"THE ONLY way to solve the problem of contraception is to solve the problem of infallibility."97
-- Hans Küng; Catholic theologian; 1979
There is wide agreement that the world population problem cannot be successfully dealt with unless we solve the contraception problem. However, there is a nearly total lack of awareness that the problem of contraception is related to the problem of papal infallibility, as noted by Hans Küng above.
There is a time warp involved here -- a decisive action, or event, that occurred more than a century ago. It had a direct bearing on the mushrooming of population that didn't really get up to speed until the 1930s. The event was the action of Pope Pius IX and Vatican Council I in 1870. Understanding the principle of infallibility and how it came to pass is essential to understanding the world population problem. This Chapter is devoted to how and why this principle was created and its implications.
For decades, Americans have been subjected to pseudodiscussion of the population problem as American writers and speakers have gone about deflecting attention from the only population issue that really matters -- that the Papacy is threatened with annihilation as civil authorities make contraception and abortion legally available to their constituents. We are all deeply indebted to both Hans Küng, arguably the world's leading Catholic theologian, and certainly the best known, and to August Bernhard Hasler, for his book, How the Pope Became Infallible.98 In this Chapter, the wisdom of Dr. Küng's statement will become evident.
"If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti connubii was promulgated), in 1951 (Pius XII's address to the midwives), and in 1958 (the address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died). It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved."43The pope's claim that "morality" demands that the Church maintain its current position on contraception is merely deception. This will become evident as we discuss the doctrine of papal infallibility and the doctrine of primacy of the pope, and why they are vital to the survival of the institution of the Papacy itself.
The second dogma proclaimed that day, the dogma of papal infallibility, means that the pope is incapable of error when he makes ex cathedra decisions on matters of faith and morals. However, virtually all matters, including political, social and economic, can be framed in terms of faith and morals. Hasler describes this dogma as elastic, meaning that it expands and contracts. Whenever it seems opportune, infallibility, thanks to its vagueness, can be stretched far beyond the limits of ex cathedra decisions. The ordinary papal teaching now becomes infallible too. In a sense, such "infallible" decisions are much more important to the Vatican and the Church's bureaucratic machine than the rare ex cathedra declarations. The aura of infallibility counts more than its actual use.102 Papal infallibility means that the pope has an interpretive monopoly. He no longer needs the Church's approval. His decisions are beyond appeal.
Infallibility was first attributed to the pope in 1279 by a Franciscan priest.103 In 1324 Pope John XXII condemned this idea as the work of the devil104 (which may explain why Pope John XXIII chose this name, the first in 550 years, and then set about ignoring the dogma of infallibility). Later on, in their struggle against Protestantism, popes once more considered infallibility a practical weapon.105 In 1800, papal infallibility was still generally rejected except in Italy and Spain.106 Pope Gregory XVI (1831-46) was the first pope to claim that popes were infallible. His encyclical, Mirari, also viewed freedom of conscience as "a false and absurd concept," indeed a mad delusion. According to him, freedom of the press could never be sufficiently abhorred.107
Pope Pius IX (1846-78), was absolutely committed to making papal infallibility a dogma. Indeed, it is unlikely that it would have ever become a dogma had it not been for this man. In his first encyclical letter (1846), he laid implicit claim to infallibility.108 In 1854 Pius IX, on his own authority, elevated the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception -- the belief that the mother of Jesus was born without any stain of original sin -- to the status of dogma.109 With this act, he had de facto demonstrated his own infallibility.
Pius IX was responding to several events of the times. It is believed that he wished to extend his spiritual jurisdiction as compensation for his loss of secular power because of the loss of the Papal States.111 He believed that the principle of authority would counteract the principles of the French Revolution. He desperately needed to contain the forces of unbridled journalism which were wreaking havoc.112 There was a hope that this principle of authority would bring about the return of lands already lost by the Papacy. The French Revolution destroyed centuries old patterns of Church government, 113 threatening the very existence of the Church.
The Church no longer had at its disposal the option of physical coercion that ranged from detention to annihilation, which was not infrequently used by the pope. For example, in "1868 Pius IX ordered the Italian revolutionaries, Monti and Tognetti beheaded in the Piazza del Popolo for attempting to blow up a papal barracks. And just two weeks before Rome was taken by storm, a certain Paolo Muzi was hanged in Frosinone, the last citizen of the Papal States to be executed."114 This hanging took place just 6 weeks after papal infallibility became a dogma. With great disappointment, the pope knew the power he derived from the threat of annihilation was rapidly coming to an end.
