Updated: Feb 1
WHY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY MAKES PACTS WITH DARKNESS
It's difficult to avoid a sense of dread when scanning the morning news releases. The world is in a mess. The Turks have mobilized for another campaign of genocide in Syria, ISIS is making a comeback, the American President is a pathetic narcissist with his finger on the nuclear trigger, his Fascist-leaning British counterpart is marshalling the UK out of the European Union; meanwhile, the planet itself enters a downward spiral toward existential catastrophe.
In spite of all these warning signs, the world's most powerful multinational corporation with an iron grip on the hearts and minds of a billion functionaries and subscribers worldwide remains strangely silent. That's right. I'm talking about the Roman Catholic Church.
If the much-lauded Pope Francis wanted to do something more creditable than to issue the occasional politically neutral sermon, or mouth politically charged diatribes on the pitfalls of homosexuality and the special evil of abortion, he is free to do so. As titular head and absolute ruler of a sovereign state with a seat on the United Nations, if the Pope wanted to convene an enclave of world leaders, including those of Isis and the Taliban with the Vatican as venue (even more impressive than Doral and without bedbugs), he enjoys the political and moral authority to do so. In fact, if the Pope appealed to Catholics worldwide to join a volunteer military force dedicated to the protection of innocents and peacekeeping duties in the Middle East and other conflict areas, as earlier popes did to militarily defend the Church's temporal holdings against the onslaught of democratic movements on the Italian peninsula, he could earn the world's admiration in the blink of an eye. But he won't. And there is a reason why he won't.
To understand this crucial 'why not,' we need a little bit (actually, a lot) of history:
On a crisp October morning in 1943, Nazi troops sealed off the streets of the Jewish ghetto of Rome, a community that had seen the old walls and gates pulled down and its members allowed rights of full citizenship and integration into Roman society after the Papal States fell to forces of the Italian Risorgimento in 1870.
Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) remained silent as thousands of his fellow Italians disappeared into the gas chambers and crematoriums of the German Reich, hoping and praying for his own reinstatement as pope-king of the former papal territories as a reward for supporting Fascism, Nazism, and the German occupation of Italy. During the 19th century, it had been the Austrian and French legionnaires who garrisoned the Papal States against rebellion. Now it was the Germans.
Out of 1,127 people caught in the first ghetto roundup, 800 of whom were women and children, only fourteen returned alive at war’s end, eighteen months later. Pius XII, like his predecessor Pius IX who appeared to enjoy publicly ridiculing Jews, did nothing to stop the pogrom. Had the Pope succeeded in reclaiming his lost temporal kingdom as a reward for the Church’s shameful collaboration with Fascism and Nazism, it is certain that social restrictions on Jews in the reconstituted Papal States would have been reinstated – dusk to dawn curfews, the requirement to wear yellow hats, non-contact with Christians, special taxes and levies, and the humiliating forced attendance at Sunday sermons delivered by the fanatical Dominican friars of the Church of San Gregorio Della Divina Pietà. That is, if any Jews were left alive in the country.
Three months before the roundup, an Allied invasion force had struck the first blow at Fortress Europe with a landing on the beaches of southern Sicily although, on invasion day in 1943, not a single Jew remained resident on the island. Their expulsion starting in the 15th century was a direct outcome of Spanish colonization and the Holy Inquisition’s program to expropriate Jewish assets for itself. The Italian Fascists and German Nazis merely put the finishing touches on a campaign initiated by the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish Crown several centuries earlier. Democracy was still rigorously opposed by the right-wing Catholic hierarchy, although the damning fifty-year-old non expedit that prohibited Catholics from voting or serving in parliament had been lifted in 1919 when democratic elections were fast becoming passé, swept away by Mussolini in favor of the single party system.
Although history is quite clear about his having possessed detailed information on the size and scope of industrialized murder, especially in countries like Poland where half the victims where Polish Catholics and hundreds of Polish Catholic priests were dying in concentration camps, Pius XII neither publicly condemned the Nazi death camps, nor did he protest against the terror bombing of cities by both the Allied and Axis powers. A shrewd diplomat and master manipulator, the Pope took refuge in the excuse that such feeble protests as he did from time to time make under pressure from more conscientious Churchmen, especially the German bishops, were ineffective or had caused the Nazis to actually intensify the pogroms. Instead, he conveniently framed the issue of generalized slaughter of innocents as a diplomatic rather than a moral one.
