Let there be no misunderstanding: We are not suggesting that Catholic popes, priests, and nuns are inherently more prone to promiscuity than the rest of mankind. Our hearts are all the same. Many of these tragic individuals no doubt began with high moral and spiritual aspirations and in that spirit set out upon what they sincerely intended to be a life of purity and devotion to Christ. It was the system of hierarchical privilege, power, and authority over the laity which perverted and destroyed them.
That system, as we have seen, gathered momentum through the centuries by the lust and greed of popes whose natural propensity for evil (innate in us all) found occasion through the unusual opportunities afforded by their office. To enhance their power they issued a host of false documents which purported to be the writings of early Church Fathers and decrees of early synods. One self-serving theme of these forgeries was the claim that the popes had inherited "innocence and sanctity from Peter" and could not be judged by any man. Von Dollinger writes:
A saying ascribed to Constantine, at the Council of Nice, in a legend recorded by Rufinus, was amplified till it was fashioned into a perfect mine of high-flying pretensions. Constantine, according to this fable, when the written accusations of the bishops against each other were laid before him, burned them, saying ... that the bishops were gods, and no man could dare to judge
If one is on the level of the gods, what privileges could not one claim? Gods are above the law. No wonder, then, that the popes began to declare openly that they had power over kings and kingdoms and all persons, and power to behave like tyrants.
The added pretense of infallibility only made matters worse.
Each priest and nun, by association, shares (though to a lesser extent) this same corrupting absolutism and elevation above laypersons. Add to this pretended Godlike authority the unnatural rule of celibacy (an intolerable burden which only a small minority of persons could possibly bear) and the stage is set for all manner of evil. A sincere Catholic historian writes:
The fact is that priestly celibacy has hardly ever worked. In the view of some historians, it has probably done more harm to morals than any other institution in the West, including prostitution....
The proof of the harm done by celibacy comes not from bigoted anti-Catholic sources; on the contrary, it includes papal and conciliar documents and letters of reforming saints. They all point in one direction: far from being a candle in a naughty world, priestly celibacy has been more often than not a stain on the name of Christianity.3
Celibacy's Roots and Fruits
One must understand that mandatory celibacy is not taught in the Bible, nor was it practiced by the apostles. This teaching developed as an integral part of the evolving papal system and gradually became essential to it. The concern was not morality, for celibacy proved to be a veritable cornucopia of evil. In fact, the rule of celibacy was not the prohibition of sex but of marriage. Pope Alexander 11 (1061-73), for example, refused to discipline a priest who had committed adultery with his father's second wife because he hadn't committed the sin of matrimony. That was the great evil which had to be eliminated for the priesthood to be totally devoted to the Church.
All down through history not only priests and prelates but popes as well had their mistresses and visited prostitutes. Many were homosexuals. No member of the clergy was ever excommunicated for having sex, but thousands have been put out of the priesthood for the scandal of getting married. Why then the strict insistence upon celibacy, even to the present day, if it really doesn't mean abstinence from sex? It is because the rule of celibacy has a very practical and lucrative result for the Church: It leaves priests and especially bishops and popes without families to whom to bequeath property and thereby impoverish the Church. The clergy must have no heirs.
Pope Gregory VII, bemoaning the difficulty in stamping out marriage among priests, declared: "The Church cannot escape from the clutches of the laity unless priests first escape from the clutches of their wives." Here is another vital reason for celibacy: to create a priesthood without the encumbrance (and loving loyalties) of wives and children. Thus fornication and adultery, though forbidden in theory, were preferable to a marriage relationship. Nineteenth-century historian R.W. Thompson explains:
It was considered absolutely necessary to the perfect working of the papal system that there should be organized a compact body of ecclesiastics, destitute of all those generous sympathies which grow alone out of the family relation, that they might be the better fitted to do the work of the popes....4
Though married men in those early days were allowed to enter the priesthood, they were required to live celibate lives. Pope Leo I (440-61) decreed that married clergy were to treat their wives "as sisters." Few if any Catholics realize that as late as the reign of Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) it was accepted for priests to be married and supposedly live in celibacy with their wives.
