Religion, Faith and Sprituality

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sister Veronica Openibo for Pope: Vatican Sex Abuse Summit and he Prelates Hiding Behind Women's Skirts

A former reporter and a Catholic who raised and educated his children in the church asked me recently whether the Church could be sued successfully under RICO. Good question. I think the answer is "no." I read an opinion piece a few weeks ago written by a Catholic theologian and lawyer. (I won’t link to it here; I think it was irresponsible.)  She argued that the Church could not be charged under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and corrupt Organization) because the institutional church’s chief "reason for being" is not profiteering. The Church exists, firstly, she argued, to spread the message of Christ. Any criminal conduct or interests would be secondary.  

While I probably agree, from a personal perspective, that the church is to ensure a presence of Christ in the world, I know that many who are not Catholic would disagree strenuously. Furthermore, having grown up amid new York City social clubs and numbers joints, I know, quite well, many organized crime outfits do not see themselves as branches of organized crime syndicates either.  Rather they often see themselves (erroneously, in my view) as protection, neighborhood watch, custodians of parish religious life and culture. The raison d'etre of the the Roman Catholic Church, is very much in the eye of the beholder. 

We now have ample proof that wide-scale systematic sex crimes have taken place and that leadership at the top presided over the coverup. 

We have lots of evidence of money being laundered through the Institute of Religious Works. That’s two. Together they pass the test for RICO. 

The problem is that the money-laundering is for the most part done internationally. My guess, not being a banking expert, is that it would be difficult to track the financial crimes in the United States due to the lack of transparency of the institutional church in the U.S. and the fact that the center of financial operations of the Church is located in a sovereign nation, Vatican City.  

This is complicated. It is important to stop and notice the role its the complexity of Catholic theology and ecclesiology plays in keeping Catholics powerless. (To give you an idea: there is such a thing as a "vaticanist!") 

There’s a reason that the Vatican is a sovereign nation. The Vatican was able to spirit Bernard Law, a Roman Catholic cardinal and accessory after the fact in multiple child rapes, off to the Vatican with more than 500 civil suits and criminal charges against him pending. 

Any legal effort to prosecute the Vatican for its crimes would have to be international in scope. 

While newspapers like The Financial Times have done a very good job covering the Vatican banking scandal (which I have believed, in part, explains the sudden retirement of the Emeritus and the replacement of him with a more user-friendly model) most Catholics in the pews don’t tend to give much thought to the criminal conduct of their hierarchs.

I recently traveled to Rome with my family, all of whom (me included) were appalled by what we began to call the “disney-esque” characteristics of Vatican City. I’m thinking of the bobble-headed Christs for sale outside Piazza San Pietro, the guards who scold in whisper-yell tones in the Capella Sistina, and the ubiquitous shops found throughout the galleries.

I worked in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City for a few years many years ago, and am an art lover and an amateur painter. The rooms are lousy with treasures. The curation at many points has a sloppy, clotted feel. The whole setup radiates greed. It cost us almost a hundred dollars to enter the Vatican Museums, even with four full-time students in our contingent. There was a student rate, but when I showed my (full-time graduate student in religion!) ID card, the clerk just shook her head and barked, "under 25"! No other museum in the United States or Europe (I've visted more than a dozen since returning to school.) has refused to give me a student rate. 

I was very interested in Vatican art when I visited the Vatican about eight years ago, in June, with one of my daughters, who was 16 at the time. We were aware of the dress code and prepared for it, but we were repulsed by the young men working at the Vatican museum entrances. Their job essentially was to look women over a few times to ensure that they were fit to enter the Vatican. Over and over again I saw my exquisitely beautiful daughter visually-molested by Vatican creeps.

The sight of the devout trying to shove themselves into the mass line on Sunday at the Basilica, the creepy pageantry of processions of altar boys and old prelates in the side altars, lifting the sides of the cardinal's robe as he circled the altar, the security team in dark suits scolding, shoving, being rude to visitors on the sabbath—it all made me feel, in the moment, somewhat ashamed to be Catholic.  

Because I follow Catholic news carefully, I know better that to have any faith at all in the Vatican Sex Abuse summit. I know that it is all damage control and theater designed to keep Catholics tithing, and men entering seminary. And staying. 

No one on the outside knows quite how money works in the Vatican, and thatis intentional. I think one of the things Catholics who decided to stay can do (besides withholding donations, aka, "boycotting the basket") is be mindful of the many ways in which the institutional church, by design, withholds information, not just from the laity, but from Catholics whose orientation is more spiritual than scholarly or analytical. 

Following the trickery of the Roman Catholic Church is a part-time job and many of those claiming sufficient expertise and authority to to do it properly, do nothing but that. 

