On Frontline

I watched the first hour of a re-run of Frontline’s Secrets of the Vatican last night. It’s very powerful.

There’s one part where a middle-aged woman describes in detail her rape by her priest when she was 8 years old, and it broke my heart. The detail isn’t physical, but behavioral – what he said, how he looked at her, his tone of voice, what he threatened her with, how he walked away and how he closed the door behind him. And then what she did after that, and how she felt.

And there are men who break your heart too. Several of them.

Milwaukee, we learn (not that it’s new…), was a standout for cold callous self-interested bullying and ass-covering. Who was in charge of that? Timothy motherfucking Dolan. Is that how he got to be a cardinal and live in that nice house in Manhattan? By doing such a good job of shutting up the victims in Milwaukee?

The Vatican is a “sovereign nation” (thanks to Mussolini, which Frontline doesn’t mention, and should have) so it doesn’t have to hand over its archives to anyone. Cases have to be dealt with locally, one by one. Excellent wheeze if you’re in charge of a bunch of rapey priests.


  1. leni says

    I watched both segments when they came out and wept through pretty much the whole thing. At some point the tears stopped and it turned to rage. I stink-eyed the TV when I wasn’t crying. It was hard to watch. Not because it was triggering to me, but because it was so heart-breaking and enraging at the same time.

    I know about power corrupting, most of us have more than a passing acquaintance with it even if I have been mostly unscathed. But there was something about seeing those waxy-skinned, dead-eyed parasites in their pretty robes, swooshing around the Vatican with their bullshit Important Person credentials, in more luxury than most of their parishioners could imagine, that just made me want to watch the Vatican burn.

    (Sorry, that was a terrible sentence. My editor has the week off and also kind of just doesn’t care. )

  2. kevinalexander says

    I remember years ago in an argument about Edward Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ where I took the position that the fall was orchestrated by idiot Christians who couldn’t be bothered to maintain the infrastructure because ‘Jesus is coming TOMORROW’
    My interlocutor stopped me cold by asserting that Gibbon’s premise was wrong from the outset. The Roman Empire didn’t decline and fall- it grew and expanded by the genius of the church fathers. They realized that they didn’t have to build Colosseums and pay for spectacles to enjoy the exquisite sadistic pleasures. They discovered that they could produce infinitely greater suffering by psychological manipulation of the faithful and that they could actually profit from their pleasure.
    When Thomas Malthus proved with mathematical precision the inevitable catastrophe of unchecked population the Church realized the potential for limitless human suffering and invented the birth control rule.

  3. maddog1129 says

    That was a very frustrating thing to sit through. The secrets are still secrets, nothing has happened to most of the perps, zilch has been done or said about the enabling higher ups. I’m left with the same sentiment as Jeff Anderson, all anyone has ever seen the Vatican do is talk. Denying on the one hand and saying they are doing something on the other, while actually doing absolutely nothing.

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