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Whenever you have an individual who claims a direct pipeline with God and has no accountability, if you don’t have a [so-called] cult today, you will have one tomorrow (Geisler, 1991).
A [so-called] destructive cult distinguishes itself from a normal social or religious group by subjecting its members to persuasion or other damaging influences to keep them in the group....
Members are thoroughly indoctrinated with the belief that if they ever do leave, terrible consequences will befall them (Hassan, 1990).

CHARACTERISTICS COMMONLY SEEN in so-called cults include the presence of an infallible leader, and a prohibition on questioning the teachings. Hypnotic chanting or the like is frequently fingered as a means of inducing a suggestible, trance-like state, and thus of controlling the minds of the followers. Further, one often finds a “hidden agenda,” whereby it is not fully explained to prospective members of the group as to what they may be asked to do, should they choose to join.

In addition, residents of the community will often lead minutely regulated existences—even to the point of control of their sex lives—their hours being filled with organization-related activities, with no time for reflection as to the morality of their actions. (“Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think and check things out” [Hassan, 2000].) Plus, not infrequently, devotees have feelings of persecution, and associated beliefs that “the world is out to get them,” via conspiracies to destroy the organization. They may also be required to report or confess their “thoughts, feelings and activities” to their superiors.

Also, one regularly finds a lack of proper medical care for even the most devoted members, and indoctrinated phobias to prevent followers from leaving. Plus, we see the suppression of information harmful to the group, and the presence of apocalyptic teachings, with only the members of the sect being “saved” from eternal damnation. The group, that is, is the “one, true Way,” allowing its members to conceive of no happiness outside of itself, and keeping them in sway via the fear of losing their salvation should they consider leaving. Conversely, followers who breach the rigid rules and regulations of the organization or ask critical questions of the leader are at risk of being kicked out of the group, or “excommunicated.”

Speaking of the Roman Catholic Church....

[U]nlike Judaism, Catholicism embraces and espouses the belief that it is the one and only true faith (Bruni and Burkett, 2002).

And of its divinely inspired leader, then:

A pope ... believes, along with many hundreds of millions of the faithful, that he is God’s representative on Earth....
The theologian John Henry Newman, Britain’s most famous convert to Catholicism in the nineteenth century, delivered a devastating verdict ... : “[A long-lived pope] becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it” (Cornwell, 1999).

Even for that “god’s” underlings or inner circle, though, the distance from God, in the eyes of their flock, is hardly any greater:

We were taught [that Catholic priests] were Christ’s representatives on Earth (in Boston Globe, 2003).

Papal infallibility (on matters of doctrine, faith and morals) was decreed by Pope Pius IX in 1870. The relatively recent nature of that “perfection” may perhaps allow us to more easily understand the behaviors of at least one of his forebears:

In the tenth century a dissolute teenager could be elected pope (John XII) because of his family connections and die a decade later in the bed of a married woman (Wills, 2000).

Died happy, though....

John XII was so enthralled by one of his concubines, Rainera, that he entrusted her with much of the administration of the Holy See (Allen, 2004).

“One of his concubines.” Among how many?

Some popes have all the luck.

Saint Augustine, too, fathered a child out of wedlock as a teenager, living with its mother for fifteen years, and practicing contraception as a Manichean during that time (Wills, 2000). He further never went to confession—a sacrament given only once in a lifetime, in those bygone days (Wills, 1972). Priestly celibacy was likewise only a medieval demand, enjoindered to ensure that Church properties did not fall into the hands of offspring, as inheritance:

[I]n the beginning [of the Church], there was no mandatory celibacy. Saint Peter, the first pope, was married. Pope Anastasius I was the father of Pope Innocent, Pope Sergius III begat Pope John XI and Pope Theodore I was the son of a bishop (Bruni and Burkett, 2002).

More recently, a survey was conducted in 1980 by one Richard Wagner. It covered fifty ostensibly celibate priestly respondents—half of whom “knew they were gay before ordination.” The survey found that those holy men “averaged 226 partners in sex, a number reached only because 22% of them had over 500” (Wills, 2000).

Surprised? Or: Think of how many partners they might have had if they weren’t celibate and chaste!

In any case, the altar boys groped, seduced and sodomized by various Catholic priests certainly did not have everything they might be asked to do for the Church explained to them up front.

Nor behind.