The same basic parameters of the Church’s relationship with Jews and other non-Catholics persist to this day. The Church makes a careful distinction between what it calls anti-Judaism by which it defines its own historical record of persecution, and anti-Semitism that it considers applicable only to the policies and actions of the German Nazis and Italian Fascists, in other words, to the losers of the Second World War.
In fairness to Pius XII, he was not the first Pope to adopt a posture of silence and non-involvement while millions of rampaging Christians set about raping, pillaging and reducing the human race through ethnic cleansing. In 1916, for one example, a pamphlet was published entitled “The Silence of Benedict XV” in which His Holiness was criticized for ignoring the increasingly disturbing atrocities of World War I. Like Pius XII during the 1930’s and 40’s, Benedict XV also took no action other than diplomatic notes in the face of the Turkish mass genocide of over a million mostly-Christian Armenians in 1915.
Despite the popes no longer being temporal rulers after 1870, the Church still controlled sufficient resources to maintain its regime of pomp and power even after losing the Papal States. The Holy See remained a major player in international politics in terms of its influence over Catholics worldwide and, in particular, the masses of French, German and Austrian Catholics. In the absence of census figures and the blessing of opinion polls, millions of German Catholics, especially in largely Catholic Austria, remained as sensitive to the threat of eternal retribution from God as they were to physical threats from Hitler. Nonetheless, many German Catholics were driven into the Brownshirt ranks when they perceived the Vatican’s policies to favour the Nazi program to dismantle democratic government in that country, especially after Cardinal Pacelli (the soon-to-be Pius XII) sealed the Reichskonkordat with Hitler in 1933.
Only a generation before the atrocities of World War I and their further refinements during World War II, popes had been able to rigidly control Catholic political choices from the pulpit, using the ubiquitous threat of excommunication or interdiction of churches, that is, the mass disenfranchisement of entire cities from God’s grace, a cudgel with which they bullied Catholics and influenced political opinion in their favor. As late as the 1860’s, Pius IX was able to mobilize large numbers of fighting men, including a contingent of fourteen hundred Irish volunteer militiamen and officers in his eighteen thousand-man army, and to defeat even Garibaldi’s seasoned veterans in several major engagements. For Pius XII to later pretend to be powerless while Hitler’s legions comprised perhaps as many conservative Catholics as Protestants was in itself a masterly stroke of public deception.
If a pope could have so easily rallied the impoverished and politically troubled Irish to arms under his banner in the 1850’s and 60’s in a crusade against democracy fought out on the Italian peninsula, what kind of support could he have expected from them in support of a moral Crusade in the 1930’s and 40’s, a time in which millions of fellow Catholics were being murdered on their very own European doorstep? Clearly, an appeal to the more militantly postured Catholic factions to rise up and oppose what was even then considered a moral outrage meant no immediate benefit to the Vatican, and the reality of centuries of Church condemnation and exploitation of Jews should not be discounted when considering an appeal to Catholic conscience.
Human memory is short while prejudice and race hatred are evidently very long lived. When Benito Mussolini came to power in the 1920’s, a significant number of Rome’s senior citizens could still recall a time when Roman ghetto Jews were forced to wear yellow hats or Bolognese Jews strips of red ribbon on their coats. The Church came out strongly on the side of Fascism during the brutal Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s, now considered a dress rehearsal for what followed throughout the rest of Europe. Welcoming the defeat of the Spanish Republic after the intervention of Hitler’s and Mussolini’s troops on the side of the Falange, the Vatican aligned its interests and policies with those of the Axis Powers. In other words, it sided with what it perceived would be the victors.
The dictatorships of Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal, Hitler in the Germanic realms, with Mussolini’s the single power bloc in Italy, rekindled Vatican hopes that the current distribution of power in Europe might one day return the popes to their pre-1870 status as temporal rulers, as it did once before in 1849-50. This time, however, it would have to be German troops, rather than French, who would provide the military muscle. The Church would sacrifice the Jews, if it must sacrifice anything, to the forces of darkness if that would bring a return of temporal power and reinstatement of the pope-kings. Although the Italian Risorgimento was history, a possible return of the Papal States to pontifical control was never far from anyone’s mind and prayers.
