Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Power And The Glory: Inside The Dark Heart Of John Paul 11’s Vatican


She may not have an extraordinary sounding name but her name no matter how it sounds made a history and set in motion series of events that opened a can of worms that revealed the darkest side of the Roman Catholic Church and which ultimately changed the public perception of the Church. By the time the dust generated by her revelations settled, the Roman Catholic Church especially that of the United States of America had lost millions of dollars in law suit which resulted in the closure of many dioceses, schools, churches, hospitals and similar institutions to raise settlement money. It never stopped there. Many hundreds of priests, nuns and religious were also sent to jail as a result of the scandal.

It was the greatest scandal ever to have confronted the Roman Catholic Church since it was founded over 2000 years ago allegedly by our Lord Jesus Christ. The scandal left the Roman Catholic Church reeling with a very battered image and in a very depressive mood. The scandal never stopped there and actually refused to stop; like a raging wildfire it travelled wide to the four corners of the earth from America to Europe to Australia to Asia and to Africa exposing shameful conducts of priests, nuns and religious and amazing huge lawsuits in its tail. It was a horrendous revelation that shocked not only the Roman Catholic community but non-Roman Catholics and even non-Christians as well. People simply could not understand that priest, nuns and religious entrusted with the care of the faithful especially the children could turn back and became predators and sexually molesting and abusing them.

However her story brought a sudden awareness of what young people as well as unmarried and married faithful goes through in the hands of priests, nuns and religious who are supposed to be their moral guardians. The story began in 1984 when a Los Angeles lawyer brought the first ever clergy malpractice lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Church on behalf of Rita Milla.

Rita Milla was only sixteen and wanted to be a nun. In preparation for her vocation, she had to prepare herself properly in accordance with the catholic faith. While confessing to a priest named Father Santiago Tamayo, the priest reached through the flimsy screen within the confessional and began to caress her breasts. Over the next two years he systematically set about seducing Rita even to the extent of telling her that ‘God wants you to do all you can to keep his priests happy...it is your duty’, and Rita naively believed and kept having regular sex with Father Santiago. Father Santiago later persuaded her to makes other priests in the Parish of St. Philomena in Los Angeles happy too, and she ended up making seven more priests happy. None of the priests took any precaution and Rita became pregnant in 1980 at the age of 19.

When the news of her pregnancy reached Father Santiago, he contacted other priests and they quickly raised 450 dollars to send her to the Philippines to have the child. All this time the parents of Rita were unaware of what was happening. In fact she lied to them that she was going to the Philippines to study, however when she developed complications during the childbirth, her parents found out and brought her to the States where the Clergy Malpractice Lawsuit was filed after series of efforts to persuade the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to take care of her failed.

Faced with the law suit and the possibility of scandal the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, instead of bringing the seven priests out to face the law and bear the consequences of their actions ordered them to go abroad until further notice. It would be until 1991 before the role of the archdiocese in the cover up was made public by the guilt-stricken and remorseful Father Santiago Tamayo. Letters he made available confirmed that the archdiocese in a well orchestrated plan to cover up the scandal was regularly sending money not even to Rita and her new baby Jacqueline, but to the seven priests hiding in the Philippines. The Los Angeles Archdiocese actually urged Tamayo to stay in the Philippines after Jacqueline's birth and mailed cheques to him there. In three letters dating from June 1984 to August 1988 the archdiocese advised Tamayo not to reveal the source of the payments ‘unless requested under oath’ noting that he was ‘liable for personal suits arising out of your past actions’.

In August 2003 Rita’s baby, then 20 years, finally learnt that his father is Father Valentine Tugade, one of the seven priests who had sex with her mother. The initial cover up of the case was orchestrated by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Timothy Manning and when he was succeeded by Roger Mahoney, the cover up and payments to the fugitive priests continued.