Proper medical care for those who have given their lives to the cause? Not if you’re Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 1897), whose power-enjoying, vindictive prioress delayed sending for crisis medical help. She further restricted one doctor’s visits from his suggestion that he come every day to three times in total, and forbade injections of morphia as Thérèse lay dying of tuberculosis (Furlong, 1987).

More recently, in the 1930s, a girl placed in an industrial school in Ireland run by the so-called Sisters of Mercy told her story:

I had a lot of abscesses.... I couldn’t walk at one stage. I kept passing out, particularly at Mass in the mornings. When I was about nine, I was very sick—I had a big lump under my arm, and they had to put poultices on it. They wouldn’t call a doctor, because they’d have had to pay for that (in Raftery and O’Sullivan, 2001).

Likewise for the life of nuns in Massachusetts, as one lay member recorded:

I’d see priests driving around in Cadillacs. I remember reading a story about how nuns didn’t have full health insurance and was just infuriated by the injustice in that (in Boston Globe, 2003).

The free exchange of information, beyond the boundaries of the organization, for petitioners to receive honest answers to even embarrassing questions? Not divinely likely:

Cardinals take an oath to the pope to safeguard the church from scandal—to prevent bad information from becoming public (Berry and Renner, 2004; italics added).
Honest mistakes, incompetence, negligence and intentional wrongdoing are all abhorrent to the higher leadership [of the Roman Catholic Church]. All are denied, covered up and rationalized with equal zeal. The clerical world truly believes that it has been established by God and that its members are singled out and favored by the Almighty.... Higher authority figures are regarded with a mixture of fear and awe by all below them. The circles of power are closed, the tightest being among those existing among bishops.... Secrecy provides a layer of insulation between the one in authority and anyone who might be tempted to question its exercise (Doyle, 2003).

Freedom to question the teachings? Please.

The French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was so reviled by the Holy Office for his vision of a spirituality in harmony with human evolution that his major works, which have reached millions of readers, were suppressed in his lifetime. Karl Rahner, who argued that theology should develop in the spirit of a time, and Yves Congar, who emphasized the role of laypeople in an evolving church, were marginalized in the 1950s by Pius XII, who had no use for their views (Berry and Renner, 2004).

Under the same intellectual oppression, de Chardin was actually given the choice of either being exiled to the United States, or living under surveillance in a retreat house; he chose the former. One American Jesuit compared that treatment of Teilhard, and of others who had been influenced by his work, to a “Stalinist purge” (Cornwell, 1999).

By doctrine, it was still [in the 1950s and early ’60s, prior to the Vatican II council] a sin to read any book on the [Index Librorum Prohibitorum] list, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, and especially Darwin (Sennott, 1992).
[T]he Anti-Modernist Oath, [enacted by Pope Pius X in 1910 and] sworn to this day in modified form by Catholic ordinands ... required acceptance of all papal teaching, and acquiescence at all times to the meaning and sense of such teaching as dictated by the pope.... There was no possibility of any form of dissent, even interior. The conscience of the person taking the oath was forced to accept not only what Rome proposed, but even the sense in which Rome interpreted it. Not only was this contrary to the traditional Catholic understanding of the role of conscience, but it was a form of thought control that was unrivalled even under fascist and communist regimes (Cornwell, 1999; italics added).

Nor has the situation improved in more recent years:

In the first year of his papacy, [John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla] revoked the teaching license of Father Hans Küng, the Swiss theologian who has challenged papal infallibility.... In 1997 Wojtyla excommunicated the Sri Lankan writer-priest Tissa Balasuriya for diluting Roman doctrinal orthodoxy: Balasuriya’s writing had cast doubts on the doctrines of original sin and the virginity of the Mother of God (Cornwell, 1999).

By contrast:

Rome never put Hitler’s writings on the Index; the Führer until the end of his reign was allowed to remain a member of the Church, i.e., he was not excommunicated (Lewy, 2000).

Interested in having the truth be known at all costs? Right....

Two ladies, worried about their pastor’s overtures to teenage boys, discovered that he had come to their town from a treatment center after a plea bargain. A boy he had molested in a previous parish cut off a finger and received a settlement. When the ladies asked that Father be removed, the bishop not only refused their request but threatened a slander suit if they made a public issue of it (Berry, 1992).