A major excuse for papal silence in 1943 is contained in the Lateran Treaty, a landmark of diplomacy under which Pius XI managed to recoup one fifth of one square mile of territory as well as financial compensation for the remainder of the lost Papal States from the Fascists in 1929. Under Article 24 of the Treaty, while declaring the Vatican City State to be neutral and inviolable territory, the Holy See itself pledges to remain “extraneous to all temporal disputes between states”. Catholic apologists find refuge in the notion that the Vatican was obliged to remain neutral under the terms of its own foundational document, something latter-day critics consider a treaty with evil conceived in a kind of limbo between canon law and an emerging less-humanistic world order and purchased with twenty pieces of silver.
The Church’s position vis-à-vis the Spanish dictatorship, which endured until Franco’s death in 1974, was even more profitable. The defeat of democracy in Spain in 1939 made the Church a full partner with the state, awarding it control over education, marriages, and healthcare services. The only schools in the country were Catholic schools, the only form of marriage was a Church wedding, and all hospitals were administered by the Church. During the Franco regime, a monument called 'The Valley of the Fallen' bearing the world's largest cross was constructed by slave labour near Madrid and its chapel was consecrated as a basilica - the Pope's own church - where the hated dictator's remains were eventually entombed. The place is deemed a shrine by today's Neo-Nazis.
As of this writing, there are approximately 900 cases pending in Spanish courts pertaining to the abduction and selling of newborn babies to foreigners wishing to adopt. According to eyewitnesses who worked in, or were otherwise associated with, the national Catholic hospital system over a forty-year period, the corpses of dead babies were taken from freezers and shown to new mothers, explaining that their newborns had somehow not survived birth or succumbed shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, their actual healthy babies were leaving the hospital in the arms of adoptive parents. Evidence points to the baby selling industry being institutionalized and widespread, not just limited to a few corrupt doctors. It is alleged that many thousands of children were sold abroad at $5,000 per head. As Mussolini did in Italy, Franco made the Church part and parcel of the corruption of a totalitarian regime whose impact on society is still felt today.
Catholic apologists further condemn the idea that the Church should have abandoned political neutrality in light of widespread public outrage against the special evil of Nazism with the argument that solemn international treaties cannot be unilaterally violated, despite the rather poor historical record of the Nazis themselves. The only real issue here is the possibility that abrogation of the Lateran Treaty with Italy and the Reichskondorat with Germany may have provided Mussolini and Hitler with justification under international law for claiming a refund of the large cash component paid to the Church and re-annexation of the Vatican State, as if, having now conquered almost the entire European continent, they still needed that one fifth of one square mile of Rome to round out their empire. In truth, the Catholic Church was nothing if not collaborationist.
The whirlwind courtship of the Church and Fascism signaled a match made in heaven and, in the simple minds of some prelates, vindication of the truth about democracy contained in Pius IX’s Synopsis of Errors. As the distillation of events in Europe after World War I favored the rise of authoritarian regimes in Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the Church itself was also moved to consolidate authority after its traumatic bout with the Enlightenment and 19thcentury Liberalism and, in the process, to unify its chaotic legal codes, a project initiated under Pius X and spearheaded by Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII who had been labelled ‘Hitler’s Pope.’ In the wake of that effort, the dogma of infallibility became a legal principle and thus a monumental work of papal absolution. After the Lateran Treaties of 1929, it achieved a measure of recognition by the Fascist civil authorities as well.
The Lateran Treaties were little more than a lesser re-scripting of the Law of Guarantees offered to Pius IX before the Italian government annexed Rome and what remained of the Papal States in 1870. The government’s first offer included a subdivision of the city of Rome that would have given the Pope sovereignty over most of the right bank of the Tiber, a district known as the Leonine City, while the Italian government administered districts on the river’s left bank. A large annual cash stipend sufficient to cover all the salaries and expenditures involved in governing the Leonine City, guarantees of immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for clerics, Church control of education and marriages in Italy, and extraterritoriality for its real estate holdings throughout the Italian peninsula were added to sweeten the deal. Pius IX refused. Long after his death in 1878, the Vatican continued to conspire for the return of its entire temporal kingdom, all or nothing. But what they eventually got from the Fascists was very much less than what Pius IX had rejected fifty years earlier.
