Monday, October 24, 2005


The Church and its Cardinals

• The figures quoted from Richard Sope showed that the sexual activity of gay and straight priests is roughly the same – about 20% are inclined to sexual affairs, and half of those engage in them. (Papal Sin: Structure of Deceit by Garry Wills)

• Members of the Catholic clergy have been involved in many pedophilia scandals in the past and continue to become involved in them today. It is extremely difficult to obtain estimates of how many due to the secrecy invoked by the Catholic Church. In many cases, the victims and their families are forced to remain silent on the issue to receive their settlement and we cannot expect the Catholic Church to come out and publicize the wrongs of its clergy. (Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church by Donald Cozzens ")

• Francis Joseph Spellman, later Francis Cardinal Spellman (May 4 1889 – December 2, 1967) was the 9th bishop (6th archbishop) of the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York. Born in Whitman, MA, graduated from North American College in Rome and was ordained a priest on May 14th 1916. Appointed Archbishop of New York on April 15, 1939, elevated to Cardinal on February 18,1946 where he served until his death. He is interred in the crypt under the altar of St. Patrick’s cathedral. In 1942 Spellman formed a liaison with a chorus boy who appeared in One Touch of Venus. The archconservative Spellman was the epitome of the self-loathing, closeted, evil queen, working with his good friend, the closeted gay McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn, to undermine liberalism in America during the 1950s' communist and homosexual witch hunts. The church has squelched Spellman's not-so-secret gay life quite successfully, most notably by pressuring The New York Times to don the drag of the censor back in the 1980s. The Times today may be out front exposing every little nasty detail in the Catholic Church's abuse scandal-a testament to both the more open discussion of such issues today and the church's waning power in New York-but not even 20 years ago the Times was covering up Spellman's sexual secrets many years after his death, clearly fearful of the church's revenge if the paper didn't fall in line. (During Spellman's reign and long afterward, all of New York's newspapers in fact cowered before the Catholic Church. On Spellman's orders New York's department stores-owned largely by Catholics-pulled ads from the then-liberal New York Post in the 1950s after publisher Dorothy Schiff wrote commentary critical of his right-wing positions; Schiff was forced to back down on her positions.) In the original bound galleys of former Wall Street Journal reporter John Cooney's Spellman biography, The American Pope-published in 1984 by Times Books, which was then owned by the New York Times Co.-Spellman's gay life was recounted in four pages that included interviews with several notable individuals who knew Spellman as a closeted homosexual. Among Cooney's interview subjects was C.A. Tripp, the noted researcher affiliated with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research, who shared information that he had on Spellman regarding the prelate's homosexuality. In a telephone interview with Tripp last week, he told me that his information came from a Broadway dancer in the show One Touch of Venus who had a relationship with Spellman back in the 1940s; the prelate would have his limousine pick up the dancer several nights a week and bring him back to his place. When the dancer once asked Spellman how he could get away with this, Tripp says Spellman answered, "Who would believe that?" The anecdote is also recounted in John Loughery's history of gay life in the 20th century, The Other Side of Silence. "In New York's clerical circles, Spellman's sex life was a source of profound embarrassment and shame to many priests," Cooney had written in the original manuscript of his book. When Mitchell Levitas, who was then the editor of The New York Times Book Review, received the manuscript for review, he realized it was a book that would make big news; he sent the book over to Arthur Gelb, who was then the managing editor of The New York Times. Gelb assigned reporter Ed McDowell to the story. McDowell interviewed Cooney, and went about interviewing others who were relevant to the story, including church officials. The archdiocese, however, went ballistic when presented with the information, and became determined to keep it from being published. Chief among those orchestrating the cleansing of Spellman's past sex life was none other than the current gay-basher Monsignor Clark, who, in an interview with the Times, called the assertions "preposterous," commenting that "if you had any idea of [Spellman's] New England background" you'd realize these were "foolish" charges. (I guess there are no homosexuals north of Connecticut, right?) The church sent John Moore, the retired U.S. ambassador to Ireland and a close friend and confidant of several church officials, to appeal to Sidney Gruson, then vice chairman of the New York Times Co. "The Times