These cover ups and secrecy syndrome within the Roman Catholic Church especially at the highest level, the Vatican and more especially during the reign of Pope John Paul 11 is the main gist of this book ‘The Power and The Glory-Inside The Dark Heart Of John Paul 11’s Vatican’ by David Yallop. Yallop is a seasoned controversial writer. His ‘In God’s Name’ which was published before this, explored the allegation that contrary to widely held belief that Albino Luciani, the Pope John Paul 1 died peacefully in his sleep, he was actually murdered to cover up the scandal involving the Vatican Bank, some Italian banks and Mafiosos that use the Vatican bank to launder money to South America. According to Yallop, Pope John Paul 11 was aware of this and was even aware that the morning before his death, Pope John Paul 1 was about to announce series of plans to reform the scandalous Vatican Bank including the removal of the corrupt Bishop Paul Casmir Marcinkus as the head of the bank.

Pope John Paul 11, according to Yallop instead of going ahead with the plans retained the corrupt Bishop Marcinkus and actually promoted him to the rank of an archbishop thereby allowing the money laundering, organised crime and the embezzlement to continue. One of the reasons why Pope John Paul 11 refused to remove Marcinkus, according to Yallop in the book published in 2007, was the affiliation they had which could be very valuable to him in sending money to his homeland of Poland to aid the Solidarity, a trade union that has been in logger heads with the communist government of Poland. In fact through this arrangement Archbishop Marcinkus whose father was of Lithuanian origin was able to transfer huge amounts of money to the Solidarity in Poland as well using same opportunity to engage in other numerous illicit activities.

For instance, in 1973 Marcinkus was questioned in his Vatican office by the American Federal Prosecutor William Aronwald and Bill Lynch then head of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the United States Department of Justice, about his involvement in the delivery of 14.5 million US$ worth of counterfeit bonds to the Vatican in July 1971, part of a total request of 950 million US$ worth stated in a letter on Vatican notepaper. His name and the official letter surfaced during the investigation of an international gang which included Vincent Rizzo, who eventually served twelve years in prison. Marcinkus said he considered the charges against him serious but not based on enough fact that he would violate the Vatican Bank's confidentiality to defend himself. Back in the States it was agreed on the highest levels that the case against Marcinkus could not be pursued any further.

In July 1982, he was implicated in a financial scandal involving the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano. Marcinkus had been a director of Ambrosiano Overseas, based in Nassau, Bahamas, and had been involved with Ambrosiano's chairman and financier Roberto Calvi, for years. He was also involved with Michele Sindona, who had links with the Mafia. Calvi was later found hanging under London's Blackfriars Bridge in June 1982. In addition, a journalist Mino Pecorelli, who had been investigating Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank and its link to organized crime was found dead in 1979. Marcinkus later stepped aside as head of the Vatican Bank soon after and the Vatican eventually paid £145 million in a settlement with creditors, with Marcinkus observing in 1986 that ‘You can't run the Church on Hail Marys’.

This ugly development from an institution that is supposed to be above Caesar’s wife in virtue was a push factor for David Yallop in writing this book. Yallop levelled series of serious allegations against the late Pope John Paul 11 including the allegation of an accomplice in the cover up of the church sex scandal as well as the allegation that he never actually played a formidable role as widely believed in dismantling communism and the Soviet Union. He was of the view that Pope John Paul 11 was actually in sympathy with the Russian communism, hated with passion the Marxist movement and liberation theology in South America and was deeply nauseated by the American capitalism. As a result of his hatred for liberation theology he refused to see the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero as martyrdom, claimed Yallop.

David Yallop accused Pope John Paul 11 of being a show biz pope who derives pleasure from gallivanting from one part of the world to another despite the huge expenses on the host countries, the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. He was very critical of the expenses involved in what he called ‘unnecessary’ trips.