Since the Church officially rejected democracy and was opposed to any form of modernism, it was only natural it should embrace totalitarianism. In its own mind, the struggle with Liberalism was over or, at the very least, put on indefinite hold. The Holy See seized a second opportunity to secure from Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler what it had rejected in the 1870’s from Vittorio Emanuele II and Italy’s liberalist parliament, namely a Concordat, or agreement recognizing the sovereignty of the Church and assurances of security for Church property. The Lateran Treaties signed in 1929 with Mussolini led to the official formation of the Vatican sovereign state as it is known today. The Pope agreed to weaken Catholic resistance to Fascism by outlawing the Catholic political parties that had been voicing opposition such as the Partito Popolare ItalianoCentro, and to encourage Catholics in cheering the Hitler-Mussolini tag team.
Six months after Hitler came to power in 1933, he signed the Reichskonkordat. German Catholics were bamboozled into believing that since the Vatican had, with much pomp and ceremony, ratified the Reichskonkordat, it approved the policies of the Nazi regime which included demonization and persecution of the Jews. Most individuals never took a look at what the agreement actually contained. This complex of ignorance enabled large numbers of Catholics to sign on with Hitler while avoiding the messy inconvenience of conscience.
From the Vatican’s perspective, the purpose of the Concordats was to establish a more vertical and monolithic power structure with the Pope as a supreme dictator on a more or less equal footing with his German and Italian cohorts. The power of the bishops was to be neutralized and control concentrated in Rome. In Fascism and Nazism, the Church found perfect bedfellows: both were anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-Communist, anti-secular and, except for a curious fixation on weapons of mass destruction, anti-modern. Nazism in particular displayed a dreamy obsession with an imaginative Germanic super-culture manufactured out of whole cloth, and a fanatical hatred of Jews, something the Church itself had institutionalized in its territories until 1870 and continued to support less openly afterwards. In the Gestapo, Catholics recognized a familiar institution, a carbon copy of the by-now emasculated Holy Office of the Inquisition. The Fascist cult of the Leader would have warmed the frigid cockles of Pius IX’s own heart and received no significant objection from Pius XII, a lifelong Germanophile who had praised and supported the upstart Adolph Hitler while serving as Papal Nuncio in Berlin.
Both structured on the Mafia model, the Church and Fascism had much in common. Power ran exclusively from top to bottom, responsibility from bottom to top. Respect for authority came before freedom or conscience. Elections were passé. If Pius IX’s unlucky Prime Minister, Pellegrino Rossi (1787-1848), could have been there, he would have been comforted by the fact that good efficient Absolutist rule was once again in vogue, having supplanted inefficient plebian democracy. From the Church’s viewpoint, this rather large step backward was actually a small step toward the reinstatement of Absolutist rule throughout Europe and the eventual return of territories stolen from the Church by the Italians in 1870.
Pope Pius XI, to his credit, was not an admirer of Il Duce or Der Führer, though he was an eager supporter of Spanish and Portuguese Fascism, a contradiction in conscience not unusual in Church political circles. The murder of Giacomo Matteotti, the Italian Socialist leader in parliament and outstanding critic of Fascism, stabbed to death with a rat-tail file, may have shaken his resolve, but the Pontiff nonetheless drove a hard bargain in negotiating the Lateran Treaties. His terms included a US $92.1 million signing bonus written up as compensation for the lost Papal States, a 109-acre temporal kingdom to be called Vatican City, and clerical control of education and marriages in Italy. Catholic clergy would stay on the public payroll and church property remained exempt from taxation. This cozy arrangement with government continued after Mussolini and his lover were unceremoniously hanged by their ankles from a lamppost in front of a filling station in 1945.
The Vatican was once again on the verge of bankruptcy when it arrived at the Concordat of 1929. This time it was neither pawn brokering, nor the peddling of annuities, nor loans from Jewish bankers that delivered the Holy See from financial ruin as in the past. Its savior appeared in the person of Bernardino Nogara (1870-1958). Nogara came from a famiglia sacerdotale; two of his brothers were archbishops, one was rector of a seminary in Apulia, and his sister was a mother superior. Another brother was superintendent of the Vatican Museums. Trained as an engineer, Nogara had managed mining projects in Wales where he became fluent in English, in Bulgaria and parts of the Ottoman Empire. During his stay in Istanbul, he was appointed representative to the Banca Commerciale Italiana, then Italian representative to the reparations committee that oversaw the Ottoman Empire’s debt at the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919. He later became a director of the Banca Commerciale Italiana. He would certainly have known of the Turks’ ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population during his time in Istanbul but did nothing.