Many priests and sisters are so overwhelmed doing Christ’s work to track Vatican wrongdoing. One should not have to be a compulsive news reader or Catholic theologian paid by a Roman Catholic institution to be Catholic. 

I am seeing frightening commentary on social media via actual Catholic theologians who might even probably self-identify as progressive. One claimed that to speak of “zero tolerance” is not helpful. One argued that making accusations against John Paul II was somehow a cheap shot. The canonization of John Paul II was damage control, a way to shsine up the image of a man who had many opportunities to address the wide-spread rape of children and declined on the theological basis argument that scandalizing Mother Church was the greater evil than keeping silent about the torture of children. Pope John Paul II made McCarrick a cardinal in 2001. McCarrick’s first accusation dates back to 1984. The college of cardinals is not all that big, and by most accounts, McCarrick’s New Jersey love shack (rape shack) was not exactly a well-kept secret. John Paul II probably knew all about McCarrick. Marcial Maciel, leader of the Legionaries of Christ, got their authority to evangelize from Maciel’s friend, John Paul II. Maciel’s crimes are too long to catalog in a blog post. It may suffice to say that he had many children by a few different women while ministering, raped lots of boys, including one of his own. John Paul II probably knew all about Maciel and his Legionaries. 

It was under John Paul II that Opus Dei obtained the "go ahead" to be a "prelature." Opus Dei is not the cult characterized on the Dan Brown novel, but is incredibly wealthy, concentrates its evangelization efforts in places where wealth is obtained (E.g, Harvard for example is crawling with them.) got its start under the Phalangists in Spain. 

I have having spent a good deal of time attending mass in Spain. My sense is that most of contemporary active Spanish Catholic worship is conducted the leadership of Opus Dei. They are uber-capitalist, have misogynistic ethos, and look quite attractive and well-meaning from the outside. In many ways their approach reminds me of that of Scientologists, in that they over-focus on do-gooding on the face, while focusing on accumulation of wealth behind the mask. Other traditional Catholic groups have an different approach; the thrust of their evangelization is Tridentine, anti-Vatican II. 

I have recently felt alarmed by the increase of liberal Catholic theologians, writers and publications offering apologias for cardinals who rape. Peter Steinfels’ piece in Commonweal Magazine was exciting to read, but his case against the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was unsettling. The tenor of the whole essay suggested that the effort to hold the Vatican responsible was something of a witch hunt. I’m sure several of his points of argument in the piece have merit, the claim, for example, that the Grand Jury Report carelessly slimed some prelates who had already been slimed; that some cardinals had been unofficially convicted without proof, that not enough benefit of the doubt had been dispensed. 

I’m a big Steinfels fan. He’s a fine expert on things Catholic, but because he did not (could not? the piece was very long.) provide enough grounding in what grand jury reports do are are, the piece comes off like a defense of the poor cardinals who were denied benefit of the doubt and other civil rights. Grand juries do not try suspects. Grand jury reports are investigative documents whose goal is to determine whether there is cause to prosecute. If one wishes to understand any possible pattern of error that results in  unfairly casting those named in the document as perpetrators, one would have to compare the Pennsylvania Grant Jury Report to other grand jury reports one other criminal syndicates. The goal of a grand jury report is to discover whether there is enough smoke to suggest a fire. 

Steinfels claimed that nobody read the whole Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. The day his piece came out I heard from quite a few people who read the whole report; some write about it. Steinfels argued that the document was front loaded with salacious details. It was frontloaded with salacious details because it was 1000K plus pages long. Remember that reports filed in 2002, 2004, 2008 covered much of this same territory. The crimes under scrutiny are crimes against children. 

Grand Jury reports are often prolix, and discursive. And all of the reports on the wide-scale sexual abuse of children and ensuing coverups in the Church have been lacking in some ways and not other. One very prominent Catholic theologian I know complains about the very influential John Jay Report; incidents compiled in the John Jay Report, he reminded me, were limited to those reported to Police Departments. It is reasonable to presume on that basis alone that the John Jay Report under-represented the scope of the sex abuse crisis. No report chronicling abuse over a period of two generations involving tens of thousands of crimes (conservative estimate) in fifty states which were covered up by a secret organization that has maintained a policy of destroying and falsifying many of its records of sexual abuse is going to be perfectly fair.  Yet this Steinfels piece got a lot of traction among, and in some cases, praise from liberal Catholics!  

Catholics, Catholic writers are heart-broken. I understand that. I understand how Catholic theologians teaching in Catholic universities, Catholic writers who hearts are broken, and Catholic priests and religious feel. 

But the bottom line is that the fish rots from the head and the wolves can not be trusted to police the henhouse. 

In the US, along with many secular papers of record are, to varying extents, unfortunately, somewhat “in the bag” for the Catholic hierarchy. The press in general is under siege in our nation, and fearful, I believe, in its weakened state, of taking on an institutional church which is more and more aligns itself with autocrats on a global scale. 

This aspect is extremely complicated by an escalating war within the church itself between the traditionalist wing and the more liberal wing. The problem is that both are off track. 

Catholics on the left know the current Pope did not conduct himself as he ought to have but they don't want to cede the church to the traditionalist wing. Liberal Catholic experts know that all of the cardinals and U.S. Bishops should resign, but their fear of the traditional Catholics (Vigano et al) will gain strength is so great that they are mounting a soft defense for the current pontiff. As a consequence of this fear, Catholic liberals are still 
peddling narratives that have these bishops who played Molloch and are now, at long last, contrite, finding the solution to the Vatican sex abuse crisis. 

It is hard to criticize them because these are the Catholics who do are less misogynistic, homophobic and more open to the liberation theology direction of things. 

An Indian cardinal, Oswald Gracias, Mumbai who broke Indian law by refusing to report the rape of a child spoke at the summit, yesterday. According to the BBC he was on a the short list to be elevated to pope

Maybe the experts will shriek in horror later. But today, sanguinity. 

I have also noticed more and more (It has worsened since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, and l’affaire Vigano) that Catholic scholars writing for Catholic publications have become frighteningly tame. So far as I can tell (a hunch) pieces like Lucian Truscott IV’s first person piece about Francis Spellman’s attempts to grope him, Gary Wills’ piece about the clericalism, and Andrew Sullivan’s two pieces about the general corruption of the Vatican are and gay priests not receiving the nearly the kind of Catholic social media attention they should. This may have something to do with the fact that these pieces appeared in publications not bankrolled indirectly by the Roman Catholic Church. Wills, Truscott, and Sullivan are talented intellectuals and writers—outside of their church writings. That’s part of the point. I love reading many of the Catholic writers writing about the Vatican, but I no longer trust those writers; they are way too close to the cake. 

It is hard to know, but I it may be that people in the pews are wallowing in denial, and have no interest in any Catholic news that casts a shadow on their church. They want to go to mass, send their children to Catholic schools, hope for the best and pretend what they hear about the leadership of their church is "a few bad apples." 
It's not a few bad apples.  

Those American Catholics who are more able to face the truth about their bishops, those fully nauseated by the systematic child rape, bigotry and coverup, those who are sickened by the homophobia and misogyny, have left. They're not coming back. 

One of the reasons I believe it is essential for all consumers of news to fight off Vatican corruption fatigue is that what gets promulgated from the Vatican has a tremendous effect on global politics. In the United States, the institutional church is currently fighting same-sex marriage, mobilizing to overturn Roe, and to some degree aligning itself with the white supremacist right. 

We watched the way we Vatican misogyny infused Brett Kavanaugh’s disposition and saw the MAGA/Catholicism link via the Covington high school boys conduct. He may have somehow been Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s pal, but Antonin Scalia was an Opus Dei Catholic whose views found their way into his Supreme Court decision-making/writing. Opus Dei Catholics believe in complementarity between the sexes. They still view "homosexuals" as "disordered." That’s not too far from yesterday’s papal take on feminism. Reiterating a fresh version of his 'women as strawberries on the cake' ethos, Pope Francis, yesterday, in this 2019th year of our Lord, as they say, dismissed and denounced “feminism,” declaring that feminism was just machismo in a skirt. 

Pope Francis fooled a lot of feminists. I was never one of them. The pope's message at every turn, on the matter of women, has been no less sexist, no less misogynistic that that of his predecessors. Over and over again we hear the pontiff preach against racism, xenophobia and bigotry while practicing misogyny on a daily basis. A pope who is not doing all he can to advocate for the ordination of women has no moral authority to preach on the matter of bigotry.  

Yesterday the Vatican put an exemplary Nigerian nun out in front, so they could hide behind her skirts. The Vatican has a history of using women in this manner. 

There was lots of talk about mothers at the summit yesterday. Our of the over 100 representatives at the summit, two mothers were present.  If they could swallow their misogyny, the Curia could save the institutional church by making Sister Veronica Openibo pope. But they won’t, because girls aren't allowed to set that omerta holy card on fire. 

On the other hand, I attended a beautiful mass last night. At that mass everything deep that is untouched by embarrassment in me rose to the surface, as, why I haven’t yet bolted became clear---at least for that moment. 


Michele Somerville. February 23, 2019, Cambridge, MA 

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