Or, as the journalist Michael Harris (1991) confided to a victim of alleged clergy sexual abuse who was about to go public with his story, in cautioning the latter about the associated police- and government-aided cover-up around the Christian Brothers’ Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland:

[T]here are powerful forces involved in this story, for whom the last thing that is wanted is the truth. I don’t believe that many people will be congratulating either you or me for bringing this sordid affair into the public eye.
In an interview [in May of 2002] Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, widely seen as a leading candidate to be the next pope, addressed the American [pedophilia] crisis. He blamed the American press for “persecution” of the Church.... “Only in this fashion can I explain the ferocity [of attacks on the esteem of the Catholic Church] that reminds me of the times of Nero and Diocletian, and more recently, of Stalin and Hitler” [he said]....
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City ... echoed Rodriguez’s comments on the American crisis. “Not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world, one can see underway an orchestrated plan for striking at the prestige of the Church. Not a few journalists have confirmed for me the existence of this organized campaign,” he said (Allen, 2004).

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati had earlier characterized the media exposure of Catholic clergy abuse as deriving from a “corporate vendetta” against the Church. Father Charles Fiore, meanwhile, suggested that pedophiles had been planted in the priestly ranks by liberals determined to undermine Christianity. Conversely, he expressed the belief that a purge of communists would stop the conspiracy against his holy organization (Bruni and Burkett, 2002). And as late as 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) weighed in with his own, equally facile “conspiracy theory,” of there allegedly being a “planned campaign” to discredit the Roman Catholics.

[Vatican affairs writer Orazio] Petrosillo indicated three groups in the United States that may have inspired such a campaign: “Masonic lodges,” “Jewish lobbies,” and “groups of free thought and free morals” such as gays (Allen, 2004).

But “impure,” menstruating women too though, right? Why stop at gays and Jews—not to mention (gasp!) “free thinkers”—when you’re desperately searching for scapegoats to blame for your own family’s cruel sins and inexcusable indifference to the suffering of others? When even the crusading, witch-hunting, Inquisition-ing Catholic Church is, in its own mind, a “victim,” you know you are living in a strange world indeed.

In reality, even a minimal awareness of the extant media exposés of Eastern guru-figures would have sufficed to demonstrate that both the “God-inspired Church” and its “demonic” competitors are being exposed in direct proportion to the sheer quantity of their alleged abuses. The Freemasons, Jews and gays—“surprisingly”—cannot be blamed for that, any more than an “anti-Asian” bias could be asserted to be the source of any “conspiracy” to expose the alleged abuses of our world’s gurus!

(Note: Even without any conscious effort on my own part, it turns out that around 45% of the figures covered at any depth in this book are Westerners. “Authentic spirituality” typically involves Eastern philosophy. And the guru-disciple phenomenon, in general, comes to the West from the East. Thus, a greater percentage of the “best” of its practitioners are predictably going to be from the East than from the West. One therefore cannot reasonably hope for a split closer to 50/50 than this book represents. Were I aware of any comparable exposés of misbehaviors within guru-disciple-like relationships among Freemasons, Jews, gays or hermaphrodites [cf. Sai Baba], where the guru-figures were widely viewed as purveying “authentic, transformative spirituality” and as being among the “best” in their respective paths, I would happily have included them.)

Nor though, with regard to alleged biases, can recent exposés of the inhumane conditions faced by animals in kosher slaughterhouses be rationally viewed as an “anti-Semitic attack” on Jewish religious practices (in Simon, 2004) ... oy vey!

Further, regarding the convenient claim that Judaism avoids the “cultist” tendencies of, for example, the Roman Catholic Church, by not claiming to be “the one and only true faith,” thus allegedly allowing followers to leave the religion without penalty:

In the Olam Ha-Ba [i.e., the Messianic Age], the whole world will recognize the Jewish G-d as the only true G-d, and the Jewish religion as the only true religion (Rich, 2001).

Could one have expected any less, though, given the “chosen group” complex of the entire tradition? Of course it’s “the one true religion”! How could they be the “Chosen People” if it wasn’t?

By stark contrast to such prevailing foolishness, blame-mongering and paranoia as the above, Chapter 2 of Bruni and Burkett’s (2002) A Gospel of Shame offers a wonderfully coherent and insightful analysis of why the reluctantly apologetic Catholic Church has justifiably fared so poorly in media presentations of its wide-ranging sins. The same book offers by far the best explanation I have found of the various sexual and social factors most likely to play a role in creating the pedophilic orientation. It also contains the best documentation of the initial deferential underreporting of Catholic clergy abuse by the North American media, showing claims of “anti-Catholic bias” in the same media to be wholly unfounded.