Such a requirement was both unnatural and unrealistic. Who could keep such a rule? All over Italy the clerics openly had large families and no discipline was enacted against them. After all, many of the popes had large families as well and sometimes made no secret of it. De Rosa comments:
This theological confusion in an age of depravity led the clergy, in fifth-century Rome in particular, to become a byword for everything that was gross and perverted.... When Pope Sixtus 111(432-40) was put on trial for seducing a nun, he ably defended himself by quoting Christ's words, "Let him who is without fault among you throw the first stone."
... roving monks were proving to be a social menace ... there were long periods when many monasteries were nothing but houses of ill repute.... The second Council of Tours in the year 567 ... publicly admitted there was hardly a cleric anywhere without his wife or mistress.... 5
A System Made for Prostitution
For centuries the priesthood was largely hereditary. Most priests were the sons of other priests and bishops. More than one pope was the illegitimate son of a previous and supposedly celibate pope. For example, Pope Sylverius (536-7) was fathered by Pope Hormisdas (514-23), and John XI (931-5) by Sergius III (904-11) of his favorite mistress, Marozia, to whom we referred earlier.
Among the other bastards who ruled the Church were Popes Boniface 1(418-22), Gelasius (492-6), Agapitus (535-6), and Theodore (642-9). There were more. Adrian IV (1154-9) was the son of a priest. No wonder Pope Pius 11 (1458-64) said Rome was "the only city run by bastards." Pius himself admitted to fathering at least two illegitimate children, by different women, one of them married at the time. The rule of celibacy literally created prostitutes, making Rome the "Mother of Harlots," as the apostle John foresaw.
In his fiery sermons, Savonarola of Florence, Italy (soon to be martyred), called Rome "a harlot ready to sell her favors for coin"6 and accused the priests of bringing "spiritual death upon all ... their piety consists in spending their nights with harlots." He cried, "One thousand, ten thousand, fourteen thousand harlots are few for Rome, for there both men and women are made harlots."7
Pope Alexander VI threatened to "lay an interdict upon Florence" if it did not silence Savonarola. The city rulers obeyed for fear that as a result of the interdict all "the Florentine merchants in Rome would be thrown into jail."8 The pope wanted Savonarola brought to Rome for trial as a heretic, but the Signory of Florence wanted to execute him themselves. After signing confessions that had been wrung out of them by the cruelest of torture, Savonarola and two comrade friars were hanged and burned to ashes.9 Yet this man who preached against the Church leaders' immorality and was slain by Roman Catholics is now celebrated by the Vatican as "a giant of our faith, martyred May 23, 1498."10 What revision of history!
Visiting Germany in the eighth century, St. Boniface found that none of the clergy honored their vows of celibacy. He wrote to Pope Zachary (741-52): "Young men who spent their youth in rape and adultery were rising in the ranks of the clergy. They were spending their nights in bed with four or five women, then getting up in the morning ... to celebrate mass." Bishop Rathurio complained that if he excommunicated unchaste priests "there would be none left to administer the sacraments, except boys. If he excluded bastards, as canon law demanded, not even boys [would be left]."11
Even idealists became unprincipled rogues because the priesthood was one of the surest and fastest ways to wealth and power and afforded unique opportunities for the most profligate pleasure. Today's pope, John Paul II, in his recent encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (Splendor of Truth), soundly condemns promiscuity. One might respect such a treatise if he would admit that his predecessors in the papacy have been some of the worst offenders; that the clergy, because they can't marry, have been more prone to illicit relationships than the laity; and that promiscuity is still widespread among the Roman Catholic clergy. Otherwise Splendor of Truth has a hollow sound.
Vicars of Christ?
John XII (955-64), to whom we referred earlier, became pope at age 16, ran a harem in the Lateran Palace, and lived a life of evil that passes imagination, even toasting the devil in front of St. Peter's altar. Spiritual leader of the Church for eight years, John XII slept with his mother and any other woman he could get his hands on. Women were warned not to venture into St. John Lateran church. Of this man Liutprand wrote in his journal:
Pope John is the enemy of all things.... the palace of the Lateran, that once sheltered saints and is now a harlot's brothel, will never forget his union with his father's wench, the sister of the other concubine Stephania....