Professor Vaillancourt, cited in Chapter 6, states, "...it has become increasingly difficult to enforce unpopular decisions through coercion and exclusion. Consequently, the Vatican must now try to exercise its control over Catholics through normative and manipulative means (e.g., through socialization and co-optation) rather than through coercive and repressive power....The declaration of papal infallibility...was an important milestone in that direction. The stress on the absolute authority of the pope in questions of faith and morals helped turn the Church into a unified and powerful bureaucratic organization, and paved the way for the establishment of the Papacy-laity relationship as we know it today."115
In his encyclical Quanta Cura (1864), Pius IX had listed eighty contemporary errors and condemned them. This is referred to as the Syllabus of Errors. In it he condemned many of the freedoms Americans hold dearest: freedoms of conscience, speech, the press, and religion. He rightfully recognized that American style democracy gravely threatened the Papacy. (If Americans are permitted to exercise these rights, American democracy may yet bring about the extinction of the Papacy.) The Syllabus was the definitive challenge to the modern state.116
With the Syllabus and numerous actions, the pope set the stage for his counterattack against the modern world and all that was threatening the Church. Now he needed the authority to carry out his wide ranging plan.
Pius IX felt that he must acquire absolute authority over the entire Church if the Papacy was to survive. Even in the early days of his Papacy, he was untrusting of his bishops to hold the line against these threats, so he forbade the formation of national bishops' conferences and directed that there be as little contact as possible between bishops. They were to communicate with Rome. For this reason, Pius IX introduced the obligation of regular visits to the Holy See, a practice that still continues. Control was the objective. All bishops had to administer their diocese in strict subordination to the pope under the threat of coercion.117
Hasler describes Pius IX in detail. In 1850, Pius IX branded freedom of the press and freedom of association as intrinsically evil. He determined that liberalism (out of which American democracy grew) was the mortal enemy of the Papacy and the Church. His rule was reactionary and dictatorial. His followers' practices bordered on papolatry. The most eminent bishops of the time viewed him as a great disaster for the Catholic Church.119 He struck "many people as dangerous above all because he wished to dogmatize a teaching which, from a historical standpoint, was worse than dubious and which overturned the Church's basic organization."120 In their eyes, these dogmas "would deprive the Catholic Church of the last shred of credibility."121 In the end, it looks as if this assessment of these bishops is proving to be correct. (More on credibility later.)
According to Hasler, Pius IX had surrounded himself with mediocre, unbalanced, sometimes even psychologically disturbed people.122 His fury in private audiences would become so violent that older prelates might suffer heart attacks. He was described as having a heart of stone and at times normal feelings of affection, gratitude, and appreciation would be totally absent -- heartless indifference.123
Hasler describes a series of bizarre incidents: "In all these episodes Pius IX showed quite clearly how out of touch he was with reality.124 Many bishops had the impression that the pope was insincere, that he was striving to get infallibility approved by the use of trickery and cunning. In the presence of many witnesses, one bishop called him false and a liar.125
The historian Ferdinand Gregorovius noted in his diary, "The pope recently got the urge to try out his infallibility....While out on a walk he called to a paralytic: `Get up and walk.' The poor devil gave it a try and collapsed, which put God's vicegerent very much out of sorts. The anecdote has already been mentioned in the newspapers. I really believe that he's insane." 126
Hasler states, "Some, even bishops, thought he was mad or talked about pathological symptoms. The Catholic Church historian Franz Xavar Kraus noted in his diary: `Apropos of Pius IX, Du Camp agrees with my view that ever since 1848 the pope has been both mentally ill and malicious.'"127
The most distinguished bishops viewed Pius IX as "the greatest danger facing the Church...." They felt powerless struggling with a pope who was possessed by his monomania and not accessible to rational arguments. "'Oh, this unfortunate pope,' wrote Felix Dupanloup in his diary. `How much evil he has done!...I mean, he has delivered the Church into the hands of these three or four Jesuit professors who now want to inflict their lessons on him!...This is one of the greatest dangers the Church has ever known.'"128
Hasler asked the question: Was the pope mentally competent during Vatican Council I? "Many of his personality traits suggest that this was not the case. The unhealthy mysticism, the childish tantrums, the shallow sensibility, the intermittent mental absences, the strangely inappropriate language...and the senile obstinacy all indicate the loss of a solid grip on reality. These features suggest paranoia."129
Furthermore, the dogmas of infallibility and papal primacy ended any semblance of democracy in the church, and no self correction can be expected, no matter how insane the Church policy on overpopulation has become.