For the centuried misogyny, calculated power-grabs, general “stubborn resistance to the truth” and associated widespread deceit in the Catholic Church, consult Garry Wills’ (2000) surprising Papal Sin. For the shameful history of anti-Semitism in the same organization, from its highest leaders on down, see Cornwell’s (1999) Hitler’s Pope and Lewy’s (2000) The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany. For the connection between the Vatican and post-WWII “Nazi smuggling” in the fight against communism, refer to Aarons and Loftus’ (1998) Unholy Trinity:

[Ante] Pavelic ... had been the Poglavnik of “independent” Croatia, exercising comparable powers to the Führer in Germany. He had even managed to keep the death machine operating almost until the end, while the Germans were frantically dismantling theirs....
In a strange reversal of roles, [Pavelic] castigated the Führer about the “lenient” treatment of German Jews, boasting that in comparison he had completely solved the Jewish question in Croatia while some remained alive in the Third Reich....
The pope’s own attitude towards the murderous Ustashi [terrorist network] leader was more than benign neglect.... Pius [XII] himself promised to give Pavelic his personal blessing again. By this time, the Holy See possessed abundant evidence of the atrocities committed by his regime.

Nor were other aspects of that pope’s silent conduct during the time of Hitler any more praiseworthy:

It seems beyond any doubt ... that if the churches had opposed the killing and the persecution of the Jews, as they opposed the killing of the congenitally insane and the sick, there would have been no Final Solution (in Cornwell, 1999).
If [Pius XII] is to take credit for the use of Vatican extraterritorial religious buildings as safe houses for Jews during Germany’s occupation of Rome, then he should equally take blame for the use of the same buildings as safe houses for Nazi and Ustash[i] criminals (Cornwell, 1999).

Or, as Settimia Spizzichino, the sole survivor of the German roundup and deportation of Rome’s Jews, put it in a 1995 interview with the BBC:

I came back from Auschwitz on my own. I lost my mother, two sisters, a niece, and one brother. Pius XII could have warned us about what was going to happen. We might have escaped from Rome and joined the partisans. He played right into the Germans’ hands. It all happened right under his nose. But he was an anti-Semitic pope, a pro-German pope. He didn’t take a single risk. And when they say the pope is like Jesus Christ, it is not true. He did not save a single child. Nothing.

Of course, when “Satan” is thus attacking holy men—as in the current pedophilia crisis—for doing “God’s work,” there is a sure-fire defense for any believer. The same defense could, indeed, be directed equally ineffectually against the present book and author as well:

[W]e call down God’s power on the [anti-Catholic] media (Cardinal Bernard Law, in [Boston Globe, 2003]).

Controlling their followers’ sex lives? Injunctions against contraception and the regard for fornication, contraception and homosexual activity as “mortal sins” will certainly do that.

Many priests were disillusioned by celibacy, which they saw as a mechanism of control, much akin to [the Church’s] authoritarian attitude toward lay people’s sex lives (Berry, 1992).
Pius XII ... made the condemnation of birth control resonate ceaselessly from classrooms, pamphlets, confessionals, with a kind of hysterical insistence. Contraception was a mortal sin. Its unrepenting practitioners were going to hell (Wills, 2000).
Not only were oral and anal intercourse forbidden, but all varieties of stimulation or position were counted unnatural except the man-on-top performance. The act with a single goal [i.e., impregnation] was to have but a single mode of execution (Wills, 1972).

Nor was it necessary to thus “execute” improperly—in “Catholic roulette” (i.e., sex without contraception) or otherwise—in order for one to run afoul of the God of Law:

[B]ack in the 1950s if you ate meat on Friday, did not wear a hat or veil to church, or ate breakfast before Communion, you could burn in hell for these sins (in Boston Globe, 2003).

Oral sex and “eating meat,” out. Hats on, and thou shalt not spill thy seed upon the ground. And yet—

Dr. William Masters found that ninety-eight out of the hundred priests he surveyed were masturbating (Wills, 2000).

And you just know they’re sneaking food before Communion, too!

[A]ll sensual indulgence was lumped together [in the Decalogue, i.e., the Ten Commandments] under the prohibition against “coveting thy neighbor’s wife,” an approach which made gluttony, laziness, and drunkenness directly sexual offenses—offenses where, according to Catholic moralists of the old school ... all sins were automatically grave or “mortal.” I knew a scrupulous young man who was literally driven mad by this line of thought (Wills, 1972).