was going to report that Cardinal Spellman was a homosexual," Moore later told journalist Eric Nadler, who wrote a piece for Forum about the ugly little cover-up, "and I was determined to stop it." Moore told Nadler that this was the "third or fourth" time he had appealed to the Times regarding a sensitive church matter. "They've always done the right thing," he said. As Cooney describes it, he was soon told by his editors at Times Books that his sourcing wasn't good enough, and that the four pages would have to be cut. He could keep a paragraph that alluded to the "rumors," but he would have to state that the rumors had been strongly contested by many people-even though, in his research, that had not truly been the case. The discussion of Spellman's homosexuality in the book was reduced to mere speculation, which was branded as irrelevant: For years rumors abounded about Cardinal Spellman being a homosexual. As a result, many felt-and continue to feel-that Spellman the public moralist may well have been a contradiction of the man of the flesh. Others within the Church and outside have steadfastly dismissed such claims. Finally, to make an absolute statement about Spellman's sexual activities is to invite an irresolvable debate and to deflect attention from his words and deeds. The dutiful Times then had another former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and friend of the Church, William V. Shannon, review The American Pope for the Book Review. Shannon's review was scathing, attacking Cooney for even bringing the subject up at all: "Prurient interest in the sex lives of public figures serves no useful purpose." A Jesuit priest wrote a letter to the Book Review, published a few weeks later: "Cardinal Spellman's sex life does not matter, but [his] homosexuality does... It matters to thousands of people whose jobs, relationships and whose very lives are threatened because of their sexuality, all the while being forced to view and eat the hypocrisy of their church. And it enrages people that church men and women can retain their jobs, hiding behind their clerical and religious statutes while their own people suffer persecution, disease and discrimination." Sadly, the Jesuit's words still ring true today, almost 20 years later. While Spellman has been long dead, his legacy of hypocrisy lives on: there are closeted homosexuals-often condemning "sexual immorality" publicly while having gay sex privately-throughout the uppermost echelons of the church today. The gay movement in the past 15 years has taken on the Hollywood closet and the Washington political closet, both with dramatic success-and both those institutions have p.r. operations far more sophisticated than the Vatican's antiquated machine, which can't even seem to get the aging cardinals to attend a press conference. The media these days also has a much greater appetite for exposing sexual hypocrisy, and is no longer cowed by the Catholic Church. Going down this treacherous road of increased gay-bashing and scapegoating, the Vatican perhaps doesn't realize what it may be unleashing upon itself. If I were a closeted bishop or cardinal in America, I would be very afraid. (

• Giuseppe Cardinal Siri (20 May 1906 - 2 May 1989) was a senior cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. As Archbishop of Genoa, he was one of the more conservative Catholic prelates of the Second Vatican Council. He had been raised to the cardinalate by Pope Pius XII. It has been claimed that Siri was in fact elected to the papacy twice; in 1958 and 1963 (even announcing in the Papal Conclave that he wished to be known as Pope Gregory XVII) but that on both occasions when faced with threats that Catholics in the Eastern Bloc would face persecution on account of his fiercely anti-Soviet Union opinions in the event of his assuming the papacy, he declined the Papal Tiara, a not unknown occurrence. Given that the conduct of papal conclaves is strictly confidential and that any cardinal revealing the details would face instant excommunication, no documentary evidence has ever been proven to substantiate or disprove the widely claimed rumor. Siri was a leading candidate for the papacy in both the August and October 1978 conclaves that followed the deaths of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I respectively. Media reports suggested that Siri in fact topped the first count of votes in the August conclave but ultimately was beaten by Albino Cardinal Luciani, who became Pope John Paul I. Following Luciani's death in the papacy, Siri was the leading conservative candidate against Giovanni Benelli, the leading liberal candidate. Vatican writers suggested that the eventual winner, Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II, was chosen as a compromise candidate between the two. Though championed by conservative Catholics following the widespread rumors that he had actually been elected to the papacy in 1958 and 1963 (when the eventual winners were Angelo Cardinal Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) and Giovanni Cardinal Montini (Pope Paul VI)) Siri remaining in full communion with the Catholic Church and refused to support any sedevacantist conservative catholic organization. He died on 2nd May 1989. (

