How Deep a Wound?

Allegations of priestly abuse are hammering the Roman Catholic Church. Will the scandal diminish the Vatican’s power and global influence?
From the June 2002 Trumpet Print Edition

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark ….” Thus spoke Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, having seen the “ghost” of things past.

Perhaps one could be forgiven for assuming that, as a result of the flood of allegations unleashed against Roman Catholic priests, something is rotten in the Vatican State. But, always intent on burying the “ghosts” of its past, that’s not the way the Vatican views it.

Division of Views

Last January, the Boston Globe exposed the dereliction of duty of the Boston archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in its dealing with a pedophile priest. Over the ensuing months, this scandal rippled across the Atlantic to vibrate along the halls of the Vatican. What began as an archdiocesan scandal became a universal catastrophe for the average practicing Catholic, as further reports lifted the lid on the abuse of office, evasion, dissembling and Romish secrecy within the church hierarchy.

Yet, over the past six months, there has emerged a clear and very obvious difference between the Vatican and American Catholics on the abuse of many of their most vulnerable constituents—children—by their priestly mentors.

In the U.S., a coalition of Catholic groups in consortium with a group of legal experts has accused the Vatican of being culpable in the scandalous behavior of pedophile priests. They even called upon the United Nations to make the Vatican more accountable for the abuse of children. The group has a powerful argument to put to the UN. “[T]he coalition said the Holy See was among the first to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and, as such, it should be held accountable for not insisting that those standards were upheld” (Star, May 9).

Thus the coalition expresses what appears to be the majority view in America, which is that the damage done to children by priests who prey on them to satisfy perverted sexual appetites can hardly be overestimated.

But this view is markedly at odds with that held by the Vatican hierarchy across the Atlantic. To say that the Holy See has tended to downplay these scandalous incidents is bordering on profound understatement.

With the pope’s hand forced by the media wringing the most out of the stories of priestly pedophilia, he called an emergency meeting to give a dozen U.S. cardinals guidance in confronting this scandal. What emerged from that meeting seemingly only added fuel to the smoldering fire of increasing perception that something is rotten in Rome.

“[T]he pope has not apologized for anything, nor has he acknowledged anything amiss in the hierarchy’s decades of dissembling—or, as he dismissively put it, the way church leaders ‘are perceived to have acted’”! (New York Times, May 4; emphasis mine throughout).

This seems to be the general view of many on the western side of the Atlantic.

As the New York Times had observed in an earlier edition, “For all the urgency felt in the parishes of Boston, New York and elsewhere in the United States, Rome has showed itself to be more blasé” (April 24).

The reaction from Catholic laity to this pompous popery has been profound.

Far removed from reality in his ivory tower within Vatican City is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. As author/editor of many a papal encyclical, and the pope’s enforcer on church doctrine by virtue of his office as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the old Inquisition), he has washed the hands of Vatican responsibility in this horrid affair. This was accomplished by him simply declaring, “The American bishops have already decided they will have a day of expiation, probably on the Feast of the Sacred Heart [June 7], which is traditionally a day of expiation for our sins” (New York Times, May 3).

The audience of U.S. cardinals with the pope and Rome’s hierarchy Ratzinger clinically summed up as “very opportune and very fraternal, also for understanding points of view that were very diverse” (ibid.). This seems a curt waving away of the collective hurt to dozens of children, youth and their families as but a mere annoyance to the business of Rome.

As if to underline the dismissive attitude of the Vatican to the scandal, the Holy See created a diversion by seeking to force attention away from its priests onto the looseness of repentance by the laity!

“The Vatican announced today that it was cracking down on priests who had become too free in granting group absolution to sinners or otherwise become lax confessors.

“Pope John Paul ii called for the changes in an apostolic letter, which also said, ‘It is clear that penitents living in a habitual state of serious sin and who do not intend to change their situation cannot validly receive absolution’” (ibid.).

As the Times reacted, “It was mostly the timing of the letter demanding that priests cut back on blanket absolutions that was a surprise, given the perception of American Catholics coping with sexual abuse scandals involving priests that it is church leaders who should themselves be asking for forgiveness now” (ibid.).

