National Commentary

What Most Threatens the Catholic Church

The non-stop live media coverage of the Vatican conclave to choose a new Pope is tedious, inappropriate and crying out for a redress of the unholy crimes this archaic institution has perpetuated for centuries.

How ironic that the likes of Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow – especially, given the Catholic church’s unrelenting opposition to any associated with the enfranchisement of gay and lesbian people – have joined the ecstatic suspension of disbelief to flood us with all this pomp and inner-church minutia, and more focus on puffs of smoke than in even the most excessive Cheech and Chong movie.

The Catholic church played an important role in the development of western civilization, especially the period known as the Dark Ages between the fall of the Roman Empire and the dawning of the Renaissance.

For 1,000 years, roughly, from St. Augustine’s ministry in the early 400s AD until, let’s say, Donatello’s creation in 1429 AD of a free-standing bronze statue of David, the Catholic church held together what passed for civilization in Europe.

However, its fallacies and shortcomings began to emerge as humanity recovered the identity that shaped its earlier glories through the translation of the ancient Greek philosophers and Roman historians.

The invention of moveable type, beginning with the Gutenberg press in the 1450s, led to an explosion of free and independent thinking, something to which the Catholic church did not, and has not since, reacted at all well.

The Catholic church met the subsequent Reformation with brutality and repression, including the genocidal Spanish Inquisition and other manifestations of its counter-reformation, claiming “Papal infallibility” to justify its crimes, which extended to anyone pursuing the advancement of science, the tragic case of Galileo being exemplary.

The American revolution, and the radical European Enlightenment that fomented it, had the “separation of church and state” among the matters at its very core, advocating the universality of science and education, over superstition and blind authority, as among the most prized “inalienable rights of man.”

In the 20th century, the Catholic church arranged for the special status of its Vatican headquarters by cutting a Devil’s compact in 1929 with Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy, exchanging its support of fascism for gaining status as a sovereign state, a status which has not been questioned since.

The inevitable consequence of the advance of the extension of individual rights in the U.S. in connection with the growth of the public media, and especially with the explosion of the Internet, has led to the latest crisis for the Catholic church.

The public should have no illusions: The scandals rocking the Catholic church today are not recent and not isolated.

What is new, in fact, are the Internet and the growing enfranchisement of individuals who have gradually refused to remain silent in the face of the eons-long claims to a ferocious and frightening arbitrary authority by church priests and officials.

A likely reason that the most recent Pope, Joseph Ratzinger a.k.a. Benedict XVI, quit his job last month was because all the chickens are about to come home to roost right on his head.

As revealed in the outstanding HBO documentary, Alex Gibney’s “Mea Maxima Culpa, Silence in the House of God,” first aired last November, it was in 2001 that, as the head of the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the arm of the Vatican set up to officially prosecute the Inquisitions of the 16th century, Ratzinger ordered that every sexual abuse case within the church, dating back to the fourth century, come to his desk. The recent release of over 50,000 pages of secret church documents will certify this.

Therefore, the person ultimately responsible for all the cover-ups over the last dozen years is none other than Benedict XVI.

The Catholic church remains, objectively, one of the most regressive, male-chauvinist institutions on the planet, starting with its degradation of the role of women. But its claim to a special right to fly above the rule of civil law, without regard for the victims of systematic brutal, sadistic and criminal behavior, is hard-wired and sadly endemic to its very being, and is what threatens most to bring it down, entirely.