Friday, March 1, 2013

Accusations of Vatican Corruption Are Nothing New

I've written before about how the persistent accusations against high-ranking Church officials of failing to report (or covering up) credible accusations of child rape and abuse at the hands of priests goes back to the Investiture Contest. But it wasn't until Joseph Ratzinger, formerly known as Pope Benedict XVI, retired that I realized that there are other similarities between the Catholic Church of the eleventh century and the twenty-first century. 

A fascinating interview with Vatican beat reporter John Thavis on Fresh Air shed light on all kinds of possible conspiracies, cover-ups, misdeeds, and shenanigans. Cronyism is apparently pretty common, and there are many who think that this kind of petty corruption should not be part of the Church. In 2009, the former pope revoked the excommunication of a bishop who denied the existence of the Holocaust. Clerical sex abuse scandals have rocked Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Australia; in the US, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have seen indictments and resignations of high-ranking Church officials over this same issue. Some claim that Ratzinger knew far more about the extent of the abuse, and worked to cover it up before he became pope. The former pope's former butler was tried for leaking classified Vatican documents to journalists; these leaks led to recent revelations about wire-tapping of Vatican officials and authorized by the secretariat of state.

In the eleventh century, many clerics were disgusted by the corruption and immorality they saw in Rome. Cronyism, nepotism, and simony were rampant. Some popes were accused of necromancy, fornication, theft, and even murder. Many of these accusations were politically motivated, and some were leveled at popes after their deaths. But in the eleventh (and twelfth) century, the struggle for power was between the papacy and secular powers (such as the Holy Roman Emperor). Now the struggle is taking place within the Church itself.

No comments: