Two Millennia of Crime

 One of the most violent shocks that I experienced upon leaving the Roman Catholic Church and its priesthood resulted from beginning to learn the true history of that spiritual family of whose heritage I had once been so proud.

I had been taught to glory in its Scriptural authenticity, its world-wide civilizing influence, its historical and moral integrity.  True, it was admitted that the seamless robe of Christ had been stained by selfishness and immorality, many times by the laity, occasionally by the clergy, and a few times even by a pope.  But this was merely the "human element" that in no way affected the divinity of the Church or tarnished its great spiritual purpose.

The unbelievable phenomenon is bow ignorant we were, not only the laity but also the clergy-the chosen ones, the leaders of men.  It is a tremendous tribute to the skill of the hierarchy's inner circle that it is able to keep the faithful and its "educated" clergy in such contented and abysmal ignorance of its own history.  As an ex-priest recently wrote to me of Catholics he works with, including the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus:

 "Actually, as I deal with them and hear their complaints against the local pastor, I am amazed all over again at their ignorance of their own Church."

Thirteen years ago, after twenty-one years of intensive study of the history of the Roman Catholic Church and fifteen years as one of its "learned" priests, I began to learn the truth about its history.  I accumulated thousands of dollars worth of history books, many of them volumes long out-of-print.  I searched libraries the country over for rare texts that the Roman censors had missed.

I felt much like the descendant of a proud, princely, distinguished and honored family who suddenly discovers Ms true family tree in a trunk in the garret.  On almost every limb were hung murderers, liars, cheats, robbers, extortionists, bandits, pimps, prostitutes and every other species of evildoer.

It was like entering an historical museum of criminology, and I wandered from room to room, from century to century, in this ecclesiastical waxworks, stumbling unbelievingly over re-creations of crime, vice and moral corruption that made pagan Rome and Greece seem angelic by comparison.

A simile that has struck me forcibly as the Church puts its best foot forward in its hospitals, orphanages, schools and self-eulogizing press is a comparison with the lily fountain in the center of the " Sacred Garden " in the Old Mission of Santa Barbara, California, where I studied philosophy and theology for six years.  I was the caretaker of that garden to which no woman was ever admitted (except the President's wife or a queen) under the penalty of mortal sin.

That fountain was very ancient and most beautiful.  It was filled with water lilies that bloomed in variegated profusion.  Many a monk could peacefully meditate on eternity and his soul as he sat by its edge and listened to the beauty of the trickling water as it splashed up on the waxen green of the lily pads.  But periodically I had to clean that fountain.  I remember the thick decaying slime on the bottom when the water was drained out, and the almost unbearable stench of the cow manure that we used to fertilize those lilies.

Only a brief outline of the past can be included here, just enough to show that the modern Roman Catholic record of crime is its honest heritage.  It has its counterpart in history through every century.

An interesting blind spot among Catholics is their anxiety to condemn others for the same crimes of which they have been guilty.  We were taught that Mohammed and his followers spread Islam by the sword.  We were taught that Communism has survived in Russia and in its satellites through the banishment and extermination of the millions who opposed it.  But we were not taught that Roman Catholicism was spread and survived in exactly the same way.  Scarcely had the pagan Romans stopped killing the Catholics than the latter began slaughtering those who refused to be converted.  Charlemagne relied more on the sword than he did on sermons.  In the same manner was the faith introduced into Russia and most of northern Europe .  For centuries the Jews of Spain had their choice of baptism or death.  It was the Catholic sword that subdued Montezuma, and the Catholic armies of Spain that bowed the heads of the Indians for the "saving waters" of the Franciscan monks' baptistery.

   Our Catholic history books emphasized the Moslem threat to the Catholics in southeast Europe , but they soft pedaled the useless and avaricious slaughter of the Crusades, lasting for centuries, and instigated by the popes.

Later, when for more than four hundred years those uncounted thousands who refused to accept the doctrines of Catholicism were robbed, imprisoned or burned at the stake under the Inquisition, it was called "the extirpation ,of heresy" or "the preservation of the faith." The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Eve in France was called a holy, justifiable act of religious self-defense.