Nogara’s relationship with the Vatican began when he was commissioned to purchase a variety of bonds on behalf of Benedict XV, the pope who had declined to comment on the Armenian genocide. In 1929, on the brink of the Great Depression, he was appointed by Pius XI to directorship of the Special Administration of the Holy See or, as Bishop Marcinkus, the American director of the Vatican Bank who was accused of money laundering for the Mafia, later put it when he was appointed to the same post, to be God’s Banker. With the $92.1 million that Pius XI received under the terms of the Fascist Concordat of 1929, Nogara shrewdly invested in stocks, gold and futures. By 1935, he had built up the Pope’s little nest egg into many hundreds of millions of dollars, although the exact amount has never been divulged.
Much of the Church’s investment portfolio was unholy. Representing the Vatican, Nogara heavily invested in Italy’s munitions plants and other war-related industries while the country was ramping up for World War II. In fact, the entire body of the Italian clergy, higher and lower, had proclaimed Mussolini’s disastrous Abyssinian campaign a "Holy War" and unanimously and enthusiastically supported Italian imperialism. On behalf of the Church and despite its strict anti-birth control stance, he purchased a controlling interest in the Instituto Farmacologico Serono di Roma, Italy’s largest manufacturer of condoms. For his efforts, Nogara was applauded for having halted the Church’s slide into bankruptcy, a process that began in 1870 with Pius IX’s opposition to Italian unity, his refusal to accept the monetary support offered by the Italian government with the Law of Guarantees, and general rejection of all things modern.
The $92.1 million coupled with Nogara’s financial genius was just the shot in the arm the Church needed and provided strong arguments in favor of Fascism, bringing many previously skeptical clerics over into Mussolini’s camp. Pius XI instructed his Secretary of State, who would soon succeed him as Pope, to print a public letter in the papal daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on the subject of the Church in a modern state, acknowledging the Church’s rights and responsibilities in the Fascist era. Yet by 1938, even he was having some serious doubts. European civilization slid ever closer to social chaos and world conflict despite the triumph of Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s Fascists over the publicly elected Republican government of Spain and the subsequent re-empowering of the Church in that country.
Summoning the courage and determination to salvage what he could of an increasingly troubled relationship with darkness, the Pope then secretly commissioned an American priest, Father La Farge, to compose his next encyclical. La Farge had published a book entitled Interracial Justice, a frontal attack on segregation laws in the American South, a work that had impressed Pius XI. The new encyclical, to have been entitled Humani Generis Unitas,was a document designed to shock Church-watchers everywhere. The Pope was going to condemn Nazism, Fascism and racism, in particular Adolph Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. It was a bold move for an organization that a mere sixty-five years earlier had declared Black slavery to be consistent with Divine and Natural Law and with an ugly history of Jewish persecution.
He died in 1939 before the work could be completed. Humani GenerisUnitasdisappeared into the Vatican Secret Archives where the materials will remain sealed for yet another generation. Pius XI’s successor, Eugenio Pacelli calling himself Pius XII, replanted the Church firmly behind Fascism. As far as Pacelli was concerned, a deal was a deal. The Blackshirts could go down with the devil but the Church would hold up its end of the bargain.
In fact, not only Rome was embracing Fascism but the entire European Catholic world. The German Catholic theologian Michael Schmaus (1897-1983) wrote in 1933: “The strong emphasis on authority in the new government is something essentially familiar to Catholics. It is the counterpart on the natural level, to the Church’s authority in the supernatural sphere. Nowhere is the value and meaning of authority so conspicuous as in our holy Catholic Church”.
The Nazis took this endorsement of the cult of authority to the extreme. They soon corrupted the much repeated words of John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” by enshrining the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work Shall Make You Free” in large iron letters on the main gates of both the Auschwitz and Dachau death camps.
Some even saw a direct connection between Pius IX’s dogma of infallibility and the meteoric rise of the German Führer. Robert Grosche, a prelate from Cologne wrote in Die Shildgenossenin 1933: “When papal infallibility was defined in the year 1870, the Church was anticipating on a higher level the historical decision which has now been made on the political level: a decision for authority and against discussion, for the Pope and against the sovereignty of the Council, for the Führerand against the Parliament.”