• Pope Pious XII Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Eugenio Pacelli (March 2, 1876 - October 9, 1958) was the Roman Catholic pope from March 2, 1939 to 1958. He was the only pope to exercise his Extraordinary (Solemn) Magisterium (that is, to claim Papal Infallibility) in the 20th century when he formally defined the dogma of the Assumption in his 1950 his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. Pius's actions and inactions during World War II have become a matter of major dispute. Pope John Paul II in the 1990s proclaimed him Venerable, a step on the road to sainthood. As Papal Secretary of State, Pacelli signed a concordat with the German government (see image). The signing of the concordat proved controversial in hindsight, being described by some historians and by critics of the Roman Catholic Church as giving Hitler's regime international acceptance, given that at the time it was signed, the Enabling Act of March 23 had already granted Hitler dictatorial powers; mass arrests and book burnings had taken place, and the first official concentration camp, Dachau, had been created (though the concentration camps and their usage did not become widely known until some years later). All political parties except for the NSDAP had effectively been dissolved by July 14. On 2 March 1939, Pacelli became the first Secretary of State since 1667 to become pope; he took the name Pope Pius XII. Pius XII's role during World War II has been a source of major controversy. What is universally agreed is that Pope Pius XII followed a policy of public neutrality during the Second World War mirroring that of Pope Benedict XV during the First World War. Pius's main argument for that policy was twofold. That public condemnation of Hitler and Nazism would have achieved little of practical benefit, given that his condemnation could effectively be censored and so unknown to German Catholics (who in any case had been told as early as the early 1930s by the German Roman Catholic hierarchy that Nazism and Catholicism were incompatible). Secondly, Pius argued that had he condemned Nazism more aggressively, the result would have been repression of Roman Catholicism within Nazi Germany, making low level work against Nazi policies at parish and diocese level difficult, in turn cutting off secret escape routes which were used by many Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals to escape deportation to Nazi extermination camps. Historians differ in their acceptance of this justification for Pope Pius XII's policies. Adolf Hitler wanted to kidnap Pope Pious XII during WWII. Avventure (Italian Catholic Daily Jan 14, 2005) says that the Nazi commander in Rome warned the pope in 1944 of Hitler’s Abduction plan. The newspaper cited a written statement by Gen. Karl Wolff, the head of the SS in German-occupied Rome, saying that Hitler consider the pope a “friend of the Jews” The major question that arises is why Pius XII did not raise his voice in public forcefully against the Nazi cruelty. Here are some possible answers to this question, given by Catholic writers: No successful results could be expected, public condemnation would have had little influence on the Nazi authorities, and it could endanger other activities that were still possible. Speaking publicly would harm the Jews, whom the pope in fact wanted to help. Some of the victims could still be saved, but only through discreet private interventions. A public intervention against the German government could provoke a schism among German Catholics, as well as measures against the Vatican and the head of the church. Pius XII's hope of acting as a mediator in the war was incompatible with the condemnation of any one of the belligerents; he could forfeit any claim to the role of peacemaker if he once modified his position of neutrality. The international character of the Catholic Church, its freedom from politics, and its impartiality toward all belligerents. The fear that the Gestapo might seize the pope and the Vatican. The alarm caused by the increasing threat of communism to eastern Europe. The controversy about Pius XII and the Holocaust is still open. At the end of his visit to Israel in 1964, Pope Paul VI came to Pius's defense in Jerusalem. On March 12, 1979, Pope John Paul II met with Jewish leaders in Rome and said: "I am happy to evoke in your presence today the dedicated and effective work of my predecessor Pius XII on behalf of the Jewish people." In a meeting with American Jewish leaders in September 1987 in Miami, John Paul II again recalled the positive attitude of Pius XII. However, his passivity in the face of the Holocaust remains a controversial subject. (