The crime and immorality of Roman Catholicism flowed over Christendom like a poisoned river from its own Mount Olympus , the papacy.  The following is merely a sample from one of the most erudite historians of our time:

 In 878 Duke Lambert of Spoleto entered Rome with his army, seized Pope John VIII, and tried to starve him into favoring Carlornan for the Imperial throne.  In 897 Pope Stephen VI had the corpse of Pope Formosus (891-6) exhumed, dressed it in purple robes, and tried before an ecclesiastic council on the charge of violating certain Church laws; the corpse was condemned, stripped, mutilated, and Plunged into the Tiber .  In the same year a political revolution in Rome overthrew Stephen, who was strangled in jail.  For several years thereafter the papal chair was filled by bribery, murder, or the favor of women of high rank and low morality.  For half a century the family of Theophylact, a chief official of the papal palace, made and unmade popes at will.  His daughter Marozia secured the election of her lover as Pope Sergius III (904-11); his wife Theodora procured the election of Pope John X (914-28).  John has been accused of being TheodorWs paramour, but on inadequate evidence; certainly he was an excellent secular leader, for it was he who organized the coalition that in 916 repulsed the Saracens from Rome .  Marozia, after having enjoyed a succession of lovers, warried Guido, Duke of Tuscany; they conspired to unseat John; they had his brother Peter killed before his face; the pope was thrown into prison, and died there a few months later from causes unknown.  In 931 Marozia raised to the papacy John Xi (931-5), commonly reputed to be her bastard son by Sergius 111.  In 932 her son Alberic imprisoned John in the Castle of Saint ' Angelo, but allowed him to exercise from jail the spiritual functions of the papacy.  For twenty two years Alberic ruled Rome as the dictatorial head of a Roman Republic ." At his death he bequeathed his power to his son Octavian, and made the clergy and people promise to choose Octavian pope when Agapetus 11 should die.  It was done as he ordered; in 955 Marozia’s grandson became John XH, and distinguished his pontificate by orgies of debauchery in the Lateran palace.

Otto I of Germany , crowned Emperor by John XII in 962, learned the degradation of the papacy at first hand.  In 963, with the support of the Transalpine clergy, Otto returned to Rome , and summoned John to trial before an ecclesiastical council.  Cardinals charged that John had taken bribes for consecrating bishops, had made a boy of ten a bishop, had committed adultery with his father's concubine and incest with his father's widow and her niece, and had made the papal palace a very brothel.  John refused to attend the council or to answer the charges; instead be went out hunting.  The council deposed him and unanimously chose Otto’s candidate, a layman, as Pope Leo VIII (9M-5).  After Otto had returned to Germany , John seized and mutilated the leaders of the Imperial party in Rome , and had himself restored by an obedient council to the papacy (964).  When John died (964) the Romans elected Benedict V, ignoring Leo.  Otto came down from Germany , deposed Benedict, and restored Leo, who thereupon officially recognized the right of Otto and his imperial successors to veto the election of any future pope.  On Leo's death Otto secured the election of John XIII (965-72).  Benedict VI (973-4) was imprisoned and strangled by a Roman noble, Bonifazio Francone, who made himself pope for a month, then fled to Constantinople with as much papal treasury as be could carry.  Nine years later he returned, killed Pope John XIV (983-4), again appropriated the papal office, and died peaceably in bed (985).  The Roman Republic again raised its head, assumed authority, and chose Crescentius as consul, Otto III descended upon Rome with an irresistible army, and a commission from the German prelates to end the chaos by making his chaplain Pope Gregory V (996-9).  The young Emperor put down the Republic, pardoned Crescentins, and went back to Germany .  Crescentius at once re-established the Republic, and deposed Gregory (997).  Gregory excommunicated him, but Crescentius laughed, and arranged the election of John XVI as pope.  Otto returned, deposed John, gouged his eyes, cut off his tongue and nose, and paraded him through the streets of Rome on an ass, with his face to the tail.  Crescentius and twelve Republican leaders were beheaded, and their bodies were hung from the battlements of Saint’ Angelo (998).  Gregory resumed the papacy, and died, probably of poison, in 999.1

 If the assassinations of and by the popes lessened as time passed, the other crimes continued to be committed under and by many of their successors.  In the chapters on sex we will touch on their amours, concubines, harlots, harems and the indifference of so many popes to the marriage or concubinage of the rest of the clergy so long as the appropriate fines, penalties or dispensation fees poured into the Vatican coffers.