“The financial cost is more difficult to evaluate. During November 1980 the Pope paid a five-day visit to the then West Germany; the cost to the West German taxpayers was officially put at $10 million. In 1982 the Pope made a six-day visit to the United Kingdom; the cost was officially put at £6 million. In 1987 the Pope made a ten-day visit to USA estimated at $26 million. The Vatican paid for the first-class air fares for the twelve members of the papal party, while American taxpayers and American Catholics paid the remainder. Long after the trip, many dioceses were struggling with huge unpaid bills. The cost of other overseas trips has also been officially estimated at $2 million per day. Taking these figures as an average, the cost of the Pope’s overseas trips since October 1978, a cost that was never paid by the Vatican, was in excess of $1.1 billion”, claimed Yallop.

He noted that the Pope felt more at home with the rich than the poor and with then military juntas of Chile, Philippines and Argentina than with democratically elected leaders and does not care what happens to the poor even as he refused to speak out in Mexico and other south American countries of evils being perpetrated against the indigenes and the poor in order not to offend the host governments. For instance in September 1990, the Pope flew to the Ivory Coast and in act that is very scandalous consecrated the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in the capital city of Yamoussoukro.

“No expense had been spared in this impoverished African country. At 525 feet it is the world’s tallest church. The cost of the building was between $150 million and $180 million. The pope described the building as a ‘visible sign’ of God’s presence on earth”, noted Yallop who was obviously irked that the pope never bothered to ask for the source of the money and if the basilica is what the Ivoirians needed at that point in time.

The about 700-page book is therefore more of refutations of allegations of good deeds ascribed to the late pope in the face of overwhelming evidence clearing suggesting otherwise according to Yallop. Yallop never hide his objections to most of ideologies being peddled by the Roman Catholic Church including its institutionalised homophobia despite the glaring fact that elevation in the Vatican is partly ascribed to homosexual relationship between the younger priests and older bishops. He questioned the exclusion of women from the priesthood and while noting that the Catholic Church always point to the fact that there was no female apostle also pointed out that there was no gentile there either. He queried in black and white the rationale behind the dispensation of the traditional five year period between the death of candidate and the commencement of his beatification process given to Pope John Paul 11 and described the whole drama as making mockery of the Roman Catholic Theology of sainthood.

He repeatedly asked what the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John Paul 11 was trying to achieve by making his papacy one of the most secretive in history to the extent that the fact that he suffers from Parkinson disease was also kept a secret by all concerned including the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a member of the secretive Opus Dei, an organisation that was controversially granted a personal prelature by Pope John Paul 11 and whose founder’s-Jose Maria Eschriva -canonisation process was unprecedentedly fast tracked.

The present Pope Benedict XVI was also not spared. Alleging that he was once a conscript of the Hitler Youth Movement, he alleged that Benedict brought his Nazi mentality with him to the priesthood and to the Vatican and was responsible for numerous witch hunting and reign of terror and intimidation in the Vatican. This reign of intimidation, he noted was responsible for silencing of notable critiques of the Roman Catholic Church including the celebrated theologian Hans Kung who never for once accepted the dogma of the infallibility of the pope.

Picture Courtesy Of Carroll and Graf Publishers.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Chukwunwikezarramu, I do not know how you managed to pick up a book like this and reads it through to finish. I have lost words on how to describe my feelings and thoughts after reading your review of this book. I mean....from my understanding of the role of the church in the society, it to bring people closer to God and protect them from any form of evil deed. God is not a fool, and He is watching at everything that is happening and will place a judgement to those who have been using religion to inflict pain to the innocent souls.

    God is kind, compassionate and love, and not decertful. He does not inflict pain to the beautiful humanbeings that He has created

    Thank you for the review of this book and really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work and continue to alert the society about of the Truth.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks a lot and I am particularly happy that you understood the message in the review. God is truly love and it is our responsibility to disseminate that message of love to the people of God. At the same time, we are also called to protect the vulnerable children of God from those more likely to do harm to them. Children are so sweet and innocent that everything must be done to protect their angelic decorum and above all to protect them from predators who are going around like a roaring lion looking for children and children of God to inflict injury upon. As a Roman Catholic, am utterly ashamed that such scandal took place in the first place and it is my passionate desire that such a thing never happen again.

    Once more thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete