When Pope John Paul I died, just 33 days into his papacy, the Vatican issued a press statement saying that he had suffered a heart attack; later leaking through unattributed sources “close to the Holy See” that this was possibly brought on by his smoking and drinking. This so infuriated his personal physician and lifelong friend that he refused to sign the death certificate until a postmortem had been carried out. He was denied this request, while the body was embalmed in secret.
It would be later revealed that 24 hours before his death, Albino Luciani had issued a decree, that all Vatican officials wanted for questioning by American prosecutors were to be handed over with immediate effect. The crimes of which they were accused ranged from laundering Mafia drug money through the Vatican bank, to lurid connections between senior Vatican officials and international organised crime syndicates such as the outlawed masonic order Propaganda Due, or P2.
One Vatican official the American prosecutors were particularly keen to talk to, was an American Bishop called Paul Marcinkus. Top of the agenda was to establish whether or not Marcinkus’s personal fortune had come from the sale of fraudulent bank trading bonds, and why it was that under Pope John Paul I’s predecessor, Antonio Maria Montini, Marcinkus had authorised the sale of Vatican property and land, the profits from which ended up in Marcinkus’s personal bank account.
Under Pope John Paul II Bishop Paul Marcinkus was actively promoted, and went to the grave never having answered a single question about his involvement in financial irregularities which led the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, the death of journalist Mino Pecorelli, the death of Italian banker Roberto Calvi, or the curious circumstances under which Albino Luciani’s body was disposed of — despite that he and one or two other senior Vatican officials would have directly benefited from his death; both in terms financial and in terms of protecting their considerable reputation.
Today Joseph Ratzinger announced his retirement; the first time in 600 years a papacy has ended through means other than the death of the Bishop of Rome. The Vatican issued a press statement saying that one of the most important theologians in the world was stepping aside as he could no longer carry out his workload.
While there may well be a great deal of truth to this, it is also the case that the Church is running out of legal loopholes to hide behind, in its refusal to issue an unconditional apology to the victims of child rape, and other forms of physical and sexual abuse around the world, carried out at the hands of Catholic priests.
People who were the victims of a secret system, which was issued and enforced by Ratzinger when he was a Cardinal under Pope John Paul II, and who were forbidden by this system from complaining of their abuse to law enforcement on pain of excommunication, have for years had to sit and watch their attackers being actively protected by the Church, who moved priests on from diocese to diocese, where they would repeatedly offend.
Since this first came to light, the legal claims against the Church in America alone are estimated to have cost the Church close to $6 billion — and this is before a full investigation into why the secret system was allowed to include clauses which specifically prevented sex abuse victims from going to the police, and who ordered the inclusion of such provisions has been fully carried out.
The net around the Vatican, and the still living Cardinals and Bishops who presided over the use of the secret system is tightening. What was once dismissed as a conspiracy theory, and treated with contempt by the mainstream media, is gradually revealing itself to be the web of corruption, criminal neglect, and a coordinated pedophile protection ring which victims of the secret system have always maintained the Vatican designed it to be.
Today, in the radio and television news media, supporters of the soon to step aside pontiff, have been lining up three abreast to paper over the cracks in Ratzinger’s public image. Tomorrow the newspapers and Catholic opinion formers will aid and abet the telling of the narrative the world’s richest religious institution wants Pope Benedict XVI to be remembered by.
In reality, somewhere within the belly of the beast, decisions have been taken not on spiritual advice from the heavens, but from legal advise right here on planet Earth, that are designed to protect the Church from the landslide of legal claims which could potentially bankrupt it in its previously most profitable markets; the US, Ireland, and South America to name but a few of the territories where child rapists have been protected for years, at the behest of the man who today we’re told is “one of the world’s leading religious thinkers”.
Ratzinger’s replacement will inherit a ledger containing the names of rapists around the world; many of whom continue to say Holy Mass every Sunday, before a congregation completely oblivious as to their unpunished crimes. The new Pope’s choice is therefore simple. He can finally once and for all reveal the secret documentation, which Pope Benedict XVI has held for the last twenty or more years, and mark a turning point in the history of the Church which future generations will remember as the beginning of the end for the Catholic Church. Or he can choose to keep the documentation secret, as did his predecessor, and continue to ignore as a “media exaggeration” the thousands of people around the world, who were raped in the confessional, beaten in the vestry, and brainwashed in the classroom.
The early signs, however, for a more positive outcome are good. The Vatican is fond of coded meanings and hidden messages in the language they use, particularly to the mainstream media. We’re told, for example, that the Pope is “fully aware” of the ramifications involved in the resigning of his post. This could be interpreted as a message from the Pope to the sinister forces within the Church itself who believe themselves above the law.
It could also be argued, that a former Pope is in a much better position to ensure that his message of “if I’m going down, you’re going with me” actually means something concrete, if he is still alive to ensure the correct course of action is finally taken under his successor, in a way in which it could not under his leadership. We live in hope; but one thing is for certain — if today’s announcement isn’t about an awful lot more than what we’re being told it is, this itself would be a Vatican first.