Through all too many papal pontificates, everything was for sale.  Three- or four-year-old boys were made bishops, archbishops or cardinals.  The selling of indulgences and the authentication of fantastic relics including the foreskin of Jesus Christ himself, brought in tremendous sums, enough to build St. Peter's basilica.  False decretals and falsified documents were used as a basis for papal authority, jurisdiction over countries and the enhancing of Vatican finances.  

A deep-rooted corruption had taken possession of nearly the officials (of the Curia)... Moreover, on all sides deeds were dishonestly manipulated, and even falsified, by the officials.

No wonder that there arose from all parts of Christendom the loudest complaints about the corruption and financial extortions of the papal officials. It was even said that in Rome everything had its price.2  

"In our corrupt times," wrote an Italian historian of the late Middle Ages, "the goodness of a pontiff (pope) is commended when it does not surpass the wickedness of other men." The details of papal crime and corruption are endless, as recorded by such historians as Durant,' McKnight,' and Lea."

In my personal reeducation, I have relied heavily on the works of Henry Charles Lea.  Catholic writers condemn Lea, of course, because he is critical of Rome .  They call his works bigoted, anti-Catholic and historically untrue.  His revelations are so diametrically contrary to what I had been taught that 1, too, at first, was dubious.  I investigated for myself.

I found that Henry Charles Lea was certainly no biased, prejudiced, vindictive, anti-Catholic hack writer.  One of the republishers of his works wrote:

 We think he was an extraordinarily scrupulous and careful historian.  He seems to be the only American scholar to devote himself so exclusively and exhaustively to the area of Middle Age church history. . . . Incidentally, no one in Europe has ever done such a job of research in church history; Lea's is considered the standard there in the French translation by Solomon Reinach. . . His immense personal. library was bequeathed to the University of Pennsylvania Library .  The writer was privileged to view the collection and it is truly impressive.

 I checked the University of Pennsylvania .  The librarian replied that Lea's library of books on the history of the Roman Church and the Middle Ages consists of seventeen thousand volumes, and he is considered to have been an exceptionally reliable historian.

Particularly in his volumes on the Inquisition and auricular confession, he quotes copiously from primary sources.  A great many of these quotations are in Latin.  Any priest can read them and realize Lea's veracity.

The Dictionary of American Biography devotes three pages to Lea's life.' His mother was a Roman Catholic.  He believed so much in fairness that in 1844, during an anti-Catholic riot, he shouldered a gun and acted as a defender of the nearest Catholic Church.  To be scrupulously accurate, he learned German at sixty and Dutch at eighty.  He gathered his vast resources by keeping copyists busy in many of the great archives of Europe and South America .  His historical integrity earned him honorary degrees from Harvard, Princeton , the University of Pennsylvania .  He was elected to the presidency of the American Historical Association.  Honors poured upon him also from Europe , even from learned Roman Catholics.  The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography states of Lea:

 So careful was his presentation that one could not discover from his books whether he were Catholic or Protestant.  He was concerned solely with the truth, and in its pursuit, his mind was trained to the finest balance.,"'

 Lea and other historians cite the moral example of the leaders of Catholicism.  Naturally, the examples of leaders were followed by those led.

The very establishment of the Mendicant Orders of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis was an acknowledgment of the immorality and criminality of the majority of the clergy.  The general abandonment of sexual restraint because of the unnaturalness and impossibility of enforcement of the law of celibacy among the priests and nuns will be treated in the chapters on sex.