On the other hand, the dogma of infallibility is binding on the conscience of the entire Catholic world. According to Hasler, "For the Roman Catholic Church, the dogmas defined by the Council are strictly obligatory. Anyone who doesn't accept them is threatened with excommunication, that is, with exclusion from the Catholic community."132
The Church still derives enormous power from the claim of infallibility. "Paul VI laid aside his tiara" writes Hasler. "Both his successors, John Paul I and John Paul II, dispensed with the throne and crown. But the pope's claim to infallibility has remained, and hence so has their position of power. For power was the issue in 1870..."135 But, if the essential foundation of the Church laid by the dogma of infallibility is destroyed, faith collapses and the whole Church will crumble.136 For this reason, it is imperative to the Vatican that this dogma be protected.
Hasler describes in two paragraphs137 why infallibility was important to both the leadership and their followers. "...in the Middle Ages there was a conspicuous trend to look for an infallible authority, whether it be pope or council, to buttress the great edifice of the Catholic system. Its original religious power had been lost, and yet the entire social structure still rested on religion as much as ever. Behind the perfectly intact facade doubts and uncertainty began to spread. Signs of disintegration became apparent in philosophy and theology. The old spontaneity and unquestioning naturalness of the faith were largely gone. The quest for infallibility looks like a desperate attempt to recover a lost sense of security.
"The endeavor to shore up doctrinal structures was unusually momentous because religion still played such a unique part in most people's lives. Their personal happiness depended on it, first of all in this world, and still more in the next. The great majority of the population had neither the skill nor the desire to judge questions of faith: They wanted to rely on authorized teachers. This only heightened the power and influence of the religious elite, which held the fate of so many in its hand. This arrangement thoroughly suited the mutual interest of both groups. Only those who could offer certainty in matters of salvation would be of any use to the people of that time. And so it didn't sound like blasphemy when men of the Church appeared, claiming they had been given all power in heaven as well as on earth (Boniface VIII)."
The promoters of the infallibility dogma believed that by raising the pope's authority to its upward limit they could gradually break society of its liberal and democratic tendencies.138 A bishop of that day describes the advocates' position, "The great evil of our day is that the principle of authority lies prostrate. Let us strengthen it in the Church and we shall save society." Stated one supportive newspaper of the day: "The infallible pope must counteract and cure the prevailing abuses of unbridled freedom of the press, thanks to which journalists daily spread lies and calumny."139
The Knights of Columbus, the largest organization of Catholic laity in the world, was founded soon after the dogma of infallibility was adopted (1882) by a priest in New Haven, Connecticut. The mission: protect the faith. By 1914, the Knights had evolved into a national organization with considerable capability to intimidate those who spoke out against the Church regardless of whether the criticisms were justified. They created the Commission on Religious Prejudices, chaired by Patrick Henry Callahan, to shut down the press criticism of the Church. According to their 1915 report, the Commission sponsored an education campaign by "informing and correcting editors and journalists who allowed religious prejudices to surface in their newspapers." Callahan pointed out that between August 1914 and January 1917, the number of publications which published material critical of the Church dropped nationwide from 60 to two or three.141
Until this time, the American press was free to be critical of the pope, the Vatican and the bishops, who are undeniably agents of a foreign-controlled power. But since the days of Callahan's Commission, the American press has not been free to report on the considerable political activities, and, most important, the motivations behind those activities. As a result, few Americans are aware of just how much their access to information is restricted by the Church. For example, recently, New York's Newsday, following an investigation, reported that at least 83 percent of the income of the New York City Archdiocese comes from local, state and federal taxes.142 Separation of Church and State? How did this come to pass? We will never know. But the pope's authority in both New York and Washington was vital. There was never any follow-up. And this article never appeared in any other newspaper in the country or in the news on television or radio. Is this a state church or a church state? It seems like one or the other. Eighty-three percent of the budget surely makes this so. The American press is not free to discuss these matters.
Mainstream media never identify arson and bomb attacks against abortion clinics as domestic terrorism. Doing so would be greatly to the disadvantage of the bishops. Since 1982, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, there have been 169 such attacks in 33 states on women's health centers where abortions were performed. On April 20, 1995, the New York Times, reporting on the Oklahoma City Federal Office Building bombing, ran a list headlined "Other Bombings in America," which spanned four decades and included some attacks that claimed no injuries or lives. But none of the 40 officially documented bombings that have targeted women's clinics in that period were mentioned. Why?
