beltane: “What the world needs is for Antonin Scalia to be chosen as the next pope. Just as the Constitution does not require that a Supreme Court justice be a law school graduate, there is no requirement that a pope be a priest. Scalia would be happy beyond his wildest dreams, and Obama would get to appoint his replacement. Sounds like a win-win to me. ”

    Why would he resign from SCOTUS? :)

  46. 46
    dmbeaster says:

    @Robin G.: It is more than a little over the top, but entertaining nonetheless.

  47. 47
    Tripod says:

    @Robin G.:

    Showtime’s “The Borgias” with Jeremy Irons is meh. The Netflix “Borgia” by Tom Fontana (Oz, St Elsewhere) is superior.

  48. 48
    dmbeaster says:

    @Tripod: Heh. Did nit know there was a Showtime/Irons version.

  49. 49
    dmbeaster says:

    @Tripod: Heh. Did not known there was a Showtime/Irons version.

  50. 50
  51. 51
    mainmati says:

    At this point, Benny-16 is so compromised by his previous position and the cover-ups of the multitudinous sex scandals in Europe and the USA that it hardly matters that there is a kinky sex cabal in the Vatican, not that this would be any surprise at all says this ex-Catholic.

    La Repubblica generally has had a good reputation as does Corriere della Serra.

  52. 52
    Ruckus says:

    @Gin & Tonic:
    Those were the two I expected.
    Sistine Chapel – A beautiful place. Would that man made beauty be able to exist without glorifying an organization that has existed for years in the pursuit of control and money?
    The Jesuits – Would the people involved be able to do the positive work they do without glorifying the organization that so richly doesn’t deserve it? Maybe, maybe not.

    That’s two, I’ll wait for the three more.

  53. 53
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    Corriere della Sera, for those who are googling. The other one that has a reputation for seriousness is La stampa (“The Press”).

  54. 54
    RobNYNY1957 says:

    @RobNYNY1957:

    By which I meant in addition to La repubblica and Corriere della sera, but even Panorama can have serious articles. See above. Even the blind sow, etc.

  55. 55
    divF says:

    @beltane: If the scandal is sufficiently bad, they might elect one cardinal who is beyond reproach on this matter – Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, who cleaned up after pedophilia scandals in three different dioceses (Fall River, Palm Beach, and Boston). He’s a Franciscan monk with a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature.

  56. 56
    beltane says:

    @divF: This is what would happen in an organization with even the most minimal standards of accountability and transparancy. However, there are no indications that the members of the College of Cardinals have even the slightest clue as to how repugnant the church’s behavior has been in the eyes of normal people. To make matters worse, the only American said to be in serious contention is Timothy Dolan, who is very much part of the problem.

  57. 57
    Art Correction says:

    That’s an El Greco, not a Velazquez.

  58. 58
    angler says:

    Pierce as always sees around the corner: the gay cabal is bait to distract attention from standard-issue institutional corruption.

  59. 59
    maven says:

    Ratzinger’s abdication is proof that Christopher Hitchens did indeed go to heaven.

  60. 60
    Betsy says:

    Is anyone here able to summarize the current people’s involvements in the pdeophilia scandals?

  61. 61
    Betsy says:

    Agh. “Pope’s” not “people’s”

  62. 62
    Irving says:

    @Ruckus:

    #3: The Book of Kells: A masterpiece of art and a graphic example of the work the Irish monks did to preserve knowledge, wisdom, and basic decency in a world gone mad. Also, no one got rich on it.

    #4: Hildegard von Bingen’s poetry. Julian of Norwich too. Nuns whose poetic works are the deep-buried roots of feminism and some of the first great works of poetry in the Middle Ages.

    #5: Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi. Founders of the Franciscans and Poor Clares. The roots of Western pacifistic and environmental traditions can be found here.

    Need more?

  63. 63
    Roger Moore says:

    @BArry:

    Why would he resign from SCOTUS? :)

    US Constitution, Article I, Section 9:

    No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

    Since the Vatican is a foreign state and being appointed pope would certainly constitute accepting an office and/or title from it, he would have to either get consent of Congress (not forthcoming) or resign. And no, I don’t think his fellow Justices would be willing to bend the rules far enough to claim that becoming pope does not constitute accepting a foreign office or title.

  64. 64
    Roger Moore says:

    @beltane:

    To make matters worse, the only American said to be in serious contention is Timothy Dolan, who is very much part of the problem would constitute trolling by the Vatican.

    FTFY.

  65. 65
    mainmati says:

    Looking at the painting (and as an artist loving TL’s choices – consistently gorgeous) who knew the Inquisition were into tortoise shell glasses or that was even possible then. I thought spectacles only emerged in the 17th century. But maybe the Vatican had a secret lab.