Women ... fear to come and pray at the thresholds of the holy apostles, for they have heard how John a little time ago took women pilgrims by force to his bed, wives, widows and virgins alike....12
St. Peter Damian's eleventh-century record of the incredible evils caused by the pledge of celibacy made such scandalous reading that the pope with whom he shared it preserved it in the papal archives. In fact, it "proves that profligacy among the clergy of the time was universal. After six centuries of strenuous efforts to impose celibacy, the clergy were a menace to the wives and young women of the parishes to which they were sent." 13
Pope Innocent IV (1243-54), forced to leave Rome by Emperor Frederick II, took refuge along with his Curia in Lyons, France. Upon the pope's return to Rome after Frederick's death, Cardinal Hugo wrote a letter thanking the people of Lyons. He reminded them that they also owed a debt to the pope and his court. His remarks provide a glimpse of the shameless depravity of the papal court:
During our residence in your city, we [the Roman Curia] have been of very charitable assistance to you. On sisters of love, whilst at our departure we leave you, so to say, one brothel that extends from the western to the eastern gate.14
The Enforcement of Celibacy
Celibacy was hardly known in England before it was at last enforced by Innocent IV in about 1250. Most priests there were married, a practice long accepted by the Church. But Rome determined that it had to end all familial devotion for priests and nuns; their loyalty must now be given solely to Mother Church and the Pope. R.W. Thompson explains why celibacy was forced upon England:
The celibacy of the Roman clergy has been, since its introduction, considered one of the most effective means of establishing the supremacy of the popes; and for this purpose the attempt was made to introduce it into England, after the Norman conquest.15
Pope Honorius II (1124-30) sent Cardinal John of Crema to England to see that his decree against marriage for clergy was carried out. The cardinal gathered the senior clerics and chided them vigorously for their evil ways, declaring that "'twas a horrible crime to rise from the side of a harlot, and then to handle the consecrated body of Christ." The clergy whom he had lectured, however, surprised him in his room later that night in bed with one of the local prostitutes.16 At least he wasn't married.
In the thirteenth-century St. Bonaventure, cardinal and general of the Franciscans, had said that Rome was just like the harlot of the Apocalypse, exactly as John foresaw and as Luther would see to his sorrow three centuries later. Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) did not hesitate to have both a mother and daughter as his mistresses together. It was Luther's visit to Rome which completed his growing disillusionment with his Church.
By the fourteenth century the Church had lost all credibility as an example of Christlike living. Cynicism was rampant. It was no secret that Pope John XXII (1316-34) had a son who was raised to cardinal. Like Luther, England's John Colet had been shocked at the brazen ungodliness of the pope and cardinals when he visited Rome. From his pulpit in London's St. Paul's Cathedral, of which he was the dean, Colet thundered his disapproval:
Oh, the abominable impiety of those miserable priests, of whom this age contains a great multitude, who fear not to rush from the bosom of some foul harlot into the temple of the Church, to the altars of Christ, to the mysteries of God! 17
Life in the Papal Court
For years it had been a common saying that "Rome has more prostitutes than any city in the world because it has the most celibates." Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) turned that fact into a source of considerable profit by charging Rome's numerous brothels with a Church tax. Then he gathered more wealth still by charging a tax on mistresses kept by priests. Will Durant reports:
There were 6800 registered prostitutes in Rome in 1490, not counting clandestine practitioners, in a population of some 90,000. In Venice, the census of 1509 reported 11,654 prostitutes in a population of some 300,000. An enterprising printer published a "Catalogue of all the principal and most honored courtesans of Venice, their names, addresses, and fees."18
Upon becoming Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), Rodrigo Borgia, who had committed his first murder at age 12, cried triumphantly, "I am Pope, Pontiff, Vicar of Christ!" Gibbon calls him "the Tiberius of Christian Rome." Though he scarcely pretended to be a Christian, he was, like all the popes, deeply devoted to Mary. Of him a leading Florentine scholar wrote:
His manner of living was dissolute. He knew neither me nor sincerity. neither faith nor religion. Moreover, he was possessed by an insatiable greed, an overwhelming ambition and a burning passion for the advancement of his many children who, in order to carry out his iniquitous decrees, did not scruple to employ the most heinous means.19
Like his predecessor, Pope Innocent VIII (1484-92), Borgia as a fond father admitted who his children were, baptized them personally, gave them the best education, and proudly officiated at their weddings in the Vatican, which were attended by Rome's leading families. Alexander VI had ten known illegitimate children, four of them (including the notorious Cesare and Lucrezia) by Vannozza Catanei, his favorite mistress. When Vannozza faded, Borgia, then 58, took newly-married, 15-year-old Giulia Farnese. She obtained a cardinal's red hat for her brother (thereafter known as "the Petticoat Cardinal"), who later became Pope Paul III (1534-49) and convened the Council of Trent to counter the Reformation.