Extent of the Problem

But, was it ever any different? Are the present charges of Vatican dissembling, neglect and plain indifference only a symptom of the present ailing pope’s perceived waning hold on papal power? Opinion on the street in Rome has it otherwise. As a newsstand operator on the avenue which leads to the Vatican commented, “The church is 2,000 years old, and it has always made us believe things which are not true. Its manipulation of history is well known.” His girlfriend chimed in, “The pedophilia of priests has existed for centuries. They are just better at covering it up here” (New York Times, April 24).

Numerous reports have emerged over the past decade indicating that similar scandalous behavior by priests has been extant in Europe from Belgium to Poland. Last year, the Vatican was forced to acknowledge a most condemning report that cited cases of illicit relations between priests, nuns and missionaries (involving both rape and forced abortion in some cases) within 23 countries, including Italy, Ireland, Brazil, the Philippines, India, Africa and the U.S.

Murky Moral Morass

The facts of documented history clearly reveal that the Roman Catholic Church, and, in particular, many of its past leaders, has been anything but a font of moral purity.

Church historian and ex-priest Malachi Martin struck at the heart of Rome’s murky moral morass when he stated, “Anybody who is acquainted with the state of affairs in the Vatican in the last 35 years is well aware that the prince of darkness has had and still has his surrogates in the court of St. Peter in Rome” (New American, March 3, 1997).

Strong words indeed. Martin was, in fact, commenting on the repeated claims of Archbishop Milingo, who maintains that “there are members of the Catholic Church hierarchy in Rome who are secretly involved in formal satanic worship. … To the question, ‘Are there men of the curia who are followers of Satan?’ Milingo responded, ‘Certainly there are priests and bishops. I stop at this level of ecclesiastical hierarchy because I am an archbishop, higher than this I cannot go’” (ibid.). The archbishop quoted Pope Paul vi as charging that “the smoke of Satan had entered into the Vatican.”

It is a commentary on the Western press that, when Milingo addressed an international audience of bishops, priests, nuns and laity at the Fatima 2000 International Congress on World Peace in Rome during November 1996, the media ignored his startling claim. He maintained that fellow clergymen were protecting Satan and his minions: “The devil in the Catholic Church is so protected now that he is like an animal protected by the government” (ibid.). The New American went on to declare, “The U.S. media, ever attentive to the demands and fulminations of feminist nuns, apostate priests, prattling perverts and heretical theologians, took a walk on this stunning story.”

Crisis in the Cathedrals

Notwithstanding the Vatican’s efforts to distance itself from the scandals within its U.S. leadership, the media exposure given to this latest litany of licentiousness has caused an undeniable crisis within the Roman Catholic Church. It has been rocked to its foundations. This is particularly true in the English-speaking nations, which are the source of much of the church’s continuing wealth.

The Times of London observed, “Aged 82, and in failing health, the most that Pope John Paul ii can hope to do about the pedophilia scandal is to contain it before it irrevocably damages the Roman Catholic Church. …

“Increasingly the pope’s Polish and Italian-dominated inner circle realizes that events in America could soon rebound on the ‘impregnable’ Vatican itself” (April 22).

Within America, USAToday inferred that there would be no recovery of the credibility of the Catholic clergy for some time. This paper claimed that the U.S. hierarchy “for two decades has reacted to accusations of sexual abuse with secret payoffs, lies and hardball court tactics.” It said that unprecedented openness would be required to keep a commitment to true reform from falling victim “to the same forces that have allowed the sex-abuse scandal to fester” (April 23).

The problem is, “openness to keep a commitment to true reform” has never been the Vatican’s long suit. To commit to reform, the Vatican would have to admit to the real nature and the true cause of its present crisis.

In reality, there is no evidence to prove that predator priests happen to be more common than predator doctors, teachers or social workers. At the human level, the true scandal is the recurring failure of the Catholic Church to comprehend and admit the extent of the problem and to enact measures to care for and to protect its constituents from the prospect of perverted behavior by any of its priesthood.