For the year before the Oklahoma City bombing, Planned Parenthood's Fred Clarkson had communicated their research findings on anti-abortion militants and extremist militias. Just after the bombing, when it became evident that this was an act of a domestic terrorist, Clarkson was invited by a major cable network to appear in their broadcast. Just fours hours before his scheduled appearance, the invitation was rescinded by the news producer. Clarkson told EXTRA!: "He said they couldn't have someone from Planned Parenthood on about militias, because they'd have angry pro-life viewers calling in and they didn't want to take that heat."142a
Another example is Oliver North's religious affiliation. The press has gone to great lengths to give the impression that Oliver North is a Protestant fundamentalist. Everyone I have ever asked "knew" that he is a Protestant. Most of his political support in Virginia is coming from southern Protestants and if he is elected to the Senate this year, it will be because of that support. But North is a devout Catholic. This fact was reported by both the Wall Street Journal143 and The Christian Science Monitor144 in 1986. Other newspapers and the electronic media have avoided this fact. North would lose many votes and support if this fact becomes widely known and many voters do want to know. But the press is not free to ask Mr. North how his conservative Catholic views might affect his voting behavior in the Senate, and this Fall's voters won't know. Infallibility did dramatically strengthen the pope's authority in the United States. The American press is very reluctant to resist his authority. Chapters 13 and 14 are devoted to the documentation of this reality.
The free presses of Europe and North America were gravely undermining papal authority. The proponents of the doctrine of papal infallibility were convinced that this doctrine would lead to control of the world press on matters vital to papal authority. The control of individuals in the press, as well as individuals who could be used to manipulate the press in various ways, including intimidation, in order to protect papal authority, was a key argument for adoption. The proponents were correct on this account as we shall see in Chapters 13 and 14.
The dogma of infallibility is important because it shields the entire doctrinal structure of the Catholic Church from criticism. According to Hasler, "This claim extends not to one doctrinal statement but to all of them; it covers every single one. Papal infallibility -- the formal principle, as it were, of Catholicism -- becomes the crowning conclusion of the system. The insurance policy is flawless: There can be no appeal from the pope to any other authority....Presupposing the fundamental principle of infallibility, the Church's entire operation can run smoothly."145
Absolute control of the entire Church structure by a despotic pope was made much easier by this dogma. The majority rule on questions of dogma that had existed for nearly 2000 years ended the day infallibility officially became dogma.146
The school of thought that worked so diligently to achieve a favorable vote of the bishops at Vatican Council I was referred to as the Infallibilists. It was their view that "the Church, as a community incapable of erring in matters of faith, had to have an infallible leader and judge. Otherwise it would not be safe from error, it would lack both unity and order, and it would be vulnerable to fragmentation, as could be seen so clearly in Protestantism."150 And they had a second line of thinking similarly based on papal primacy. "Since the pope had a universal jurisdiction and therefore the supreme teaching authority, he had to be infallible. Otherwise he might lead all the faithful into error, carrying the entire Church with him into the abyss, since all Catholics were obliged to obey him on questions of faith."151
The Jesuits were the chief manipulators in the campaign for papal infallibility.152- Apparently, the Jesuits felt that their never ending political agenda would be best served if the pope became an infallible despot. The Jesuits were chosen to write the official history of Vatican Council I some 20 years later.156-
More than anything else, even the manipulation of the bishops by the Jesuits, it was the fear of schism, that was considered a worse misfortune than infallibility, that kept the bishops in line.158 A schism did occur but unfortunately for America and the rest of humanity it was small, resulting in the creation of what is known today as the Old Catholic Church.159
Hasler notes that even at the Vatican Council some individuals perceived this claim of infallibility -- this claim to total truth -- would ultimately be self-destructive: "The Papacy, they thought, had gone down a blind alley from whence there could be no escape without a critical loss of authority. `The results of the Vatican decree of 1870 are only now beginning to come to light,' the Catholic Church historian Franz Xaver Kraus noted in his diary on February 9, 1900. `Rome has locked the door leading to its only way out. There seems to be nothing left but for the whole papal system to break down.'"160
The Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Baltha called the Vatican dogma a "gigantic disaster."161 One bishop described the pope as "an authority subject to no other control than his own whims and preferences. The new dogma, he felt, must lead to despotism." 162 Wrote Henri Icard, a priest, "This is truly a difficult situation for the Church. The most absolute power -- in the hands of a man who will only listen to the people who think -- or, rather, speak -- the way he does."163 The French bishops, in a minority petition, wrote, "The new dogma, which must lead to such grave consequences, is demanded of a Council which is both deeply divided and not free."164 Different bishops referred to the new dogmas in the following way: "the Vatican farce," "the pope is devouring us," "we have to eat what we have vomited up," "a crime against the Church and humanity."165 Says Hasler, "For them [the Council minority], the credibility of the Church was on the line."166 Professor Friedrich Michelis described Pius IX as a "heretic and devastator of the Church." Neither his cardinal nor his bishop contradicted him.167
An English bishop wrote, "The bishop of St. Gall was so violent in his speech against infallibility that through the very force of his enunciation he lost a false tooth. He had to pick it up from the ground and put it back into place before he could go on."168 One archbishop "viewed the fetishist adoration of the Church's hierarchy (and especially of the pope) as the chief error of Catholicism....It had, he said, transformed the office of the supreme shepherd into a despotic sultanate of Mohammed and Christ's sheepfold into a herd of slaves."169
In German-speaking countries alone, twenty professors of theology and clerical teachers of philosophy were excommunicated within a short time after the Council. Two-thirds of all Catholic historians teaching at German universities left the Church." 170
But there is no turning back. Says Icard, "To affirm that the Council lacked the freedom necessary to validate its ordinances is impossible....Under no circumstances would God abandon his Church in such a way that we should one day be justified in going back and questioning what the great majority of the bishops, together with the pope, decided on matters of faith!...Can we run the risk of such a scandal? And what would then become of the Holy Church?"171
Objections to the adoption of the dogmas of papal primacy and infallibility were extensive, thoughtful and loud but to no avail. We can be certain that the Church, as an institution, will become extinct before these two dogmas are terminated.
