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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bad Popes

Bonnie Erbe of US News and World Report is in high dudgeon. The Pope was remiss in handling a sexually abuse priest!

Hang the Pope!

Yada, yada, yada.

Now, as a Catholic, I want to personally thank Bonnie and company for their close attention to the Catholic Church's trials and tribulations. After all, Bonnie is very concerned for Catholic welfare. She cares about Catholics in a way that she obviously doesn't care when it comes to any other group of people.

For instance, when Carol Shakeshaft reported on the level of sexual abuse in the American public school system (400x higher in the schools than in the Church) Bonnie was silent as a lamb. For every child abused by a priest, 400 were abused by the public schools. It's actually worse than that, because the Church abuse was spread over five decades, while the school abuse is just the estimate for the last decade.

Similarly, when Yemen found it impossible to outlaw child marriage, Bonnie saw no news. There is nothing wrong with Muslims who insist that child marriage is not only legal, but laudable, because they are Muslims, after all, and we can't expect them to be decent people.

And we won't even discuss how the ritual of Jewish circumcision passes on HIV to infants, nor will we mention the higher rates of sexual abuse in Jewish or Protestant communities.

The examples could be multipled, but why bother?

None of this is news.

Furthermore, we should also recognize that it is only purest coincidence that by piling onto the Pope, the MSM are simultaneously attacking Barack Obama's most formidable political opponent apart from the Republican Party and Barack himself.

So, why does Bonnie get upset with the Pope? Because Bonnie is interested in our welfare. She cares. It brings tears to my eyes to know that she cares.

But she needn't worry. Even if Pope Benedict is eventually found to have exercised the worst possible judgment in regard to priestly sexual abusers, it's not like he's the first or the worst of the Popes to have done that. Let's reminisce a bit, shall we?

Pope Stephen VI (896-897) had a grudge against his predecessor, Pope Formosus. In order to humiliate his memory, he had Formosus’ body dug up, placed on a throne, and tried for acting improperly as a bishop. The corpse was found guilty, its three blessing fingers were cut off, it was dressed as a layman, briefly re-buried, then exhumed again and the body thrown in the Tiber. All ordinations he had performed were declared null. In gratitude for this and other actions, Pope Stephen was shortly thereafter imprisoned and strangled to death.

Pope John XII (937-964) was accused by a synod of 50 Italian and German bishops (bishops, mind you, not scurvy little reporter-babes) of sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery and incest. The conflict between the Pope’s supporters and his opponents resulted in bloodshed in the streets of Rome, some of it directly inflicted by John XII himself. Cardinal-Deacon John had his right hand cut off, Bishop Orgar of Speyer was scourged, a high palatine official lost his nose and ears. Pope John died shortly after. According to rumor, he was stricken by paralysis in the act of adultery.

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1048) was a disgrace to the Chair of Peter. Placed on the throne at about the age of 20, he was driven from office by a faction in Rome and replaced by the anti-pope, Sylvester III. Benedict managed to return the favor, driving Sylvester from office and regaining the throne, but resigning the office and selling it a short time later for a large sum of money to Gregory VI. When he repented of that bargain and tried to regain the throne from Gregory VI, the Council of Sutri convinced Gregory that he had committed the sin of simony. Gregory resigned, and Clement II was elected. Clement died shortly thereafter and Benedict seized the throne a third time. He was driven from the throne again, and Damasus II was elected in his stead. He eventually repented of all his actions, resigned the throne permanently and lived a life of penance in the Abbey of Grottaferrata until his death.

In his third book of Dialogues, Pope Victor II referred to Benedict's "rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a Pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it." St. Peter Damian recorded that Benedict "feasted on immorality" and that he was "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest." He accused Benedict IX of routine sodomy and bestiality and repeated the rumor that he was said to have sponsored orgies.

Pope Urban VI (1378-1389) treated the people around him so badly that several cardinals defected, fled Rome, and attempted to elect a different pope. This began the Great Western Schism, when two different lines of men both claimed to be pope, and each was backed by a saint and doctor of the Church. Urban himself was subject to at least two attempts to assassinate or depose him, both plots hatched by cardinals of the Church.

And these are just some of the finest examples of papal depravity that could be brought forward. There are more. If you insist on being scandalized by bad popes, or leaving the Church because of a bad pope, why on earth would you choose to balk at the present contender when so many better examples of great papal sinners are available?

So, we have had bad popes. Although the evidence is still by no means clear, let us grant, for the sake of argument, that this particular pope, Benedict XVI, could be numbered with them.

So what?

As Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461) declared, in his third homily for Christmas Day, "the dignity of Peter suffers no diminution even in an unworthy successor" (cujus dignitas etiam in indigno haerede non deficit).

Even by 450 AD, less than 70 years after the Church had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church had already seen anti-popes and attacks on the popes that overshadow anything the 20th or 21st century has produced. The fact that people are outraged when some evil can be attributed to a priest, bishop or even Pope is merely a demonstration that everyone holds the Church in the highest regard.

What is barely newsworthy in reference to public school teachers, what is roundly ignored when it comes to other faiths, this same conduct is considered outrageous in Catholic Faith precisely because our Faith is true and none of the others are.

The Magisterium of the Catholic Church is the sole source of moral Truth. When our leaders fail, it is a much greater failing.

"The latter are forgiven nothing", says De Maistre in his great work, Du Pape, "because everything is expected from them, wherefore the vices lightly passed over in a Louis XIV become most offensive and scandalous in an Alexander VI" (II, c. xiv).

Thanks for affirming what we already knew, Bonnie.


Matt C. Abbott said...

Good commentary!

Jim in Cancun said...

Great commentary but unfortunately not very PC nowadays! LOL

Brian Sullivan said...

And we won't even discuss how the ritual of Jewish circumcision passes on HIV to infants...

It was Herpes, not HIV and your wording makes it sound like there's something wrong with the ritual per se and not just this particular rabbi's way of doing it.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, Brian, the ritual has actually transmitted herpes, tuberculosis, syphilis, HIV and a number of other diseases. But, as that wasn't the main point of the article, I didn't run down the whole list or lay out the whole problem.

And, FYI, there is something wrong with the ritual per se, because the ritual calls for the rabbi to suck on the child's damaged penis.

Anonymous said...

How I see it Annual Scandal Week has begun

Ann said...

Great points! You have a way of really clarifying things.

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Anonymous said...

There will always be evil clergy, and the job of the faithful is always to pray and make sacrifices for them. That is something not taught in most churches anymore. People are recommended to pray in their own way; but sacrifice? That is what is needed - AND fasting, as Jesus Himself said to do.
Also: bad clergy cannot rob a soul from Heaven, unless the soul does not seek Salvation either by design or neglect. God is good.

Arun said...

Yes, Christ called weak humans to be glorified with him. When they give in to their weakness which satan sponsored they fall from his grace. That is one of the reasons why Judas fell and why Christ was crucified.
How come no body wants to talk about judas or the jews who crucified Christ today?

The Church is based on the freedom of will of man to follow God or not.

The fact that the Church as an institution has survived well through all these trials only proves its divinity.