Heavens above: the sex bomb, Opus Dei and why Benedict is now the prisoner of the Vatican

By Richard Cottrell

Contributing writer for End the Lie

The former pope in Fatima, Portugal in 2010 (Image credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales)/Flickr)

The former pope in Fatima, Portugal in 2010 (Image credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales)/Flickr)

How ironic that a set of backward creeds which have nothing to do with the apostolic message of Jesus may destroy the Roman Church. The conception of sex as an original sin flowed from the complicated personality of Paul of Tarsus, the greatest PR genius in history, who single-handedly created the Roman Church, the Vatican and the succession of celibate priests known as popes, the earthly representatives of God incarnate.

Note: the views expressed here are solely those of the author

Paul may well have been gay, who knows at this distance in time. He was certainly in permanent neutral gear when it came to the fumbling business of sex. He was rigorously ascetic and a dedicated misogynist, which led him to the conclusion that if the minds of men (note, men) were not diverted by animistic stirrings, they would better concentrate on the job of building heaven on earth.

Read Richard’s latest articles “Italy’s Sans Cullotes: revolution for export?” and “Taking down Grillo: Italian spooks lunge at the Castro of the Med

That is how we come to the present disarray in the Vatican.  Joseph Ratzinger, 111th Vicar of Christ was advised early in February by the Holy See’s inner counsels to resign ahead of huge new claims for compensation arising from abuse by prelates reaching the courts as a massive, global class action. Moreover as chief executive of the church, he was told that he might himself prove liable for charges of complicity and therefore open to arrest. Benedict’s problem, as with his predecessors, was the dual nature of the Vatican as a cradle of faith and a recognised state with lay responsibilities.

In 2005 these twin faucets came together when Benedict was accused directly of personally attempting to sabotage an abuse case involving three young boys in the Archdiocese of Houston, Texas. The lawsuit called for his arrest and detention, deterred by his plea of immunity as a head of state – and perhaps a call George Bush put in from the White House.

Suffer little children

Ratzinger’s ascent on the Vatican ladder of promotion is directly connected to both the Sex Bomb and a secretive internal hard-line Catholic sect known as Opus Dei. In 2001 Pope John Paul II, thoroughly alarmed at the tsunami of abuse cases reaching the Vatican, shook up the internal bureaucracy which hitherto examined each claim.  So the German cardinal and former member of the Hitler Youth was placed in charge of a special and largely secret holy office, with the chief responsibility of closing down the scandals.

Ratzinger interpreted his brief as covering up as many cases as possible, given that St.Peter’s Pence had paid outstanding claims for damages in the area of $30 billion, the tip, as everyone in the Vatican knew perfectly well, of the true extent of the sickness afflicting the church.  Ratzinger’s chief tactic was wearing down complainants, many of whom stated they had been directly bullied and threatened by high church officials. Those who had followed Ratzinger’s rise were not surprised since they recognised his usual handiwork confronted with abuse cases in his own homeland.

Ratzinger was fighting on two fronts, the internal rampant homosexuality among the priestly battalions, and perverse and evil things in the vestry involving adolescents and younger children.  The argument that the one fuels the other is not automatic. It is no crime to be gay, yet the stories now coming to the surface demonstrate that Catholic seminaries are foremost recruiting hostels for same-sex encounters, rather than training to spread the Gospel.

A few lone voices within the Holy See counselled Christian atonement, the creation of a dedicated area of the church administration designated to investigate every claim and reach appropriate compensation. But this of course also amounts to confession, which if popular on Sundays among the multitude, is not one of the Roman Church’s noted leading precepts.

What the butler saw

The fuse which led to the current eruption beneath the Holy See began with the sensational Vatileaks Affair, early in 2012. Senior ‘princes of the church’ supported by lower ranks of the clergy and so-called small fry in the ranks of the bureaucracy leaked highly embarrassing top secret documents concerning the sex scandals wracking the Holy See.  The affair was decorated with a lively Vatican ‘deep throat’ feeding the Roman media and the gossip mill with juicy morsels describing rifts, backbiting and plots revolving around St Peter’s Throne.

The customary patsy duly appeared. He was the pope’s highly trusted manservant, 40-year-old Paolo Gabriele, arrested by the papal police on charges of stealing sensitive documents from the pope’s apartment, thrown into the tiny Vatican state prison, ritually excoriated, sentenced, then absolved. Rather heavy treatment on the scale meted out to Galileo for a minor footman who was obviously acting on the commands of an internal resistance movement arming themselves with compromising secrets.

At the best of times the Vatican is a seething vipers’ nest of plots and conspiracies. Parallels with the struggles for control of the former Soviet Politburo are not inapt. The latest bout of turmoil centred not so much on the incumbent pope as a far wider struggle for the soul of the church itself, and even the survival of the Catholic religion. In this scenario Benedict was a pawn, an observer of events and certainly not a manipulator.

In the wake of Vatileaks, Ratzinger drifted into brooding isolation, rarely stepping outside his apartment except when summoned on official duties, his conversation limited to pleasantries exchanged  with the nuns and servants looking after his quarters. A little over a year from the scandal bursting into the headlines, he was gone, almost it seemed in a puff of holy smoke. It is quite extraordinary how skilled commentators and church-watchers – especially in Italy – ignored the seamless connection which led to the precipitate fall of the Bishop of Rome.

Benedict XVI did not retire because he was old, infirm, or just exhausted. He was the victim of a brilliantly organised, long-playing coup d’état, a putsch conducted within the cloisters of the Holy City by papal strong men associated with the highly secretive and powerful ‘church within a church’ known and feared as Opus Dei – the Work of God.