When the Jews came under pressure after the promulgation of the Charter of Race in 1938, the Italian government was merely reverting back to the Church’s traditional practice of ghettoizing Jews living within its lands, forbidding them to participate in society or associate with Christians under pain of death. Unlike the plethora of Canon Law aimed at Jews throughout the ages, Il Duce put it all into one document. He took away the Jews’ right to Italian citizenship. They were not allowed to teach, and all Jewish university professors lost their posts. They were not allowed to hold state jobs or memberships in the Fascist Party, although many were already members. They could not be employed in banks or insurance companies nor were they allowed in the army. Jews were forbidden to marry non-Jewish Italians, although Mussolini himself maintained a Jewish mistress. Otherwise, they were free to do as they wished. At least associating with Christians was no longer a capital offense as it was until 1870 in the Stati della Chiesa, the former States of the Church.
Ironically, Jews enjoyed more freedoms in Rome under Fascism than they had under papal rule only seventy-five years earlier. Mussolini’s intrusion into Sicilian life certainly left its mark when he began targeting the Mafia, but the Jewish problem in Sicily was a non-problem. Non-Catholics of every stripe had been hounded out of the country by the Spaniards many centuries before. Not a single synagogue or mosque remained on the island, whereas Palermo alone had once hosted over three hundred mosques and the populations of major cities like Siracusa were comprised mostly of Jews.
Despite some modest redistribution of land between the two world wars and the temporary setback to Mafia influence and control initiated by Cesare Mori, Mussolini’s Iron Prefect, economic and social conditions for southern Italians and Sicilians remained largely unchanged since Garibaldi landed at Marsala in 1860. Most Sicilians and southern Italians were illiterate or semi-literate day laborers. The power of the Mafia had been curtailed, but by 1943 the young male population had also been decimated by conscription, and the German Army, the most recent in a long line of conquerors and occupiers, garrisoned Sicily as well as the Italian mainland. Il Duce’s grip was beginning to loosen and an Allied bomb even landed in the Vatican gardens. Italians, ever the practical race and sensing which way the wind was blowing, were quietly backing the partisans, that is, the godless Communists.
What Italians needed was not freedom from the comforts of a religion which many across the political spectrum defended with great sincerity and fervor, but freedom from the intrigues of organized religion with its stranglehold on everything Italian. Just as important was freedom from the Unholy Trinity, a relatively new alliance of Church, state, and organized crime. In the1940’s, the victorious Allies seriously underestimated the tenacious bonds of affection between Italian totalitarianism and religion, and between religion and organized crime, especially those links forged during the pre-war period.
Despite the hushed-up treachery of Pius XI in 1939 and an occasional falling out over methodology, the Church’s dedication to upholding its side of the bargain enshrined in the Lateran Treaty of 1929 and Reichskonkordat of 1933 held firm. Even after 1945, the Church maintained its commitment to the by-then vanquished Blackshirts and Brownshirts by running the notorious “Rat Line” of the post-war years, a Church-operated and Vatican-funded underground railway spiriting thousands of hunted Nazi war criminals from defeated Axis countries to safety in Catholic South America and elsewhere. The story of the laundering of stolen Jewish capital and the bankrolling of post-war Nazi communes and retired SS officers in South America has yet to be acknowledged by the non-Jewish world.
Further migration away from Italy during the years following World War II have the same root causes that drove five million away in the period bridging the 19th to 20th centuries: psychological collapse. Another generation of Sicilians and southern Italians was abandoning any hope for throwing off feudalism, a word that was redefined after 1812 but without any tangible effect on people’s lives. Even the landed aristocracy and its agents, the Mafiosi, were feeling the effect of the loss of peasant manpower and many of the large estates which still dominate Sicilian and southern Italian agriculture are being forced to cut back production or close down altogether for lack of field hands. In addition to the usual widespread poverty in both city and countryside, unchecked crime that includes acts of extortion and murder carried out by priests, along with the rise of a new and more ruthless Sicilian and other Mafias, the Church is again pressuring the faithful to reject genuine democratic principles and endorse a Mafia-Christian Democratic Party status quo. The fact that American pastors were respecting and even encouraging political activism and the exercise of a citizen’s right to a free and secret vote did not escape the notice of those Italians contemplating emigration to Germany, the USA, Canada, and Australia.