Are the lives of residents further being wholly given over to the organization? Do they work long days with no time left over to question the teachings or reflect on the consequences of their own actions, having little contact with outside ideas? Evidently so:

The nuns lived minutely regulated lives, their waking hours crammed with communal prayers, devotional exercises, care of the convent and sacristy, a heavy teaching load, the training of children for first communion (or May procession, or confirmation), rehearsing of the choir and coaching of altar boys.... They were not often allowed out of the convent—not even to visit libraries (Wills, 1972).

Repetitive, hypnotic chanting? Yes, yes, yes:

[Church] rites have great authority; they hypnotize. Not least by their Latinity. It is not certain, philologists say, that “hocus-pocus” is derived from “Hoc est Corpus” in the Mass; but the Latin phrases, often rhythmed, said in litanies and lists of saints’ names, replicated, coming at us in antiphonies and triple cries (Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus), had a witchery in them, to hush or compel us as by incantation (Wills, 1972).

Apocalyptic beliefs? Let me count the Horsemen.

You are free, of course, to leave the Church, along with its Masses, Communion and confessionals, at any time ... provided that you can face the indoctrinated phobia of eternal damnation for your soul, in dying with “mortal sins” unabsolved. In no way, that is, could you leave that group and yet be happy and fulfilled, if any of what you had been taught were true.

Harassment and ostracism of those who dare to expose the corruption of the sacred Church? Naturally:

The [Patty Hanson] family filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Phoenix [for the alleged sexual abuse of their children at the hands of their Father]. They got nasty letters saying they were ruthless liars peddling trumped-up accusations and exaggerated suffering for a little limelight and a lot of cash. They got harassing phone calls at 3 a.m. and anonymous death threats (Bruni and Burkett, 2002).

All of which is to say that the closer one looks at alleged “cults” versus “legitimate” religions, the less difference one can find between them. (Cf. “We define ‘cult’ as a group where the leader is unchallengeable and considered infallible” [Kramer and Alstad, 1993]. Also compare Robert Lifton’s [1989] eight characteristics of any totalistic group. Then judge for yourself whether or not the Catholic Church fits every one of them. Even with regard to the “loading of language,” it is obvious that the Catholic definitions of “confession” and “communion” differ significantly from how the words are used outside of the religion. That is so, just as surely as Scientology’s definitions of its key words differ from how the same terms are used outside that organization. Further, when the confession of mortal sins, as a means of ensuring one’s salvation, extends down to masturbation, there is nothing healthy about that claimed need for disclosure, any more than writing up self-reports for one’s superiors to read in any so-called cult could be healthy.) That elusive difference is even aside from Pope John Paul’s explicit endorsement of Mexico’s Father Maciel and his allegedly sexually abusive Legionaries of Christ organization. For there, to exit that group—not merely to leave the religion in general—was explicitly to lose one’s salvation. Yet reportedly, in the same environment:

Maciel’s ruse about getting permission for his sexual urges from Pope Pius XII was [told] to bewildered seminarians, some barely past puberty, in order to sexually abuse them and satisfy himself (Berry and Renner, 2004).

Or, closer to home, as a Cajun Catholic woman alleged of her experiences at the hands of her own parish priest:

I was told [by Father John] that I had been chosen by God to help him with his studies of sex because he was responsible for helping adults and he didn’t know anything about it (in Berry, 1992).
[Tim] said nothing when Father Jay took him into the bathroom at his parents’ house and asked him to perform oral sex....
Father Jay told the boy: “This is between you and me. This is something special. God would approve.” And Tim believed him (Bruni and Burkett, 2002).

Comparable “chosen by God” lines have, of course, been used by many a guru-figure on his (or her) own bewildered disciples, to get them to put out. As has, perhaps, the trusted, “unimpeachable character” of other “men of God”:

[Father Bruce] Ritter was ... America’s answer to Mother Teresa....
When Father Bruce turned his attention to one of [his helpers at the misled Covenant House mission for street kids—the “McDonald’s of child care”], they often described feeling a kind of “glow” or “warm light.” In many ways, their religious devotion was not only to God but to Father Bruce—a cult of personality around the man whose mission they carried out (Sennott, 1992).

“America’s answer to Mother Teresa” was later accused of “sexually abusing or sexually approaching” more than a dozen of the boys in his care—a charge he denies.

Other respected Catholic holy men, however, have been able to counter less of their own alleged indiscretions:

The priest engaged in anal intercourse, oral sex, group sex with two boys at a time, plied them with pot, had a dog lick their genitals (Berry, 1992).