• Albino Luciani (October 17, 1912 - September 28, 1978), was elected pope on August 26 1978 and died 33 days later on 28 September 1978, after one of the shortest reigns in papal history. He was elected at the third ballot of the Papal Conclave, and this quick choice has been seen as a sign of probably rapidly achieved unanimous consensus. The reason for the selection was generally believed to be linked to the severe divisions between rival camps within the College of Cardinals; between conservatives and Curialists supporting Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, but who was fiercely opposed by liberals and supporters of Vatican II, some Vatican II supporters and some Italian cardinals supporting Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, others passionately opposing him because of his 'autocratic' tendencies, the dwindling band of supporters of Sergio Cardinal Pignedoli, himself so confident that he was papabile that he went on a crash diet to fit the right size of white cassock when elected. Outside the Italians, now themselves a dwindling band within the increasingly internationalist College of Cardinals, were figures like Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, "the foreigner" whom John Paul I predicted would succeed him. (Luciani didn't name this 'foreigner', just repeated that he had sat facing him in the Conclave. The seating plans in the Sistine Chapel for the August 1978 conclave showed that the man opposite Luciani was Wojtyla.) . Many, including the cardinals, expected a long conclave, deadlocked between the camps. Luciani was an easy compromise; a pastor more in the spirit of Vatican II than an austere intellectual, a man with little autocratic pretensions and so less unwelcome to some than Benelli (who in a double blow was on the brink of being made Secretary of State only to lose the appointment with John Paul I's death, and who came within a handful of votes of being elected pope in the October conclave, only to be overtaken by Wojtyla). And for Italian cardinals, determined not to 'lose' the papacy to a non-Italian for the first time in centuries and faced with other controversial Italian candidates, Luciani was an Italian with no baggage; no enemies created through a high profile career in the Curia, no controversial or radical statements or sermons, just a smiling gentle man, a pastor. Who Albino Luciani was said to have been as important as who he was. Even before the conclave began, journalists covering the conclave for Vatican Radio noted increasing mention of his name, often from cardinals who barely knew him but wanted to find out more, not least 'what is the state of the man's health?' Had they known just how precarious his health was (his feet were so swollen he could not wear the shoes bought for him for the conclave) they might have looked elsewhere for Paul VI's successor. But they didn't. Hence, to his own horror and disbelief he was elected to the papacy. The following days, Cardinals effectively (despite the prohibition of telling others about the Conclave) would have declared that with general great joy they had elected "God's candidate". Cardinal Pironio declared: "We were witnesses of a moral miracle". And later, Mother Teresa of Calcutta commented: "He has been the greatest gift of God. A sunray of God's love shining in the darkness of world". As he himself declared, still in the famous Angelus, he had chosen this double name of "John Paul" (the first in the history of Papacy) as a thankful honour to both John XXIII, who had named him a bishop (and to whom he succeeded in Venice), and Paul VI, who named him Patriarch and a Cardinal, and whom he succeeded as pope His quick death, only 33 days after his election, caused widespread shock worldwide. The Vatican raised major issues over the handling of the events surrounding his death; it lied about who found the body (it claimed a papal secretary, in fact it was later revealed that he was found by a nun in the Papal Household who had brought him some coffee), lied about the time, that personal property of his (his glasses, his will, documents he was working on when he died) disappeared from his bedroom and was never found. (In fact that was shown to be untrue. His possessions are in the possession of his sister' family.) It claimed he had been reading Thomas à Kempis's Imitation of Christ. Conflicting stories were told as to his health. It was hinted that his ill-health was due to heavy smoking; in fact he never smoked. The impact of this miss-information was shown in a headline of the Irish Independent newspaper, 'THIRTY-THREE BRAVE DAYS' conveying the image of a weak and ill man physically unable to withstand the pressures of the papacy, and who was in effect killed by it. Most dramatically of all, the pope's body was embalmed within one day of his death, breaking Italian law (however the Vatican is not part of Italy and so is not bound by Italian law). Wild rumors spread about events surrounding his death: how the death of a visiting prelate during an audience with the pope some days earlier was because the prelate had drunk 'poisoned coffee' prepared for the pope; yes a death had occurred, but there was no evidence of poison. Also of how he planned to dismiss senior Vatican officials over allegations of corruption; again no evidence exists of such a plan, though he was aware of questions about the conduct of the affairs of the Vatican Bank, having clashed with