Who pulled the trigger?

Practically speaking, the unfortunate Ratzinger himself.

After Vatileaks, he appointed an exclusive commission headed by the hefty Spanish cardinal, Julian Harranz Casado, formerly president of the internal censors responsible for the purity of Catholic canon law. He is also a leading light in Opus Dei, which John Paul II invested as his own ‘personal prelature.’  Opus Dei reflects many physiognomies of lay-world cults like the Moonies and Scientology, demanding exceptional levels of purity and mass unquestioning obedience, not excluding self-mortification and Stasi-like tactics of snooping and prying on worshippers outside the organisation.

The movement demands absolute obedience to its inspirational founder, a charismatic Spanish priest called Escrivá de Balaguer, who started Opus Dei in 1928. This highly equivocal figure grew to such eminence he was more than once unkindly compared to the truly ungodly L. Ron Hubbard, patron saint of Scientology. Following his death in 1975, he was, by the customary slothful standards, beatified at lightning pace once John Paul II was safely on St Peter’s Throne. Seventeen years is breaking the speed of light in the Vatican.

Yet the elevation was marked by cantankerous disputes, protests and bouts of fury aimed at the rushed beatification, the veracity of the essential miraculous cures and the personality of Escrivá himself, described by his many fulsome critics as venal, intolerant, harsh towards subordinates, bearing closet pro-Nazi and Francoist sympathies.  With an eye to the future the signs of schism were clearly apparent.

Opus Dei’s modest accredited membership – probably about 100,000 worldwide, out of 1.2 billion communicants, is outweighed in terms of spiritual and political power thanks to its concentrated Soviet cell-like structure and the intense potency of Spanish Messianic Catholicism on which the movement draws.  Even the Jesuits are prone to shrink in its shadow.

Harranz Casado is Opus Dei’s own pope and but for his ripe years (83) might have been a pope in waiting. It was he who organised the secret off-radar conclaves in safe houses dotted around Rome that duly raised their man Ratzinger – a fellow traveller of Opus Dei but not a formal acolyte – to the papacy, at a venerable 76 and therefore likely to enjoy a conveniently brief reign.

A little over three weeks ago Harranz Casado came to the papal apartment on an important mission. He brought with him a bulky secret file containing his findings on the Vatileaks affair and the subsequent fall-out in terms of church and global politics. Harranz Casado warned the pope that he might face a subpoena from an ‘important state’ and the argument of immunity might not hold. Better not to let matters travel that far, for the good of the church. In the event of resigning, then his immunity might be tested if he stepped outside the Vatican, where he must remain for his own safety, even as a virtual prisoner.

After his last audience, the now ex-pope flew to the Vatican’s retreat at Castel Gondolfo in the hills close to Rome in the safety of a helicopter. The prisoner was now at bay in the castle of comfort.

The Vatican’s Civil Wars

Schism is the state of normality within the Vatican. The famous fracas  600 years ago, that saw three popes tussling for the throne, does offer uncanny clues as to what is happening today.  Once again there are three factions who would have their man as Pontiff: the traditional conservatives, the largely isolated moderates champing for change and modernization and Opus Dei, which seeks to return to intensely spiritual values – and strict discipline in the ranks.

Against that background the mushroom cloud of the Sex Bomb. The fallout will be toxic. The Roman Catholic consensus refuses to recognise the singularity of humanity, that we are but clay formed from sexual passions. Sex becomes a cipher in the poverty of mind, until it reaches the point where the church cracks apart owning to the sheer vast sum of its inconsistencies. We are, I suspect, approaching that point now.

Opus Dei is a guerrilla force working patiently and quietly to seize control of the entire Roman Catholic Church. Effectively the Polish pope institutionalized conservative forces within the church, led by his newly invested Praetorian Guard. He was an extraordinary custodian of the keys of St Peter’s by any standards: the compassionate humanitarian: gifted international statesman: cheerful consorter with crooks and hoodlums within the precincts of the Vatican: the first Slav to head the church. Yet at heart, a doctrinaire conservative who stood firm against the glaring necessity for urgent reforms.

Harranz Casado is one of two cardinals with declared affiliations to Opus Dei. The other is a Latin American rock star, the egregiously self promoting Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Peru. But this greatly understates the strength of Opus Dei sympathizers in the ranks of the cardinals, potentially important ‘swing voters’ in the forthcoming conclave. One hot tip is the highly conservative cleric heading the Ghanaian church, Peter Turkson. Here is a veteran Vatican insider, a mere stripling at 64, profoundly opposed to relaxing the church’s stand against same-sex relations or melting the celibacy rules and so forth. He could well prove Opus Dei’s favourite son.

The Vatican’s propensity for civil wars is an ancient inheritance.  The difference in these times is the fallout from the detonation of the Sex Bomb, which brings the church into collision with forces and mores of temporal society. That the church’s own teachings on matters of sex are ignored – glaringly so within the portals of the institution itself – is patently obvious

A schism will not of course occur overnight. Rather it will be a slow, painful dissolution, a crumbling of the pillars, a progressive decline in the power and influence of the church as the ebbing faithful recoil from the rank odour of the on-going abuse scandals and the spreading turmoil on the banks of the Tiber. All that Opus Dei and the conservative ranks in general can preach is more of the same. They will finish up scrambling in the embers.

Coming next: the Last Schism and the Fall of the Catholic Church

Note: this article has not been edited due to time constraints. If you find an error please contact me.

Richard Cottrell is a writer, journalist and former European MP (Conservative). His new book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger At The Heart Of Europe is now available from Progressive Press. You may order it using the link below (or by clicking here – Gladio, NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe: The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis):

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