By Miguel Lamas
It is not common for a pope to resign. In fact, that has not happened in almost 600 years. Citing “physical and spiritual exhaustion” and in spite of being 85 years old, the decision of Joseph Ratzinger Benedict XVI was surprising The reality is that he was overwhelmed by a wave of new and old scandals, financial scams, pedophilia, and a deep crisis of the Catholic Church which has lost millions of faithful every year. He was elected Pope in 2005, after the death of his predecessor John Paul II. Before that, he had presided over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 25 years and was a member of the Hitler youth in 1939 (Ratzinger argued that membership in Nazi Germany was mandatory).
Ratzinger will be remembered as one of the most reactionary popes. In January 2009 he lifted the excommunication of four ultraconservative bishops from the fundamentalist movement of Marcel Lefebvre, including the Briton Richard Williamson, who denies the existence of the Nazi Holocaust. Ratzinger adamantly opposed abortion rights, equality for gays, condom use, the possibility of the marriage for priests, euthanasia and divorce. He tried to find a “solution” to the thousands of complaints against pedophile priests and bishops, yet apologizing to the victims. The Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony was dismissed and forced to hand over files with the names of 124 child molesting priests. The Church paid $660 million in compensation to 500 victims to cover up the scandal,almost always obligated by the legal system. Even the Pope was accused of protecting pedophiles when he led the “Holy Office”. The events demonstrated that the totalitarian structure, and the hierarchical and sexually repressive Catholic Church is conducive to aberrations like child abuse and pedophilia.
The financial scandals
Since it could not be any other way, the capitalist financial crisis also affected the Catholic Church. Thw church was deeply involved with the big banks through the Institute for Religious Works (IOR). Until 1989, the IOR was controlled for two decades by American Bishop Paul Marcinkus who was involved in the worst financial scandal in the history of the Church with Banco Ambrosiano, which collapsed. Banco Ambrosiano’s president Roberto Calvi was found hanging from London Bridge. The IOR had to pay $240 million to cover the debts of the Banco Ambrosiano and Marcinkus was forced to retire.
Bishop Paul Marcinkus’ successors returned to their old ways. Last year a new financial scandal erupted which has not yet been clarified. In June 2012, Italian police found confidential documents in the home and office of former Vatican Bank president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, located in the city of Milan (northwest), aimed at their “most trusted friends” leaving a message that “if they murder me, look at these letters” in reference to important figures of the Holy See. Gotti Tedeschi and director general of the IOR, Paolo Cipriani have been under investigation since 2010 for failing to explain the origin of 23 million euros that the Vatican Bank had transferred between accounts at two other institutions. Tedeschi was fired. But it remains unclear where the funds came from. Tedeschi tried to not to follow the footsteps of Roberto Calvi and end up hanging from a bridge.
Meanwhile, the leaking of secret documents and letters with accusations related to financial mismanagement seem endless. They show a strong rupture and not related to theological issues inside the Vatican.
Even if you change the Pope, the Church will not change its corrupt ways
We know Catholics, and even priests, who honestly seek to interpret the Christian message of serving the poor. We respect them. But another thing is the institution of the Catholic Church, with its bishops and Pope in front. The pedophilia scandal was partially uncovered forced by the mobilization of the victims. However, the Church’s support to the worst genocidal regimes (Nazism, fascism, Franco, Videla in Argentina) is still in the shadows. The privileged Catholic Church hierarchy with bankers and big capitalists are sinking into the same corruption of swindling the people and fighting among themselves. US President Obama, Israel’s Shimon Peres, King Juan Carlos, Angela Merkel and the UK’s Cameron among others, lamented his resignation. On our side, the side of workers and socialists, we say that the Catholic Church is an institution run by privileged allies of the big capitalists and US and European imperialism to deceive and to repress the poor. Even though the pope changes, there won’t be any real changes to the culture of corruption and deceit inside the Vatican.