If one wants an evening soap opera like plot complete with lies, scheming, criminal conspiracies, illicit sex and much more, then one need look no farther than the Vatican according to a new book entitled Vatican Diaries released a little over a week ago. Yet somehow the nasty old men that inhabit the Vatican's halls and palaces think they are fit to be the moral arbiters to over a billion Catholics even as the are the epitome of un-Christian conduct. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the new book and the snake pit that lies behind the lavish exterior of the Vatican. Here are some excerpts:
Vatican insider John Thavis always had a hunch Pope Benedict XVI would retire. But he had no idea it would coincide with the release of his book Vatican Diaries, which was published on February 21. “I’d like to say I had planned it that way,” he told The Daily Beast in the Vatican’s press office days after the papal resignation. “But it was just a happy coincidence.”
Thavis’s book is a notebook dump of sorts gathered from 30 years working as a Catholic News Service Vaticanista—the official term used for Rome journalists who have personal cellphone numbers for cardinals and high-ranking Roman Curia prelates. While his book would have been interesting for Church watchers before Benedict’s resignation, it will surely become a veritable handbook on all things Vatican now that the world is watching who the cardinal electors choose as a new pope.
On one papal trip, the Vatican press spokesman actually reworded a statement Benedict made on abortion and excommunication that Thavis felt crossed the line. “Editing Pope Benedict’s extemporaneous comments had been a common practice from the very first day of his pontificate,” Thavis writes. . . . . The idea of a midlevel bureaucrat fine-tuning Pope Benedict’s language may sound strange, but it reflects a deeply entrenched conviction that the actual words a pope pronounces are not definitive until the ‘official version’ is published. Usually the editing was merely annoying, but in this case it was an attempt to rewrite reality.”
Thavis wastes no words on his condemnation of the Vatican’s handling of the various sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the church in the 30 years he has been covering the Vatican beat. He dedicates several chapters to the unsavory sex-abuse cases the Catholic Church has been involved in, and manages to explain in laymen’s terms the very complicated Legions of Christ scandal by walking through a series of investigations and interviews by high-ranking church officials including the Vatican’s promoter of justice. He focuses on the lurid life of Legions founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado and paints as vivid a character profile of the disturbingly strange man as has been written to date. Father Marcial, as he is referred to, was a favorite of Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul II, despite a myriad of allegations of sexual improprieties and financial corruption. Benedict, as pope, finally put an end to Marcial’s reign amid his apologies to seminarians he sexually abused and his admission that he had fathered several children with different women. “Nowhere was there any hint that the order itself bore any responsibility for a cover-up; on the contrary, the Legion’s highest officials were portraying themselves as victims of Maciel’s duplicity,” Thavis writes. “And while the Legion was admitting to the founder’s extramural heterosexual affair—he was human, after all—it refused to touch the more serious allegations that Maciel had turned his own seminary into a pedophilia camp.”
Thavis may not have known that his book would coincide with Benedict’s sensational resignation and a historical conclave when there is still a living pope, but he certainly was prophetic in his last chapter, which is a succinct and unapologetic tribute to the former pope. He wades through the various incarnations of Benedict’s papacy, from his gaffes to his more meaningful moments, painting a human portrait of a man who shocked the world with his resignation.
The more I learn of the lies, deceit, and abuses overseen by the Vatican, the more saddened I become that I remained a Catholic as long as I did.