As a New York Times editorial pointed out, “The Boy Scouts … adopted a clear, firm policy to protect children from molestation 19 years ago. The Catholic bishops and their Vatican handlers, meanwhile, are still parsing the rhetorical fine points of ‘zero tolerance,’ which is at best an empty slogan (does anyone favor ’10 percent tolerance’?) and at worst a way of abdicating responsibility” (May 4).

But it is at the spiritual level, the level of ultimate reality, that the true cause and nature of this problem is revealed. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). Yet, to admit the fact of satanic influence as the cause of the perversions of some of its clergy would be to entertain the prospect of Archbishop Milingo’s claims as holding some elements of truth. That would cut to the quick the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church to its highest levels, and that is something that the pope and his minions will never sanction!

Politics and Doctrine First

Many commentators point back to this present pope, John Paul ii, as being to blame for the Catholic Church’s present scandal. The New York Times was particularly scathing in the placement of blame on this ailing pope: “The distrust is the legacy of Pope John Paul ii. …

“Karol Wojtyla has shaped a hierarchy that is intolerant of dissent, unaccountable to its members, secretive in the extreme and willfully clueless about how people live. …

“But like the communists, John Paul has carefully constructed a Kremlin that will be inhospitable to a reformer. He has strengthened the Vatican equivalent of the party Central Committee, called the curia, and populated it with reactionaries” (ibid.).

As the Times mused, hearkening back to Russian premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, there will be no glasnost on John Paul ii’s watch!

There is no doubt that despite his present physical ailments, Pope John Paul ii has been a strong pope. Not only that, the period of his papacy, which extends from his enthronement in 1978, has been underpinned by the rigidity of Cardinal Ratzinger in terms of enforcing church doctrine. Seldom has the history of the Roman Catholic Church reflected a pontificate with a powerful political pope at the same time as a rigidly strong, renowned cardinal as enforcer on doctrinal issues.

This team from the beginning of John Paul ii’s reign attacked those within the ranks of the priesthood who demonstrated liberal tendencies on doctrine. They brought to book the liberal priesthood in Latin America and replaced their leaders with men who toed the Vatican party line. They stacked the deck of the curia to guarantee a right-wing successor to John Paul ii by crowning an overwhelming number of right-wingers as cardinals.

This pope has solidified diplomatic relations with 173 countries, plus the European Union. He has repeatedly called for Europe to return to its Catholic roots. He has been totally inflexible on doctrine.

This is all for an ultimate purpose of which few are aware, but of which our long-time readers ought to be very much cognizant.

Prophesied Pope

A clear two years prior to Karol Wojtyla being enthroned in 1978, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote of an earlier crisis in the Catholic Church and predicted the outcome. He considered the breakdown of authority within the Catholic hierarchy leading to the liberal movement in the Catholic Church, and noted the rampant defying of the church’s traditional authority. He declared, “The Vatican must know that unless this drift away from church authority is broken by sharp and drastic action, disintegration threatens the largest church or religion in the world.

“Biblical prophecy indicates the strong possibility right now of … the emergence of a new pope of iron will who will propose what the nations of Europe have all wanted, but have been unable to bring about—a politically united Europe” (Plain Truth, June 1976).

Within two years, Herbert Armstrong’s prediction was clearly fulfilled with the ascension of Karol Wojtyla to the papal throne, crowned as Pope John Paul ii. The reason for the accuracy of that prediction is simply because Herbert Armstrong’s declaration was underpinned by the “sure word of prophecy” (ii Pet. 1:19).

Without the dramatic moves of John Paul ii and his confidante, the German Cardinal Ratzinger, the stage could never have been set for the phoenix of the Holy Roman Empire to rise from the ashes of history as we see it today!

Commenting on the situation in which the European Community found itself in the 1970s, Herbert Armstrong declared, “The political leaders of Europe have been unable to bring this political union about. But an offer from the pope to use the power of his office to join the nations together in a resurrection of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ would bring it about” (ibid.).

With clear vision, he continued: “This unprecedented situation now calls for sudden and drastic action. It would mean a common currency for a union of 10 nations in Europe. It could mean one military force, which would be as strong as the armed forces of the USA or the USSR—or maybe even stronger” (ibid.).

Then, with masterful foresight, he summed up: “Sooner or later such a European union will take place. I have predicted this for 43 years!

“It will astound and dumbfound the whole world when it happens. The time is now ripe!” (ibid.).

The world is just beginning to become astounded and dumbfounded, in some circles, as to the nature of the beastly power which has arisen in Europe since Herbert Armstrong penned those words.

Consider: The European Union has used the pope’s power to initiate the solidification of the Balkans as its first colonies. The pope inspired the driving of the initial wedge, in his Polish homeland, which cracked wide open the facade of the USSR and exposed it for the sham it was. This led to the USSR’s disintegration and the freeing up of the Eastern European countries to revive their Catholic roots and link with the EU. The European Union now has its common currency. It is right now beavering away at developing its own military force!

Where It Is All Leading

You really do need to know where this is all leading. With the vision of prophecy which Herbert Armstrong had, it becomes clear.

This papacy has had its priorities clearly in mind: Re-establish Vatican authority, clear out the liberals, reiterate Catholic doctrine and install a curia (papal court) that would carry on the doctrinaire approach in the next papacy. All this is now largely achieved—but at a cost. The cost has been the neglect of and seeming tolerance of clerical behavior hurtful to the church laity.

So what is the Vatican’s perceived solution? To paint this latest scandal as something unique to the United States!

Already hated within many circles in Europe, America becomes victim of its own vices, which all the world can too readily see through the corrupting influence of American music, cinema and television. America’s case is not helped at all by the Supreme Court decision to strike down major sections of the 1996 Child Pornography Act.

America becomes the outcast—the one despised. The pope, like King Herod, washes his hands of the affair and gifts his “correction” back to the American prelates who oversaw this whole sorry mess with mind-numbing inaction from the beginning.

Yet a crisis it is, and beyond the U.S. it has reached. Such a crisis will call, sooner or later, for strong action. But not from this ailing pope. The general view, which seems reasonable given the circumstances of the pope’s ill health, is that a cleanup will be left to the next pope. Right wing he shall be, doctrinaire will be his mindset. This pope has devoted his iron will to fulfilling his goals of raising the political power and diplomatic influence of the Vatican on the world scene. He has helped topple the great Communist regime of the USSR and set the scene for the unification of Eastern and Western Europe into one huge combine. The next pope will enforce the spiritual power of the church!

Source of All Evil

Speaking of the source of all evil, the Apostle John was inspired in visionary revelation to prophesy of a time when “the great dragon was cast out … which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). That time has come! Write for a copy of our booklet Daniel Unsealed at Last, and prove this to yourself! That evil spiritual power will inspire and motivate the developing European combine under the influence of its chief religion.

“… I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (Rev. 17:3-4). That great church has a history of sexual and spiritual perversion! It has for millennia been the great harborer of abomination, from the time of ancient Babylon!

“And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (v. 5).

That great religion also has a history of seeking to destroy God’s true Church! “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration” (v. 6).

Yes! Archbishop Milingo’s revelation of the true source of Vatican power will soon come into focus! That power will not only move the mind of a future pope to force papal will on Roman Catholic constituents. It will inspire the leadership of a huge, soul-destroying Euro-empire which will roll across the North Sea and the English Channel right across the Atlantic to engulf Anglo-America!

This is the end of the dramatic vision which Herbert Armstrong foresaw! This is future reality! But, thank the Eternal God, this horrifying vision is but a forerunner to that great, unsurpassable power for peace which will destroy the great spiritual Babylon of Revelation forever.

“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all” (Rev. 18:21). It will never again rise to perpetrate its perverted practices on children, youths, families, or on any member of society. True religion will then prevail as the Christ-led priesthood of God fulfills its God-given role to the common man: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).