The Record in Art and Architecture
Papal promiscuity has been immortalized in the very structures and statuary of the Vatican, St. Peter's, and other of Rome's most famous churches and basilicas. The magnificent Sistine Chapel, for example, was built by and named after Sixtus IV, who taxed others for keeping a mistress but paid none for his own. Here the cardinals meet to elect the next pope. Sixty-five feet above them the huge ceiling bears the incredible artwork of Michelangelo.
Admiring visitors are not aware that this, the world's greatest work of art, was commissioned by Julius 11(1503-13), who bought the papacy with a fortune and didn't even pretend to be religious, much less a Christian. A notorious womanizer who sired a number of bastards, Julius was so eaten up with syphilis that he couldn't expose his foot to be kissed. The Sistine Chapel thus stands as one of Rome's many monuments to the fact that the church which owns and proudly displays it is, as John foresaw, the "Mother of Harlots."
Known as "the most important church dedicated to Mary in Western Christendom," Santa Maria Maggiore is the fruit of the combined efforts of a number of promiscuous popes. Sixtus III (432-40), another notorious womanizer, built the main structure. The "golden wood ceiling over the nave was commissioned by the Borgia Pope Alexander VI [1492-1503],"20 who paid for it with gold from America received as a gift from Spain's Ferdinand and Isabella, to whom he had given the new world. Borgia's unbelievable wickedness, including his devotion to torture, his mistresses, and his illegitimate children, have been mentioned briefly. He "launched the first censorship of printed books ... the Index, which [lasted] over four hundred years."21
Inside St. Peter's basilica, the burial monument of Pope Paul III (1534-49) is adorned with reclining female figures. One figure, representing Justice, was naked for 300 years until Pius IX had clothes painted on her. She was modeled after Paul III's sister, Giulia, a mistress of Alexander VI. Thus is immortalized the promiscuity of "celibate" popes.
Today's Unbiblical Tolerance
The gross immorality among Roman Catholic clergy is not confined to the past but continues on a grand scale to this day. Such wickedness was rare and a cause for excommunicating the offending party in the days of the apostles. The faithful were not even to associate with fornicators (1 Corinthians 5:8,9) who claimed to be Christians, so the world would know that such conduct was condemned by the church and all disciples of Christ. Of a sexually profligate man at Corinth, Paul wrote to the church: "Therefore put away from among yourselves [excommunicate] that wicked person" (verse 13).
Yet popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests without number have been habitual fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, and mass-murderers-ruthless and depraved villains who pursued their degenerate lifestyles immune from discipline. Far from being excommunicated, such popes remain proudly displayed on the list of past "vicars of Christ." Today a priest who engages in sexual misconduct is rarely expelled from the priesthood or excommunicated from the Church. Instead, he is reassigned elsewhere and perhaps given psychological counseling. Priests pronounced cured by such treatment centers (for example, Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico) have been reassigned to parishes only to abuse more victims.22
While Rome officially condemns fornication, thousands of its priests engage in sex outside of marriage. A national Catholic newspaper recently reported: "Seven French women ... companions of priests who. .. are forced to `live clandestinely, for a lifetime, the love they share with a priest' [and who] represent thousands of women in similar relationships ... arrived at the Vatican August 20. [They] asked the pope to. .. look into the reality faced by `thousands of priests' companions who live in the shadows, often with the approval of church superiors, and by the children who ... are raised by their mothers alone or are abandoned."23
The fraud and hypocrisy persist. Ex-nun Patricia Nolan Savas, author of Gus: A Nun's Story, writes:
During my ten years as Sister Augusta ... I witnessed situations that ranged from compromising to aberrant. ... In theory, we were forbidden by the Rule to ever touch another person, male or female. "Particular friendships," considered serious violations of the vow of chastity, were to be avoided at all costs. And the cost of imposed asexuality and corporeal denial was always high and often tragic.