  66. 66
    Petorado says:

    @beltane:

    I’ll admit that sounds silly at first blush, but if the church’s business is ministering to people’s souls, they have wound up a resounding failure. If the church’s business is making a group of libertines feel like they’ve duped their silly followers then I guess they win. But nothing makes one lose faith in an institution like seeing this shit go down. They lost my business.

  67. 67
    moops says:

    spitballing, I’d say Pell is a better bet than most guess, and Turkson is the highest probability in my opinion. They both create a much different narrative for the church. Carerra is a similar reasoning, but the drama in Mexico would be so distracting that the college will leave him where he is I guess. Ouellet would likely say no, which is something I don’t think the voters would risk. The shake up now is bad. Picking someone that says “no thanks” would be a major embarrassment, and he does nothing to distract the narrative away from the current scandals.

    Dolan is utterly out, he makes the current scandals the main talking points, as is ANY Italian at this point (swap rape scandals for Italian scandals).

  68. 68
    karen says:

    Blackmail over gays in the Vatican is not enough to make Benny resign.

    Unless HE was one of them and someone had proof that HE was molesting a child.

  69. 69
    Jon H says:

    I like to think of the report as being written by Stefon, Saturday Night Live’s City Correspondent.

    “This seminary has EVERYTHING. Midget contortionists, Jäger baths, lube luges…”

  70. 70
    Anne Laurie says:

    @divF:

    If the scandal is sufficiently bad, they might elect one cardinal who is beyond reproach on this matter – Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, who cleaned up after pedophilia scandals in three different dioceses (Fall River, Palm Beach, and Boston). He’s a Franciscan monk with a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature.

    The very idea excites the Boston media, but IMO Cardinal Dolan (NYC) would strangle Father Sean with his bare hands, in front of the full conclave, if that looked to be even a remote possibility.

  71. 71
    gcwall says:

    Does data exist the proves whether it is the Catholic or Jewish religion that is better at employing guilt as a weapon? The question is best answered by measuring the effectiveness of each style.

    Since damnation is guaranteed for all, but a select few, will pedophiles pass the test of righteous indignation? Everyone knows that the self-selected holiest of the holy are above reproach.

    Echoes of voices in cavernous rooms say that guilt is not available for the chosen; only common rabble claim that somewhere a collapse of intention suffered the excitements of intellectual dishonesty.

    Seduction of the innocent is comparable to bar darts, (the closest one might come to Nirvana.) What could be more heavenly than the casual harmony of the holy and the chaste?

    Peasants simply cannot comprehend enlightenment through instinct and apprehension of opportunities. Let the courts be damned. Who among us is so arrogant as to claim understanding of the Magical Mystery Tour the One planned for us?

    The Cardinals wail, “Certainly none of those low-lives. How dare they assume.”

  72. 72
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Ruckus:

    Name 5 positive things the church has given the world.

    Too late to make a difference here, but the one thing I could respect the Church for, even during my most cynical teenage days in parochial school, was giving many generations of poor smart kids a chance to be something other than beasts of burden. Convents, especially, were an admitted blessing to women without the dubious ‘protection’ of a husband/father/brother who didn’t believe that female literacy led to infertility or insanity.

    And we’re not talking just medieval history, either — the smartest nun who ever taught me freely admitted that she “found her vocation” when her father wanted her to drop out of school after the eighth grade and start earning money for the family. She really believed that God had called her (and she was one of those Christians who actually tried to live the teachings of that Christ person in the Bible), but she was grateful that God had called her to a position where she could get a PhD from Fordham, too.

  73. 73
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Irving: It’s taking the accomplishments of the members of the humblest religious orders and affixing them to the glory of the church’s top hierarchy (which is what is under discussion here) a rank category error and really, were such boasts to come from the Church itself, the worst kind of shameless?

    The church compelled the labor, minds, creativity, spirituality, individuality, and lives from thousands of people for hundreds of years. Now you’re going to give the church credit for how “God” made its slaves?

    What has the church done that was good? Nothing. Michelangelo was coerced into painting the Sistine Chapel and from what I understand was in pain for the rest of his life. He was a brilliant architect and sculptor who unfortunately was never able to complete all of his visions but still revolutionized Western architecture in the Renaissance and helped (with Rafael, Bernini, Leonardo) set the standard for visual arts for centuries. Is the Sistine chapel really more amazing than his ‘slave’ series of sculptures, I think one work that was not done for a commission, where tortured figures emerge from the rock?

  74. 74
    ER's Mom says:

    @Mark S.:

    Easy – Peter Principle. Idiots and smoozers get promoted over the people actually able to do the work.

