Sex scandals through history

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The Vatican is one of the most secretive institutions that sex scandals through history world has ever known. Yet over the years it has been rocked by numerous scandals, all of which threatened to tarnish the Catholic Church’s carefully maintained reputation.

Some bishops and priests have been accused of helping high-ranking Nazis escape justice at the end of the Second World War. One such bishop was Alois Hudal. In charge of a priest training college from 1923 to 1952, Hudal openly shared his pro-Nazi views and is believed to have helped dozens of senior Nazis flee. The Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, has been plagued by scandals for decades. Its major troubles began with the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano in the ’80s.

The traditional Catholic bank had made a series of unsecured loans to mysterious Panamanian shell companies, transactions which were facilitated by the Vatican Bank. In the ’90s, a group of Holocaust survivors and their heirs filed a class action suit accusing the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan order of collaborating with Croatian fascists to conceal the proceeds of looting during the Second World War. The suit was eventually dismissed, but not before causing further damage to the bank’s reputation. The latest sex scandal to taint the Vatican began with the arrest of Angelo Balducci and Ghinedu Ehiem over allegations of corruption and running a gay prostitution ring. Italian authorities first stumbled onto the prostitution ring while investigating Balducci, a moderately prominent businessman, over corruption allegations.

Wiretap transcripts published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica revealed detailed conversations between Balducci and Ehiem about the ring. Ndrangheta and Campanian Camorra—has long been difficult to define, since it often revolved around what the Church did not do. For many years, the Vatican declined to denounce the gangsters. The Church’s reasons for failing to confront the gangsters are complicated.

Arguably, they date back to 1861, when Italy was unified for the first time since the Dark Ages under the House of Piedmont-Sardinia. A recent investigation has revealed a number of secret networks of nuns, priests, doctors, and nurses who conspired to steal as many as 300,000 Spanish babies. Over the course of at least five decades, many Spanish hospitals, often run by the Church, told mothers that their children died during or after childbirth. If the mothers insisted on seeing their babies, they were often shown an infant’s corpse. Among the first to be charged is an 87-year-old Catholic nun, Sister Maria Gomez. She is accused of snatching an infant from her mother and giving the baby up for adoption. Single mothers who refused were given anesthetics during delivery.

When they woke up, they were told the child had died. It’s true that you can’t find good help nowadays—just ask Pope Benedict, who was betrayed by his own butler. Over the course of several years, the butler secretly copied the documents using a photocopier shared by two other papal secretaries, before leaking them to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. The book Nuzzi authored, Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, paints a picture of corruption, gossip, and power struggles inside the Vatican. There have been suggestions that Gabriele was only the fall guy and that the leaks were actually the work of a network of clergymen out to undermine the Pope. Homosexuality in the clergy is a hotly contested subject that has deeply divided the Church. The issue is further complicated by the various forms it takes: priests who are gay but celibate, priests who actively engage in gay sexual activity, and priests who endorse homosexuality in contradiction of the Church’s official policy.

According to Catholic catechism, homosexual people are to be treated with compassion, respect, and sensitivity. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. Recently, priests such as Raymond Schafer, who came out during a mass, and Father Gary Meier, the openly gay author of the book Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest have challenged this doctrine. For decades, the Vatican denied all knowledge of child abuse cover-ups within the Church. However, it has been suggested that a recently discovered Latin document from 1962 might just prove otherwise.