In a couple of paragraphs, Hasler provides an overview of these consequences: "The Church not only missed its chance for a rapprochement with scientific scholarship...[it became] an obstacle to cultural evolution and an enemy of the unprejudiced search for truth. It is hard to deny the justice of such complaints -- the way the dogma came to be defined would be proof enough....The dogma of infallibility was not just one more doctrine among many others. It took a comprehensive position on the issue of truth. It involved a very broad claim, namely, that the pope could pronounce on questions of faith and morals with guaranteed certainty. The truth was no longer to be brought to light by laborious research and investigation but by the determination of an infallible authority."172
"The Church does indeed gain, at first, in unity and uniformity, but it blocks off its own free access to the real world and ultimately stands in danger of losing touch with reality completely....On the one hand, Catholicism gains in...political muscle; on the other, its conflict with science grows more intense. Its dogmatic commitments make it harder for the Church to adapt to circumstances; they lessen its flexibility and the chances for reform. The Church loses it credibility with many people and draws in on itself. This increases the danger of its stiffening into a sect and forfeiting its potential for social renewal. The machine may still remain intact, and the power structure may continue to stand firm, but the life has gone out of it."173 Hasler has described the Church as we find it in 1996.
The Church did gain in unity and uniformity. At least this applies to all those people who really matter: those who blindly support the pope, either because of faith or opportunity, including all cardinals and bishops, most priests and a relatively small fraction of the laymen. The Papacy has acquired enormous political muscle as a result of these two dogmas. The political muscle that was needed to halt NSSM 200 in its tracks and bury it for almost two decades is truly impressive. In the April 25, 1993 issue of The Independent On Sunday published in London, Mark Hertsgaard states, "The Vatican has managed to derail every international effort to curb the population explosion," despite the fact that we are overwhelmed with evidence that the population explosion gravely threatens almost every thing we value. This accomplishment has required enormous political muscle.
Indeed, the machine remains intact and the power structure continues to stand firm in significant part because of the influence through Catholics within the U.S. government and its ability to use the U.S. government as an instrument to impose papal policy on the UN system and other international organizations and on many national governments either through rewards, punishment or threat of force. The fact that the Church has been permitted to accumulate enormous wealth has also been vital to keeping its machine and power structure intact. In the 1980s, the Chicago Sun newspaper, following an investigation, estimated the net worth of the Church in the U.S. at more than $200 billion. Its worth worldwide has been estimated at $2 trillion.
Science and the Vatican are enemies. The Church ignores the findings of science when their acknowledgment threatens to undermine papal authority. The best examples are the innumerable findings of science which show that overpopulation is causing often permanent degradation of our planet and reducing the number of people Earth can support on a sustainable basis. The Church sets about deliberately undermining the credibility of science in its desperate attempt at institutional survival. As a result of the Vatican's efforts to survive the onslaught of these findings, we are all continuously bombarded with disinformation which seeks to throw these findings into question. But science continues, on nearly a daily basis, to produce alarming evidence that the Church's position on family planning and contraception is indefensible.
Each day the physical potential for human life support is diminished by abuse of our planet, and much of this loss is probably permanent. As a result, every day the number of people that Earth ultimately will be able to support on a sustainable basis grows smaller. This fact alone makes the bishops' claims of "concern for human life" and defense of "right-to-life" absurd. Their policies are destroying the earth's physical ability to provide for human needs.
