THE POPE AND THE ELI CONNECTION
No one is using it, but there’s a clear biblical parallel against which to assess what is happening in and around current Vatican sex abuse scandals. This non use is testimony to the lack of spirituality in the relevant church circles and to biblical illiteracy in the world beyond the church. The situation contributes to the unbalanced, unhelpful judgements being made. According to these, either Pope and Vatican are virtual criminals, or the Pope and Vatican are being persecuted as virtual martyrs. Amid a situation of real crisis, it’s all nonsense, alarmingly and seriously so for religion and society alike.
The first book of Samuel (the second, third and fourth chapters) supplies us the story of the prophet Samuel’s mentor, Eli. The elderly Eli oversees the religious life of Israel because he is guardian of the Shiloh sanctuary which holds the Ark of the Covenant prior to the building of the Temple. In short, he’s the equivalent of the country’s Pope, at any rate he’s its religious leader. Eli is a good man who advises Hannah well and mentors Samuel well and he’s disposed to listen to God. He nevertheless has two worthless sons. They abuse the rites of the shrine priesthood ritually, and for years they take advantage of their position to have sex with any women who come to “the House of the Lord”. In short, the ritual and moral integrity of the religion is being abused at its centre and the rot is spreading. Being righteous, Eli rebukes his sons; he says he’s heard the bad report (i.e. complaints) about them. But he does nothing. It’s all talk. Basically he’s loyal to his sons against whom he takes no real action.
The matter goes on for years while Samuel grows up and finally a prophet arrives to declare doom against Eli and his house for its sins. Later Eli, now in his nineties, upon hearing the Ark has been captured and his sons killed, falls backwards from his seat in shock and dies.
The problem and the relevance is that, by normal standards, Eli is a spiritual enough, kindly old man, certainly not evil. Likewise, one could hardly read Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth and consider the Pope unspiritual or evil. Yet Eli’s false loyalties and inaction were polluting the life of the national religion at its centre, and abusing the “human rights” of which there was little concept at the time. This could not be overlooked and the Lord intervenes. After all….The first commandment is to Love God, and the second is to love one’s neighbour as oneself. The same two principles are enunciated in different form when Jesus declares those who love family more than him cannot be his disciple (Matt 10:37). The message is clear enough to apply here. The loyalties of people who “love the church” its priesthood and its peculiar ways (highly secretive in the case of the Vatican) over and above God and human kind generally, aren’t worthy disciples; and even if they’re not bad they’re not good enough because their outlook engages idolatry and dulls compassion…..
BENEDICT’S VATICAN IS A HOUSE OF SHILOH
Defenders of the Pope insist he has acted, and more than his predecessor, against reports of abuse. Within limits this may actually be the case – when he assumed the papacy he did at least act against the long notorious Macial Marciel one of whose victims I knew in Mexico. But the bottom line is surely that the Irish bishops claim not to have gone to police about serious cases because they understood Benedict had meant they should not do so, albeit the Pope denies they were told this (it seems excommunication could follow upon breaking Vatican secret dealings with the pedophilia cases).
To whatever extent the Pope really has concretely taken action during the last decade undeniably he has more recently spoken, apologized and criticized. But again it’s not really near enough. It’s basically just words, just as Eli spoke to his sons, but inconsequentially. And if you are prepared to assume rather extreme titles like “Vicar of Christ on earth”,then you do need to live to rather high standards! Indeed, part of the problem is precisely that with the Papacy so highly placed and extremely described, many are unable or unwilling to admit that “the unfailing rock of the holy Church” as Cardinal Sodano’s Easter sermon had it, could do wrong and then the faithful become so emotionally invested in looking to their ‘Holy Father” any attack upon him is perceived as an attack upon all faith and even upon themselves, deeper moral issues regardless. And it's this idealized picture that Benedict consents to. It was noticed he smiled at the Cardinal's "rock of Peter" statements and after the sermon he embraced him.
In all recent declarations Pope Benedict has spoken chiefly from the standpoint of protecting his own interests, and that of others in high places and that of the Church's image (or at least the Papacy's), as a paragon. But the church, even at its best is still supposed to be a company of sinners and beyond the obvious need for purposes of healing to dismiss seriously erring bishops quickly, it would have been more appropriate to have made dramatic dedication of the Easter season to masses on behalf of victims, or to have declared a whole period of penitence for past mistakes. But no. The Pope has too many secondary loyalties including to the immediate circle of “Pope’s Men”, like Cardinal Dolan of New York who for Palm Sunday in St Patrick’s cathedral, and in words shockingly abusive of religious imagery and common sense, declared "a crown of thorns" is being daily placed on the Pope’s head. Really? (And a full congregation then gave Dolan a standing ovation for this. One wonders what religion some Catholics are following and imagine they understand). Good Friday's insanity, this time from inside St Peter’s, was talk that the Pope is being treated to something like “the more shameful excesses of anti-Semitism”, words from the Pontiff's Preacher from which even the Vatican has thankfully chosen to distance itself. None of these responses have affinity for any authentic Christianity, it’s more like religion as politics and in-house dealing.