With the exception of a few select eunuchs, many of the priests and nuns I knew eventually rejected that intolerable burden and either abandoned the religious life altogether or formed liaisons with their fellow clerics or with outsiders.
There were the valiant ones who continued in their sincere attempts to murder the flesh and often fell victim to serious psychogenic disorders. Some still remain seriously damaged in mind and body, sequestered in institutions referred to as "retreats" or other such euphemisms. A tragic number became alcoholics and quietly drank themselves to death.
A major cause of this apalling waste of lives? Celibacy-a virtuous state when freely entered into but an overwhelming millstone when imposed as dogma on the entire clergy, as it was by the Roman Catholic Church nine centuries ago.24
Early in 1994, "Terence German, 51 [former Jesuit priest], filed a $120-million lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the Church, Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal John O'Connor." He accused them "of turning a blind eye to his repeated reports of other priests' sexual misconduct and misuse of church funds." German's formal complaint explains that -
he gave up all of his "worldly goods" when he took his vows in 1964 in exchange for a promise that the church would care for him until his death. The underlying assumption was that he would "live a life guided by the established principles" of the Roman Catholic Church....
"The church-by acquiescing to pervasive sexual and financial misconduct-broke its part of the established principals.... The Church wasn't enforcing its own rules, so [I wasn't] able to live according to the Church's rules ... with people stealing and in sexual alliances with small boys."25
Today's "celibate" fornicators, pedophiles, and perverts are almost always quietly transferred. In their new parishes they continue to celebrate Mass and to perform priestly functions. Should they commit the much more serious sin of marrying, however, they are forbidden ever to function as priests again.
Exposed at Last
Twentieth-century misconduct by the Roman Catholic clergy, covered up for decades, is now being exposed. Increasing numbers of victims are coming forward to sue the Church. An estimated billion dollars has been paid by the Church so far in the United States in out-of-court settlements. The Santa Fe, New Mexico, Archdiocese is on the brink of bankruptcy due to nearly 50 lawsuits against which it is now defending itself. "More than 45 priests are believed to have [sexually] abused some 200 people over a 30-year period."26 Nor is Santa Fe the only area where the Church faces such lawsuits. In 1994 the Archdiocese of Chicago expects to pay out more than the 2.8 million dollars it had paid for settlements in 1993. The problem is widespread.