The charge by Hasler that these dogmas have stifled intellectual development by Roman Catholics is supported by two prominent Catholics in the United States. On November 11, 1988, Jesuit theologian Father Avery Dulles spoke to the Washington Chapter of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Says Dulles (son of John Foster Dulles), himself widely regarded as a leading light in U.S. Catholic intellectual life for more than three decades, "In spite of our many Catholic schools, colleges and universities we have as yet very few eminent Catholic intellectuals on the national scene....Catholics, whether clerical or lay, are not prominent in science, literature, the fine arts, or even, I think, in the performing arts and communications."174
Dulles reopened a theme first argued in depth in the mid-1950s by Church historian Msgr. John Tracy Ellis: "That U.S. Catholics have failed to achieve a leadership stature in U.S. intellectual and public life commensurate with their numbers, wealth and organizational strength." Ellis said he "would basically agree" with Dulles's analysis of the current situation and that the influence of Catholic leaders has increased substantially in the business and political worlds since the 1950s. But in the field of culture and intellectual life, "I fail to find for the last 35-40 years any widespread love of learning for learning's sake in Catholic circles. I say this with great regret." He went on to say "there is a decided emphasis in Catholic circles on money...[with the result that]...the United States is now teeming with Catholic millionaires."175
It is reasonable to assume that the Catholic educational system is devoted to the advancement of the papal agenda in America through the growth of influence in the political system. Advancement in science (which frequently threatens Catholicism) and encouragement of the "love of learning for learning sake" (which also threatens it) are not part of the papal agenda in America. Given the observations of Father Dulles and Msgr. Ellis, it is apparent that the priorities of Catholic schools reflect the papal agenda.
Hasler observed, "...the life has gone out of it."176 By this he means that the Church no longer has a conscience. Referring to the Church's teaching on contraception, Humanae Vitae, Küng states, "This teaching...has laid a heavy burden on the conscience of innumerable people, even in industrially developed countries with declining birthrates. But for the people in many underdeveloped countries, especially in Latin America, it constitutes a source of incalculable harm, a crime in which the Church has implicated itself."177 The widespread premature death and suffering that the Church has wreaked upon developing world women because of their position on birth control has been a clear indication to millions that the Vatican does not really give a damn about "the little people." Institutional survival, political muscle, and authority dominate the attention of the Church leadership -- not "the little people" they claim to protect, many of whom reached this conclusion on their own. For them, the hypocrisy has been too much to stomach and they have left the Church by the tens of millions. The Church's position cannot be reasonably defended.
The evidence supporting Hasler's assessment that these dogmas are resulting in a loss of credibility is overwhelming. The number of young men entering American seminaries has dropped 35 percent since 1977.177 In 1966, there were 42,767 seminarians. Today, while the Catholic population has increased by more than 50 percent, they number only slightly more than 6,000 in the U.S.177a During the 1993-1994 school year there were 6,244 candidates for the priesthood; this year there are 6,030, a drop of 3.4%. For those closest to Ordination, the number of candidates for the priesthood fell over the past year from 2,915 to 2,817.177b No end is in sight. Only three percent of American nuns are under age 40 and 37 percent are over age 70.178 The average age of priests here is 65 years. There are now 20,000 ex-priests -- one-half of all U.S. priests quit the priesthood before reaching retirement age,179 and they represent the best and brightest. Membership in Catholic orders has fallen 40 percent since 1962, while the nation's Catholic population grew by 36 percent.180 The Vatican now regards North America as a missionary region. Younger priests from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America are being brought in to protect papal interests because American men are shunning the priesthood.181
The number of Catholic grade and high schools is down by 30 percent since 1960.182 This does not bode well for the future of the Church because Catholic schools provide over 90 percent of bishops, 90 percent of sisters and over 85 percent of priests.183 The number of Catholic general hospitals is down 22 percent in the same period.184 Only 28 percent of Catholics attend mass on a typical Sunday while 30 years ago mass attendance was more than 70 percent.185 Catholics contribute only 1.1 percent of their income to the Church while Protestants contribute 2.2 percent; 20 years ago they gave about the same.
In Latin America, Protestant churches are growing swiftly, with as many as 20 percent of Catholics abandoning their church to become members. Latin America represents 48 percent of all Catholics in the world, but it provides only one percent of the missionaries.186 While Bolivia has been occupied by the Catholic Church for 500 years, yet only five percent of its priests are natives. In Europe, the credibility of the Catholic Church is plummeting. Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe. Less than 25 percent of the vote is now controlled by the Vatican, compared to a substantial majority in the decades after World War II, and state funded abortions are available to all who want them. In France, only one percent of the population attends mass regularly. In the summer of 1995, a petition calling for drastic changes in the Church collected half a million signatures in Austria, about half of their Catholic churchgoers.186a In November 1995, millions of Catholics across Europe -- in Germany, Poland and Ireland -- sent powerful messages to the Vatican demonstrating that they were prepared not merely to ignore the Church's teachings, but to defy them openly. Poland elected an ex-Communist whom Church leaders called a "neo-pagan." Ireland legalized divorce. In Germany 1.5 million out of five million practicing Catholics signed a petition modeled after the Austrian one.186b
Just as predicted in 1870 by the dissenting bishops, the credibility of the Church has been greatly diminished. These statistics are compelling evidence. Likewise, the predicted loss of touch with reality has also come true.