the bank of their sale of a church bank in Venice some years earlier. The sudden embalming raised suspicions that it had been done to prevent a post-mortem. However the Vatican insisted that a papal post-mortem was prohibited under Vatican law. This too was later revealed to be incorrect: in 1830 a post-mortem was carried out on the remains of Pope Pius VIII. It produced evidence that suggested Pius VIII may have been poisoned. Conspiracy theories: David Yallop's book. The discrepancies on the Vatican's account of the events surrounding John Paul I's death, its 'inaccurate' statements about who found the body, what he had been reading, when he had been found, whether a post-mortem could be carried out, produced a number of conspiracy theories, many associated with the Vatican Bank. David Yallop's controversial book In God's Name, suggested the theory that the pope was in 'potential danger' because of alleged corruption in the Istituto per le Opere Religiose (IOR, the Vatican's most powerful financial institution, commonly known as the Vatican Bank), freemasonry and mafia, supposing some heavy complicity by the Roman Curia. While Yallop's book did expose many of the 'inaccurate' statements issued by the Vatican in the days after John Paul's death, and received international attention (including demands from some senior churchmen for an inquiry into the death itself), its theories have not been widely accepted and were severely undermined by a subsequent book by John Cornwell. Even fiction focused on the bizarre death of the pope: the movie The Godfather Part III featured a major plotline which depicted the Vatican Bank involved in organized crime, with various intrigues resulting in the assassination of a pope openly named in the movie as 'John Paul I'. After decades of ongoing controversy, it has recently been reported that the investigation about the death of John Paul I would be reopened. It is possible that Pope John Paul died either naturally, or as a result of an accidental overdose of medicine he took for low blood-pressure and which could if taken wrongly be fatal. Even the apparently suspicious quick embalming could have a logical explanation. The bodies of two of his immediate predecessors, Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI, had undergone rapid decay; in Pius's case, due to a disastrous embalming that speeded up rather than slowed down the process. (The stench of Pope Pius's rapidly decaying corpse led some of the Swiss Guards, who provided a ceremonial guard of honour during his lying in state, to vomit and faint; the body turned purple and the pope's nose broke off). Given the fact that Pope John Paul died in September during high temperatures in Rome, it was perhaps understandable that Vatican officials might have wanted to ensure a similar disaster did not occur again. The claim that papal rules prevented post-morta could have an innocent explanation: having embalmed the pope's body to avoid rapid decay, a mythical 'rule' could have been dreamt up to justify the action. (Though it has been claimed that at one stage, close friends of the late pope to their embarrassment were ordered away from his corpse while some form of inspection, perhaps even a post-mortem occurred. If that is true, yet no 'results' were subsequently released, it would suggest that some evidence had been found that John Paul's death was not due to simply to natural causes, but due either to murder or an accidental overdose that the Vatican might not wish the public to know about.) . John Cornwell's theory. British historian and journalist John Cornwell in his book A Thief in The Night suggested a different theory to Yallop's. He suggested that Luciani was indeed in poor health, as confirmed by his niece, herself a medical doctor and many senior Vatican figures. She suggested that Luciani suffered from swollen ankles and feet (a sign of poor circulation and excessive coagulability of the blood) such that he could not wear the shoes purchased for him at the time of his election. Curiously a Vatican physician had not seen him or had his prescriptions filled. Cornwell concluded that John Paul I died of a pulmonary embolism (which was consistent with Luciani's past medical history—including a retinal embolism in 1976). Cornwell suggested
• that such was Luciani's 'disorientation' in the Vatican, and his inability to adjust, that he may have neglected to take his vital medicines, greatly endangering his own life from a new embolism;
• that John Paul had said he was feeling unwell up to three times during the previous 24 hours but refused to allow his secretaries call for medical attention;
• that a vigorous two-hour period of walking around his office (due to cold weather he was advised not to walk in the garden) during the afternoon of the 28th September caused a pulmonary embolism, producing a bout of sharp coughing which was witnessed by his worried secretaries;
• that a vigorous run made by the Pope down the corridor to take a phone call that evening caused the pulmonary thrombus to shift again, directly producing the fatal pulmonary embolism a short time afterwards.