The Franciscan boy's seminary in Santa Barbara, California, has just been shut down because of the sexual involvement of the majority of its priests with students. Across the United States women who have brought paternity suits are being paid child support by the Church "in return for their agreement to maintain silence about the fatherhood."27 In the Santa Fe Archdiocese cases, the 12 insurance companies which held liability coverage, including Lloyds of London, have refused to pay claims. They argue that "they should not have to pay out because diocesan officials continued to give parish assignments to priests with a history of sexual abuse."28
Organizations such as ten-year-old "Good Tidings," which helps priests and women who are sexually involved, have sprung up around the world. Good Tidings, headquartered in Canadensis, Pennsylvania, has branches in Canada, Australia, and England. It is "developing ties with similar organizations in other countries, hoping to create a federation that can present a united front to the Church of Rome, which has dismissed sexual liaisons between priests and women as merely an American problem." Many priests "develop patterns of repeated involvement with women." Some of the priests' lovers consider themselves married, "in heart if not legally," and some relationships amount to "common-law marriage...." But "when the responsibility of a. child comes, the priest is gone."29
The Church's insistence upon the unnatural and unworkable rule of celibacy has led to a priesthood of hypocrites who profess one thing and live another. According to National Catholic Reporter, about " 10 percent of priests report a sexual approach from a priest while they were in training.... Spiritual directors, novice masters, seminary professors often introduce sexual contact into the context of their spiritual office."30
Bishops from western Canada visiting Rome in September 1993 asked the pope in a series of meetings to "grant an exception on cultural grounds and allow married priests among the Inuit and Dene peoples of northern Canada." The pope was polite but unbending. Fifteen centuries of "infallibility" can't be changed that easily.31
St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, was the scene during August 12 and 13, 1993, of a groundbreaking conference on "Sexual Trauma and the Church" sponsored by two Benedictines, Abbot Timothy Kelly and Br. Dietrich Reinhart, President of St. John's University. Protestants were involved as well. Dominated by the search for psychological rather than spiritual solutions, participants included psychologists and psychiatrists such as Jesuit Fr. James Gill, psychiatrist and editor of Human Development.
Conferees noted that accurate numbers of sexual-abuse cases are not available because of the widespread suppression of such information by the Church. One canon lawyer, Fr. Thomas Doyle, coauthor of the 1985 Doyle-Moulton-Peterson report on abuse in the clergy, estimated that in 1990 about 3000 of the 50,000 priests in America were "currently involved sexually with minors." It is estimated that "four times as many priests involve themselves sexually with adult women and twice the number of priests involve themselves with adult men as those involved with children."32 The situation is out of hand, as it has been for centuries. Of his fellow clergymen, William Hogan wrote after leaving the priesthood in the early nineteenth century:
I am sorry to say, from my knowledge of them, since my infancy to the present moment, that there is not a more corrupt, licentious body of men in the world.33
At Vatican II Paul VI used the dogma of papal infallibility to take out of the Council's hands critical issues such as celibacy and birth control, upon which he pronounced his own opinions. He demanded that all priests renew their vow of celibacy on Holy Thursday in 1970. Rome can't possibly reverse itself on celibacy without admitting that its infallible popes and councils have been wrong on this point. out of touch with the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit for centuries, while Protestants have been right all along.
Rome's hypocrisy is monumental. She continues to lecture the rest of the world on high moral standards and to pose as the arbiter and paragon of virtue, while tens of thousands of her clergy violate the very morals she proclaims. Consider the 179 pages of Veritatis Splendor, produced by John Paul II over six years and published late in 1993. This weighty theological treatise condemns contraception, illicit sex, and homosexuality as "intrinsically evil." Conspicuous by its absence, however, is any admission that a high percentage of the Roman Catholic clergy practice all three.
Sad Proof of Failure
Catholic theologian Hans Kung echoes the belief of the majority of Roman Catholics when he calls John Paul II's entire pontificate too "hard line" on sexual morality and suggests that such harshness, rather than preventing sexual misconduct, has actually contributed to it. Kung, who continues under a cloud of Vatican disapproval, calls Veritatis Splendor (which church leaders hailed as "a call to holiness"), "the testimony of his [John Paul II's] failure. Wojtyla's point of view, after having been voiced in hundreds of speeches all over the world, has fallen on deaf ears. This is the crowning fiasco of his 15-year-old pontificate."34
In his 120-million-dollar lawsuit against the Church, former Jesuit priest Terence German, a Vatican troubleshooter from 1978 to 1981 at Rome's Jesuit headquarters, claims that "the pope turned a deaf ear to his complaints of sexual improprieties." And when the facts could no longer be denied, the pope tried to say that such things were only occurring in the United States. "But that's hogwash," says German. "It's going on right in Rome, and he knows it."35
Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin boasts that Veritatis Splendor "reaffirms the moral vision that has sustained the Catholic community since the time of Christ."36 Can he really be that ignorant of both the history and current condition of his Church?
Rome is beyond question that city which is the "Mother of Harlots" of Revelation 17, having created them around the world and down through history literally by the millions. No other city on earth even comes close to rivaling her in this regard.