But the clergymen were guilty of more crimes than sex aberration.  In 1215, Pope Innocent III addressed the Fourth Lateran council:

 The corruption of the people has its chief source in the clergy. From this arise the evils of Christendom, Faith parishes , Religion is defaced, justice is trodden underfoot heretics multiply, , schismatic are emboldened, the faithless grow strong, and Saracens triumph  

 The morals of the general public were understandably usually as low as their clergy.  As described by the eminent historian, Will Durant:

"Pious frauds" corrupted texts and invented a thousand in education, trade, edifying miracles.  Bribery was general

war, religion, government, law.  Schoolboys sent pies to their examiners; politicians paid for appointments to public office, and collected the necessary sums from their friends; witnesses could be bribed to swear to anything; litigants gave presents to jurors and judges; in 1289 Edward I of England had to dismiss most of his judges and ministers for corruption.  The laws arranged for solemn oaths at every turn; men swore on the Scriptures or the most sacred relics; sometimes they were required to take an oath that they would keep the oath they them in the name of Christ and to claim his share.  This was the beginning of the modern slave trade with Africa and the beginning also of its justification on the grounds of winning souls for Christ.13

 The early American colonists risked the Atlantic and death principally in search of freedom of worship, at least of freedom of their own type of worship.

The Spaniards came principally for gold.  "I came to 'get gold, not to till the soil like a peasant," said Corte's.  Later he told Teuthile, an Aztec chieftain, "The Spaniards -are troubled with a disease of the heart for which gold is a specific remedy."

We young Franciscans lived and studied in missions in, California that had been built nearly two hundred years ago by conquered or "converted" Indians.  We knew that soldiers accompanied the priests-merely to protect the Priests until the Indians learned the Catholic faith.  I have since discovered that the truth was just the opposite.  'The priests accompanied the soldiers to facilitate the, conquest of the Indians-to make them docile and more willing slaves of the Spaniards.  Ernest Gruening, now United States Senator from Alaska , described this process:

 The crown rewarded their conquest of Montezuma's empire with grants of land and of Indians.  So these rough soldiers became in this luxuriant land of sunshine, masters of men, owners of vast estates, the aristocracy of the new world.

Excepting the caciques (Indian chiefs) and their families such as had not been slaughtered-every Indian became some kind of slave.  The greater portion were "given in trust" to be "made use of in farms and mines." Another class of servants, usually house servants, fared worse than the encomendados (those given in trust) who were theoretically under their master's guardianship.  A third category were frankly slaves, rebellion serving as a pretext for branding them on the cheek, Even suckling babes were seized at the mother's breast and marked for life.14

 Before Luther and the Reformation it was hardly possible to compare the immorality and crime of Catholics and non-Catholics.  However, in Spain in the sixteenth century, a Bishop Guevara admitted that the morality of the Spanish Moors was higher than that of Roman Catholics.  Throughout the Church's history, crime among Jews was far less than among Catholics, just as it showed up as less than one per cent in the survey I made of American prisons.

About 1650, the Catholic persecutor of heretics, Caramuel, testified that "in many provinces of Germany the Lutherans were more moral than the Catholics, whose lives were scandalous." 15

Lea also presents figures for the 1880's showing that in murder, Ireland is the only Catholic country that compares favorably with Protestant countries."' The following shows the number of murders per 100,000 of population:

                        Italy    (1887)    (Catholic)                12.67

                       Spain (1886)    (Catholic)                  8.59

                       Austria (1885)   (Catholic)                  3.11

                       Belgium (1885) (Catholic)                  2.52

                       France (1887)   (Catholic)                  2.13

                       Ireland (1887)   (Catholic)                  1.93

                       Germany (1887)                 (Protestant)      1.14

                       England (1W)   (Protestant)               1.08

                       Scotland (1886)                 (Protestant)      0.94

 It is a fact that great feats have been wrought during the Church's history.  We have magnificent churches and

cathedrals to prove it.  Millions of people have led good and sincere lives, some because of the Church's teachings,

some because they were just naturally good and sincere, and some in spite of the clergy's example.  There were probably as many good and harmless popes as there were bad and destructive ones.

But looking at the overall balance sheet of the Roman Catholic Church's history, from its beginning up to and including our present generation, its debits and its credits, its evil performed, its good left undone, its influence over billions of people during almost two millennia of its existence, it has certainly failed in the "production and sale" of its most important product-morality and the better life for the majority of its people.

Whatever else it may have been, whether or not it was • civilizing force in the material and intellectual sense, • world colonizer ' a political organizer, a patron of such arts as painting, sculpture, architecture and music, it has succeeded throughout history in being anything but a church-especially a church founded by Christ.

As one views its progress, one can think only of the judgment visited by God in the olden times upon Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans:

 TFIML: thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."