• Cornwell suggested that John Paul died at about 9.30 p.m., perhaps 10.00 p.m. at his desk and was found on the floor by the priest secretaries, who moved the body into the bed and placed it in what is truly an unusual position for a person who has died suddenly (sitting up, eyeglasses in place and papers in hand), with no indication whatsoever that he was experiencing a fatal attack. The rationale is that the two secretaries were trying to cover-up the fact that the pope has suffered two episodes of acute chest pain that are consistent as signs of a coming pulmonary embolism, as well as a severe coughing fit. They suggested in both cases that the doctors be summoned, but the Pope brushed them off. Cornwell claims that guilt drove them to want to make his death look sudden so that no blame would fall on them. (In addition it would be more respectful to Luciani's memory and the papacy's honor for it to be suggested that Luciani had died a dignified death sitting reading on his bed, rather than alone, crumbled in a fetal position on the ground.) Both secretaries (one, John Magee now the Irish Catholic bishop of Cloyne) deny it—but it does have the signal advantage of explaining many of the strange circumstances (there were others than those listed) without resorting to major conspiracies. It also explains strange comments by both men; Magee talked on the night of the Pope's death to the nuns in the Papal Household about the possibility of the Pope's death that night. The other secretary spoke of the pope's back and feet still being warm when he lifted him. Given the fact that, even if he died in bed, his corpse could not possibly have been warm by the time he was found (around 5.30 a.m., by which time rigor mortis had set in, resulting in the breaking of some bones in the late pope's body (some claimed his knee, others his back) as it was forced into a suitable position for a lying-in-state), which was when the secretary suggested he had lifted the body and found body-heat.
While the Vatican unofficially praised the book, others have criticized it, questioned its hypotheses and conclusions. The demand for the exhumation of the Pope's remains and the carrying out of a belated publicly acknowledged post-mortem had continued. In addition, Vatican health-care had been notoriously poor for some of his predecessors. Pope Pius XII was 'treated' by an unqualified 'doctor' whose 'remedies' left the pope with constant hiccups and rotting teeth. (This same 'doctor' was responsible for the disastrous embalming. He also took photographs of the dying pope, which he tried to sell to magazines.) Pope Paul VI's poor health care is generally agreed to have speeded his death. There is no evidence to suggest that during Pope John Paul I's 33 day reign the health care provided had been improved. Nor, given his apparent lack of heart problems (as attested to by his own doctor, which flatly contradicted the rumors that came from the Vatican in the aftermath of the pope's death) was there any apparent immediate requirement for a review of medical services. In contrast, John Paul I's successor has always had access to excellent medical services, a fact which saved his life after his assassination attempt in 1981.

• Documents found in the files of the former East German intelligence services confirm the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II was ordered by the Soviet KGB and assigned to Bulgarian agents.
The Corriere della Sera said that the documents found by the German government indicated that the KGB ordered Bulgarian colleagues to carry out the killing, leaving the East German service known as the Stasi to coordinate the operation and cover up the traces afterwards.
Bulgaria then handed the execution of the plot to Turkish extremists, including Mehmet Ali Agca, who pulled the trigger.
The daily said the documents had been handed over to Bulgaria and would be made available to the Italian parliamentary commission inquiring into the activities of formerly Communist eastern European regimes in Italy.
The newspaper said the documents consist mostly of letters from Stasi operatives to their Bulgarian counterparts seeking help in covering up traces after the attack and denying Bulgarian involvement.
Ali Agca, who is now in jail in Turkey, claimed after his arrest that the operation was under the control of the Bulgarian embassy in Rome. The Bulgarians have always insisted they were innocent and argued that Agca's story was part of an anti-communist plot by the Italian secret service and the CIA.
The paper said the documents back up the pope's own memories of the assassination attempt in May 1981 in his book "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums," in which he said he was convinced that the attack was not planned or directed by Ali Agca.
1981 attack on Pope planned by Soviets: Report
Agence France-Presse
Rome, March 30, 2005

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