At the turn of the 20th century, when the bulk of migration away from the country took place, voting in a national election still incurred the penalty of automatic excommunication, a consequence that should have technically affected Catholics worldwide, though the Holy See’s vendetta was mainly directed at Italians and their government for having usurped its temporal kingdom. The Church did not want to alienate French, Spanish or Austrian Catholics as these nations had provided the military muscle necessary to beat back the Italians before they too abandoned the pope-king in 1870. Its meddling in European politics had one main goal: to bring back the foreign legionnaires to Rome and destroy the Italian state.
The Church hierarchy’s stubborn adherence to pacts made with criminal regimes can only be attributed to its characteristic sense of realpolitik. The struggle to maintain temporal power has gone on in one or another form since the seventh century when a king gave a pope the gift of land. But there is an even greater reason why the Church has historically chosen militarist and criminal organizations as allies while it publicly condemns thinkers and seekers, threatening automatic excommunication for anyone joining the ranks of Freemasonry or declaring himself a Communist. It fears the secret societies and what they might reveal about the fundamental teachings of the faith.
The story goes something like this.
In AD 679, the murder of the Merovingian king of France, Dagobert II brought the Carolingian dynasty to power. Pepin the Short, son of Charles Martel, father of Charlemagne and first of the Carolingian kings, then repaid the pope for his support in the regicide by taking his army to Italy, defeating the Lombards and other enemies of Christendom, and handing over territory which became the basic Papal States, a geographical area encompassing most of central Italy to be ruled over by succeeding popes until 1870. In 774, Charlemagne confirmed the donation of his father and, in order to lend greater antiquity to the popes’ claim to temporal power, the so-called Donation of Constantine (280-337) was fabricated. On its basis, subsequent popes would also claim authority over Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, basically the entire Italian peninsula and islands, as well as a portion of the southern coast of France and elsewhere. In payment for this service, in the year 800 C.E. in Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor.
The murder of the last Merovingian king one hundred years earlier meant much more to the Church than just a gift of land. It would seem that the Merovingians themselves kept a dangerous secret involving a thesis so profound as to dissolve all claims by the Church of Rome to spiritual and moral sovereignty. Their claim held that the Merovingian dynasty was a direct genetic line descended from Jesus Himself and that the Resurrection was simply the revival to consciousness of a Christ who had never actually died on the cross.
According to the legend, the vinegar-soaked sponge offered to Jesus on the cross actually contained a powerful drug that caused the heart to beat imperceptibly in a kind of suspended animation feigning death. After the Resurrection, Jesus and his followers, who are said to have included Mary Magdalene who was his wife but whom the Church authorities later portrayed as a whore, eventually migrated to the Languedoc region of what is now France. After the fall of the Merovingians in the 7thcentury, an event immediately preceding the establishment of the Church as a temporal kingdom and the popes as kings, the Merovingian secrets, along with some key artifacts, were safeguarded for many centuries by a secret society called the Priory of Sion, taking its name from Mount Sion outside of Jerusalem. Around the year 1118, the hierarchy of the Priory of Sion is thought to have created the Knights Templar, a militaristic organization of fighting monks that went on to figure prominently in the crusades.
The Templars proved so successful in their self-appointed task of protecting pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem that the order became fabulously wealthy. Selling protection against real or imagined enemies has always been a lucrative business. It was not merely their wealth, however, that earned them both the envy and the enmity of the popes. It was widely believed that the Templars possessed some sacred objects belonging to Jesus Himself, quite possibly including the Holy Grail, the actual cup used at the Last Supper.
More than this, as heirs to the Merovingian secret, they possessed detailed knowledge of Jesus’ actual burial place, said to be in the vicinity of Rennes-Le-Chateau. Artifacts that were unearthed in the 19thcentury point to a modicum of truth in this legend and to a knowledge as to where these objects of veneration may be found that was rigidly encoded in art and in this way passed down through the ages. Like the Italian Mafias, most secret societies do not maintain public archives or publish annual reports, but it is widely believed that the Priory of Sion included such relatively recent luminaries as the physicist Isaac Newton, artists Leonardo da Vinci and Nicholas Poussin, author Victor Hugo, and the composer Claude DeBussy.
Fairy tales? Maybe.
If so, then why is the Church so afraid of these shadowy figures with their passwords and secret handshakes? The answer is linked to its other great obsession, the condemnation of modernism and threats to faith posed by the new religion: Science.