Elsewhere, too:

Nearly two hundred people [one of them just four years old at the time] who say they were raped or fondled by [the now-deceased Rev. John J.] Geoghan have filed claims against him and his supervisors in the last several years. Experts believe he probably molested three to four times as many people as have come forward....
By most accounts at least fifteen hundred priests [by now, over four thousand (Zoll, 2005)] have faced public accusations of sexual misconduct with minors since the mid-1980s (Boston Globe, 2003).
Father Anthony Corbin ... confessed to having had sex with an eighth-grade boy. Corbin dressed his victim in a loincloth to resemble Christ headed for the crucifix[ion] (Bruni and Burkett, 2002).
Some of what was done [by the Catholic Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy] was of a quite exceptional depravity, so that terms like “sexual abuse” are too weak to convey it. For example ... the account of a man who as a boy was a particular favorite of some Christian Brothers at Tardun [Australia] who competed as to who could rape him one hundred times first, his account of being in terrible pain, bleeding and bewildered (Raftery and O’Sullivan, 2001).

With “holiness” and “purity” like that, who needs obscenity? With conscienceless “saints” and “representatives of God on Earth” like these, who needs demonic sinners?

The family-incest-like attempted cover-ups of alleged Catholic clergy sexual abuse further show quite brutally how little the supposed “checks and balances” within that same system actually work. So, too, do the related and utterly cruel attempts to discredit the victims, and the closing of the upper clerical ranks against the latter. (Thomas Doyle characterized the Church’s response to that reported abuse as involving “a defrauding, a stonewalling, and outright lying to the people” [in Berry and Renner, 2004].) For there, offending priests, even those with known and extensive histories of sexual abuse, were more likely to simply be transferred to another parish—if not simultaneously promoted, suspended with pay, or retired with pension—than to be meaningfully censured. That was done even after the violated families had been explicitly guaranteed by religious superiors that specific, appropriate steps would be taken to ensure that the abuse would never happen again. (The same promises were, of course, later grossly broken.)

Many argued that the hierarchy’s handling of abusive priests revealed systemic problems with their Church. “It isn’t just the cardinal; it’s the way we operate.... There are structural issues. What is it that has made us priests be so [unwilling to] speak out when something awful is happening, and not to cover up?” (Boston Globe, 2003).

Amazingly, even after the Inquisition, even after the wanton burning of witches at the stake, even after countless holy wars and crusades, the depths of cruelty and evil perpetrated by our world’s “safe,” traditional religions—never mind its potentially harmful nontraditional groups—still surprises us. Yet, there is nothing whatsoever “new” in something like the recent Catholic scandals. That is so, first when compared with the fear-ridden constraints and “skillful” cruelties of the centuried guru game, and the rampant alleged sexual abuse by “divine” gurus of their own disciples, in “compassionate, tolerant” Buddhism and elsewhere. It is also true when viewed in terms of the Church’s own millennia of canonical laws directed toward (and thus admitting the existence of) pedophilia among their clergy.

When Pope Alexander VI [d. 1503] marked the final victory of Catholic Spain over the Moors, he did so not with a Mass at St. Peter’s but with a party in the piazza in front of the church. Flagons of wine flowed among the honored guests, women from Rome’s most elegant brothels offered their services and children were passed freely among bishops and priests celebrating Catholicism’s latest triumph with a sexual bacchanalia (Bruni and Burkett, 2002).

If we have learned one thing specifically from the Catholic Church, though, it is that there is no hope whatsoever of our world’s religions changing for the better, without their evils being publicly exposed:

No problem is ever solved discreetly any more, especially in the Catholic Church. The problems are only solved when the Catholic people say out loud and on the record what a lot of them are thinking privately, and aim their message directly at the religious leadership (Andrew Greeley, in [Berry, 1992]).

And even then, the scandals which had first surfaced in the late 1980s and early ’90s raised their heads again around the turn of the century, in a new wave of accusations of clergy sexual abuse, substantially identical to those which were thought to have been properly addressed by that revered leadership a decade earlier. And both of those waves, sadly, have only gone to show how these “holy” organizations will typically close ranks and fight tooth and nail, in an “ordeal by litigation” directed at their already shattered victims. For they must, above all, protect the virginal public reputation of their “divine institution,” through which God speaks so uniquely.


If there are any heroes in this squalid tale, they are the victims, who found their voice, who found the courage, after years of suffering in silence and isolation, to step into the light and say, as one did, “This happened to me, and this is wrong” (Boston Globe, 2003).

And not only is it wrong, but it must stop.

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