Did any of these people read and absorb the serious cruelty and evil of the abuses in Ireland where children were starved, made to lick vomit off the floor by sadistic monks and nuns and do other things there’s no need to rehearse here? It’s as bad as if the Inquisition were still with us. And if it’s really true (as the dissident Swiss theologian, Hans Kung, alleges) that Ratzinger has to have been fully aware for the last twenty years of the abuse that has been going on, what can one say? Where is the prophetic outrage, where the deep moral concern, or just spontaneous human compassion? Instead there is, when not silence from the hierarchy, almost insolent responses like talk about heroically ignoring and in Christ’s service, “the chatter of dominant opinion”, or suggestions that abuse of the nature involved is a problem in the wider society too. As though the church didn’t have special responsibilities, AND as though the gospels, which don’t mention regular Vatican obsessions like homosexuality and abortion, didn’t appear to consider the abuse of the innocent (“these little ones”) to be one of the most heinous and damning crimes Matt 18:6).
Far from recognizing this rather vital point, the Pope is well known for reserving his stronger condemnations for precisely such as abortion and gay relations - indeed he believes good Catholics in privileged positions are even supposed to be willing to become modern martyrs in opposition to various gay rights seen as the downfall of civilization itself! And now the Vatican is protesting it is because of its stand on abortion and homosexuality that it is being attacked and Judas betrayed by the world over pedophilia!
This situation only makes some kind of mad sense in a church which is not listening to scripture and the prophetic tradition in any meaningful way but rather is still overly attached to “tradition” and with it natural law theories from medieval philosophers of the kind which made sodomy worse than rape because it was “natural”, i.e. produced fetuses. But ultimately, what we are hearing is the product of people and attitudes that “love the church”, its ways, its rituals, its organization first and who from their false loyalties keep things quiet, a situation liable to generate evil and prevent healing even while, technically, those involved cannot justly be called people of immoral lives or evil intent.
LIKE ELI,POPE BENEDICT WILL FALL BACKWARDS
Plainly the Vatican’s intention is to ride out the crisis, to brazen it out we might say if the Vatican was a secular institution. It will mostly continue to be silent or trade accusations. And the Pope, a head of state, won’t be resigning. While this policy may temporarily succeed it will not succeed in the long term because the issues at stake are by now too serious and the spiritual effects too strong – many will simply leave the church in anger and total disillusion as many have already done. Again, if only for the spiritual health of all concerned the mea culpas, at whatever cost, should have been attempted.
The issue of child abuse is one of the major secrets of deeds done in secret that as the gospels have it, were waiting “to be declared from the housetops”. It’s interesting that in the standard chart for the founding of the modern Vatican in 1929, Uranus, planet of shocks and surprises, is found in the sector of sex and secrets opposite the asteroid, CHILD! That Child is moreover in the sign of the laws, Libra, itself a promise that this will become a legal matter and a costly one (placed in the second house of resources). Last December’s eclipse in tension square to both CHILD and shocking Uranus promised that in 2010 the Vatican would no longer be able to hide from the extent of the pedophilia problem. But to some extent it will try, and is trying.
THE HEAVENS DECLARE: THE RATZINGER FINI MYSTERY
When crises of this magnitude break out, and in this case involving the very future of Christianity itself, normally one might expect – as the Pope doesn’t because he questionably believes all revelation ceased with Jesus - some prophet would make declaration in the way that happens in the story of Eli. But while no prophets have as yet arrived to declare anything, it’s possible we can and do already know something in relation to this embattled pontiff and his Vatican enclave.
There is a serious double mystery about Joseph Ratzinger and towards solving the mystery I can and wish at this stage to say no more than that I believe he represents the end of something. Hopefully he just marks the end of privileged Catholic cover-ups, but it may be more. The double mystery is this. First, there’s the simple fact - like it or not and believe it or not, and I realize the prophecy is much disputed - according to St Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes, Ratzinger is the last Pope in power before the Antichrist. In which case, according to at least the forecasts of the late Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, he could even be assassinated because she alleged a vision of the assassination of whoever would be the last Pope. This was an event which back in the sixties she didn’t regard as too far off, though she supplied the disaster no date. There was at least an attempt on the Pope’s life last Christmas at the Christmas mass.
Second, I offer the following point, namely the three times repeated Ratzinger Fini mystery which could be connected with the foregoing. Yes, it could just be a coincidence, a fluke and no more, but anyway it’s this. I have long insisted I possess the Pentecost chart for the birth of Christianity in AD 30 and that it is highly descriptive for persons and events and works to this day. Its data includes an odd close conjunction of asteroids Ratzinger with Fini (Finished) in the shocks and surprises sign of Aquarius. While not in conjunction, the same two factors are in aspect at the birth of both Ratzinger and the modern Vatican (while in the latter, Ratzinger at 5 Leo is even conjunct, but perhaps too widely for real significance, with the Vatican's Part of the End of Things at 8 Leo). It is as though the heavens are warning he is in some sense a harbinger of the end, the one who finishes the religion in some way.
Whether or not Ratzinger really marks the end of the church as we know it, somehow I feel that, like Eli, there will be a day when he “falls backward” so to speak and it won’t be a good day for anyone.
Indeed, and ironically, even the radical atheist, Richard Dawkins, is now beginning to fret about the possible breakdown of Christianity given its potential to leave the world exposed to “worse”, by which he means the fanatics and bombers of another major faith. For myself, I am more interested in aspects of Obama’s role in world affairs and I do find some biblical connections here even though I can’t so easily define him as a player in events through biblical parallels as regards personalities like that for Pope Benedict with Eli. But this matter will be my next article soon.