The myth of Mary first appeared in the sixth century in a text. The myth was loaded with grotesque accounts of miracles. According to Hasler, the story goes something like this: "Mary lives in Bethlehem. The archangel Gabriel makes known to her that her end is nigh. At her request all the apostles are brought from all the different countries of the world on a wondrous journey through the clouds to Bethlehem. Numerous miraculous cures take place at Mary's sickbed. Since danger threatens from the Jews, the Holy Spirit carries Mary and the apostles off on a cloud to Jerusalem..."187 The story goes on and on.
There were no other historical sources for Mary's Assumption. There was no serious opposition to this infallible proclamation by Pope Pius XII. The story is quite simply preposterous. It is frightening to think that such a thing could happen in 1950. Consider the fact that the entire leadership of the Church in 1950 went along with such nonsense. It is more frightening to recognize that these men, the leadership of the Church in 1996, are making critical decisions that affect all of humanity. It is shocking to be faced with the fact that this leadership was permitted to impose a policy which undermined U.S. political will to deal with the mounting overpopulation threat to U.S. and global security.
After reading the complete 6th century myth which was accepted by the entire leadership of the Church as truth (in my lifetime), I better understand how the Church can continue to ignore the growing mountain of evidence that the planet and humanity are gravely threatened by overpopulation. Bishops in 1870 saw this coming and voiced their concerns. In the last section I quoted Hasler, "...but [the Church] blocks off its own free access to the real world and ultimately stands in danger of losing touch with reality completely."188 Indeed, it has.
Catholic insiders are well aware of the despotism of the Papacy, and that the practice of it brings rewards. In 1954, Pius XII canonized Pius X, who had authorized an elaborate system of spies and informers "to ward off modernist errors."190 His covert methods, including espionage, were discussed at his canonization proceedings. According to Hasler, the prevailing attitude was: "Since the faith of the Church was threatened, all such means seemed justified."191
Americans are frequently reminded that the pope's authority is despotic. Wrote Ignaz von Dollinger on March 1, 1887, to the archbishop of Munich, "The new dogmas have come into being thanks to force and coercion. They will also have to be maintained by the constant use of force and coercion."192 Since the encyclical Humanae Vitae, the press with regularity has exposed Americans to acts of repression by the Vatican as it has silenced all of its dissenters, the mark of a successful despot.
To review the sequence of events discussed in Chapter 6. Pope Paul VI inherited the Commission from Pope John. The Commission consisted of 2 parts -- 64 laymen in one group and 15 cardinals and bishops in the other. The laymen voted 60 to four and the clerics 9 to 6 to change the Church's position on birth control even though they recognized that this change would diminish papal authority. This vote was leaked to the press, so the whole world knew the outcome of the vote. However, Paul VI rejected the majority position, and accepted the minority view which insisted that to make this change regarding contraception would destroy the fundamental principle of infallibility and with it, the Church itself. Paul VI then issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (1968), in which the pope condemned practically every form of birth control as morally reprehensible. According to Hasler, "After the promulgation of the encyclical...the Church conducted a massive purge of its key personnel wherever it could."193
Thus, contraception represents the first serious threat to the principle of infallibility to emerge. It also represents a great crisis of authority. Though the Vatican would like to think this issue has already been decided, the vast majority of Catholics (and non-Catholics) reject the teaching of Humanae Vitae. In 1968 Dutch Bishop Franceos Simons had argued that faith in infallibility was theologically dubious, raising the issue for the first time in decades. Soon after, papal infallibility was questioned by Küng in Infallible? An Inquiry.194 As a result, Küng fell victim to papal repression and was silenced as a Catholic theologian.
Contraception is bringing about an implosion in papal authority. Contraception has resulted in the greatest crisis in the Church since the loss of the Papal States during the time of Vatican Council I in 1870. Very few people are aware of the real motivation for Humanae Vitae. But they do recognize that the behavior demanded by this encyclical is not in their best interests -- behavior that in the long run will be suicidal for humanity. Contraception has initiated a collapse of the institution from within.