  75. 75
    chris says:

    Alex Gibney thinks it has more to do with the sex crime cover up scandals. So do others.

  76. 76
    mellowjohn says:

    where is father guido sarducci when you need him?

  77. 77
    Paul in KY says:

    @beltane: I could go for that. Anything to get him off the Court.

  78. 78
    Paul in KY says:

    @Mark S.: I think in this day & age, ‘virtuous’ is not the way to get ahead in the Catholic Church.

  79. 79
    Alex S. says:

    It’s like doping in cycling. You slowly realize that doping is not a case of a few bad apples, but that every successful cyclist has been doing it. You realize that doping is at the core of the system. The same is true for homosexuality in the Church. I think that the vast majority of the higher echelon is gay and it has been that way for some time, mostly because the Church lost all worldly power and ceased to attract good personnel. After the Vatican was reduced to a tiny enclave in the new Italian capital the only power left remaining was of moral quality. So if you joined the Church, you either were a true believer or someone who wanted to save himself from his sins. That moral quality eroded, too. The values of the enlightenment, the decriminalization of homosexuality, the acceptance of sex without marriage, etc… The church was not the only path to a spiritually fulfilled life anymore. The share of true believers declined, the share of sexual deviants, i.e. pedophiles, and the share of insecure or suppressed homosexuals increased.
    The Church as the organisation as it is today, is nothing but a concentrated hotbed of hypocrisy. You will find a certain share of true believers at the lower levels of the hierarchy, but without a fundamental change of the whole concept, stop pretending that bishops are epigones of sexual virtue, allow them to marry etc…. the organisation cannot be saved.

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    Cygil says:

    @Faux News: That pic of Andrew Sullivan as the Pope is fantastic! He does look like he lost weight. I guess the Pilates are working out well for him.

    Either that or the antiretrovirals have stopped working for him, like he boasted would never happen because AIDS is no longer an issue any more.

  81. 81
    Democrat Partisan Asshole says:

    Name 5 positive things the church has given the world.

    @Ruckus: I say this as someone who agrees with your fundamental point that the church is a net negative on society. But not every institution or follower of same is monolithically evil.

    There are several thousand dead priests and nuns, murdered by American multinationals and their own church – on orders of John Paul II, that jolly fellow from Poland that everyone loves so much – rotting in unmarked graves, river bottoms, and landfills, killed for the crime of daring to believe and preach that their world was unfair, that their followers had gotten a raw deal and would always get a raw deal so long as the same people were in charge, and that this state of affairs wasn’t OK with Jesus. They were just as much creations of their church as the tyrants who ordered their murders, and every time I hear or read someone bashing the Church I think of those brave men and women. And they were brave. Most of them died in ways that were unspeakably cruel, and they all knew that’s what was coming and refused to change one word of their preaching.

    I’m an atheist and think the Church is run by assholes, quite a few of whom deserve the same fate that the aforementioned nuns and priests got, but I can’t condemn the institution in toto, because somehow it produced these people who truly understood what it was to stand up and do right by the least fortunate.

  82. 82
    charles pierce says:

    JP II ordered the deaths of priests and nuns?
    I’d like an offer of proof on that,

  83. 83
    Paul in KY says:

    @Alex S.: I don’t see why all these not-so-great-anymore Vatican honchos have to be gay or that there is a correlation, due to the ‘best & brightest’ not going into the priesthood anymore of the bad apples in the curia being gay.

    I know alot of evil crooks that are male & like wimmens & I am sure that there are bad people in the Catholic hierarchy who are definitely hetero.

  84. 84
    The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    @mellowjohn: He just finished recording “So How’s Your Girl?” by Handsome Boy Modeling School. He’s on some of the tracks as a performer, and does a classic Father Guido bit as an ad for Handsome Boy Modeling School, in which he tries out various pitches for the school and repeatedly cracks himself up. Dude’s still got it.

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    fidelio says:

    And the hits just keep on a-comin’.

  86. 86
    Ruckus says:

    @Irving:
    Maybe I should have been clearer in my request. Find me 5 positive things that out weigh all the negative. Find me 5 positive things that could not have happened without the church.
    Sure these are great writings and as Anne Laurie pointed out at 72 people have used the church to overcome horrible things. But as Another Halocene Human at 73 pointed out these are individual feats not those of the church. Were they made possible when nothing else could have? I don’t buy that.
    I know people that started with nothing or even less and they managed full and rewarding lives. And I know people that started with a lead off of third base and are complete shits. We are talking about an institution, one that has sucked the life and prosperity out of millions and quite possibly billions of people over the centuries.

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