This is a dangerous predicament. Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist at the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. He recently assessed the Vatican's hierarchy appointments in America for the Religion News Service as reported in the National Catholic Reporter: "With unrelenting consistency in recent years, the Vatican has appointed to the American hierarchy men who are mean-spirited careerists -- inept, incompetent, insensitive bureaucrats who are utterly indifferent to their clergy and laity. In all its 200-year history, the American hierarchy has never been in worse shape. This same policy has been implemented all over the Catholic world in the name of restoring to the church the loyalty of the clergy and people."194a
Americans can learn an important lesson from Argentina, a lesson described for the world on March 4, 1995 by a retired Argentinian naval captain, Adolfo Scilingo. During the 1976-1983 "dirty war," which was an uprising against the country's right-wing government and the Catholic Church, an estimated 4,000 dissidents were killed and 10,000 disappeared. Capt. Scilingo reported to an investigating tribunal that between 1,500 and 2,000 dissidents were thrown alive, one at a time, from airplanes at high altitudes into the ocean during 1976 and 1977 on orders from the military high command. He described in chilling testimony how he and another officer helped detainees -- many weak from torture -- to board the planes. Scilingo revealed that Catholic chaplains comforted military commanders after they flung political dissidents into the ocean from airplanes and that Catholic Church officials provided moral justification for the torture and murder of dissidents during the conflict.194b
Hebe de Bonafini, director of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group, said the church has much to repent of: "The Church has a great responsibility in everything that happened, because the Church knew that the military chaplains were paid salaries by investigating judges to participate and act in the jails extracting confessions from the prisoners." Church officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in the "dirty war." However, in April 1995, five bishops issued a statement of regret for their roles in the war.194b
The same Vatican officials who chose these Argentinian bishops have selected nearly all the bishops serving in the U.S. today -- using the very same criteria. Father Greeley's description of the men thus appointed is most revealing. Security-survival of the institution of the Papacy is the most prized ethical value of the men in power (as has been the case for a least a millennium) and all bishops are selected because they rank this ethical value above all others. The Argentine bishops were responding to the threat posed by these dissidents to the security-survival interests of the Vatican.
Throwing young people alive out of airplanes, one by one, over the ocean was justified because this served to protect the interests of the Holy See.
Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, has followed Cardinal John O'Connor's career for more than two decades: "This is a man who longs for the imperial papacy -- a papacy where you had the power to burn people at the stake. When it comes to matters of internal church discipline, he is the toughest, and the meanest."194c The New York Times reports, "As the Archbishop of the media and cultural center of the United States, Cardinal O'Connor has extraordinary power among Catholic prelates. He travels to Rome and has lunch with the pope on Church business about once a month, and is widely acknowledged to have a great deal of say in the appointment of American bishops."194c
Are the bishops in the United States really different from their colleagues in Argentina? Given the descriptions of these men offered by Greeley and Kissling, we wonder. If this could happen in Argentina within the last 20 years, is it not possible in the U.S. today? Are American bishops not responding to dissidents in this cruel manner only because they have not yet acquired sufficient power? They have not ventured to criticize the behavior of their Argentinian counterparts because the Vatican has not instructed them to do so. There can be no doubt that the Argentinian bishops look to Rome for guidance. But after all is said and done, there was no outcry -- no condemnation -- from the Vatican when their role became public.
A more recent example comes from Rwanda which is predominantly Catholic. Human rights groups have charged that Catholic priests actively encouraged the murderers of more than 500,000 Tutsis in the 1994 warfare.194d According to a report issued by the London based Africa Rights seeking the rewards of an intimate relationship with the majority Hutu government, the bishops chose to remain silent.194e
Küng summarizes where things stand: "There is no dodging the fact that in the Catholic world church history, exegesis, dogmatics, moral theology, and catechesis have all had to pay a high price...for this infallibility, which allowed for no genuine corrections and revisions....It brought on a continual conflict with history and the modern world which profoundly shook the credibility of the Catholic Church; a continual defensiveness towards new information and experiences, towards all scientific criticism, towards all possible enemies, real or imagined. And it created a gap between the Church and modern science....Enormous sacrifices were also indirectly demanded of the `little people' -- in the interests of authority, continuity, and doctrinal infallibility. The ban on contraception is only a particularly striking example of all the burdens placed on the individual conscience by the teaching presented as de facto infallible in catechisms, confessionals, religious instruction, and sermons. The exodus of countless intellectuals, the inner alienation of many believers, the lack of creative people and initiatives in the Church...the psychic disturbances, the loss of touch with reality, the mighty religious machine whose operations very often conceal the absence of inner life...Was all that necessary?"195
Küng is describing an institution in an advanced stage of self-destruction. Can this self-destruction be postponed, and if so, how, and for how long? This will be the subject of the next chapter. No doubt, the leadership of the Church will do everything possible to survive. The Church has enormous resources, energy, organization, direction and commitment. Paranoia has already set in. We can expect an ugly defense that will know no bounds until the very end. "This is God's institution and it must be saved at all costs," will be the battle cry in their holy war to insure institutional survival. Should we hasten the self-destruction and how?