For one thing, the Priory of Sion is said to have inserted itself among the ranks of latter-day Freemasonry. Giuseppe Garibaldi, the man who led the defense of the ill-fated Roman Republic of 1848-49 and who drove Pope Pius IX into temporary exile, was a grand master of Freemasonry. George Washington was a Freemason. Another Freemason was Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of a unified Italy, who finally took the Papal States away from Pius IX in 1870. Even some bishops and other members of the Church hierarchy have been revealed as closet-Freemasons. Should science ever prove the validity of the Merovingian claim that Jesus staged His own death and resurrection as a means of creating ‘faith,’ and that He was alive and well as late as 45 C.E. and died a death of natural causes in France, it could successfully debunk the entire Roman liturgy, undermining at a single stroke twenty centuries of papal authority, including Pius IX’s and all subsequent popes’ claims to infallibility.
Here is where persecution of Jews, particularly Italian Jews, becomes such an important exercise for the Church and the sport of cardinals and popes throughout the centuries. Should the basic tenets of Christ’s death and resurrection be proven false, the Jews will have been vindicated in their insistence on awaiting the true Messiah. The very foundations of western civilization will be dragged into question, making a mockery of the Divine Right of Kings, the mandate under which all European monarchs have ruled. Islam will no longer be a heretical movement and the crusades will go down as nothing more than Church-sponsored brigandage. It would be nuclear holocaust for organized religion in the West.
The third member of the Unholy Trinity, after Catholicism and Nazism-Fascism, is Cosa Nostra and, to an equal or lesextent, the collection of other so-called Italian Mafias. The Catholic Church has been locked into a love-hate relationship with these Men of Honour ever since the Mafiosi emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the mid-19th century and especially since Fascism’s power went underground after World War II. Like the Church, the Mafia’s traditional sense of realpolitik helps to ferret out its own best interests during transition periods in society and to quickly get on side with the power elite. Like the Church and the Fascists, power within the Societa Onorevole runs from top to bottom, responsibility from bottom to top. Followers worship the Cult of the Leader. With White Supremacist Donald Trump leading the USA and Neo-Fascists Boris Johnson in the UK and Matteo Salvini in Italy, it will be interesting to learn how the Mafiosi align themselves with their former political foes, the Neo-Fascist national governments.
As a bloc, then, the Unholy Trinity represents the radical negation of what is considered to be one of the highest achievements of human civilization, that is, the concept of the fundamental rights of man. It does this by subjecting members to a regime of absolute subjugation to authority, to the leader, under threat of death or eternal damnation, thereby effectively annihilating human personality.
Like the other members of the Unholy Trinity, the Mafia’s raison d’etreis not murder. As a business unit, it does not actively market the services of hit men and terrorists. Its members are not born to crime any more than the current pope inherited the Throne of Peter from his biological father. What does make Cosa Nostra different from the other two, however, is the fact that it has never relinquished the authority and power to use violence to encourage compliance within its territories, including the power of life and death over its membership and the ability to make war on its enemies. As a government within a government, while primitive in structure and scope, it demands and exercises the basic prerogatives of a modern state. In the words of British author Norman Lewis:
“The Mafia stands outside Christian morality, but the uncorrupted form of the Mafia found in feudal Sicily has an iron morality of its own. No mafioso sees himself as a criminal, and the Mafia has always been the enemy of petty crime – and therefore, to a limited extent, the ally of the police, both in Sicily and the United States. The organization demands blind obedience from its members, but will defend them in return through thick and thin – and in an alien land even extends its powerful protection to all immigrants of Sicilian birth. It can be regarded as a form of primitive human society that has somehow survived in the modern Western world; its cruel laws are those of tribesmen exposed to continual danger who can only hope to survive by submitting to the discipline of terrible chieftains.”
After being defeated militarily in 1870, the Roman Catholic Church discretely divested itself of an extensive collection of racks, wheels, blocks, axes, gallows, guillotines, flaying knives, whips and other instruments for inflicting misery and death that were once in common usage throughout the Stati della Chiesa. Its antiquated cannons are no longer made to fire from the ramparts of the Castel Sant’Angelo, although its Swiss Guards and Vatican City police remain well armed, even by modern standards, while the rumoured Vatican secret services and the infiltration of governments by Opus Dei and other clandestine cells fuel speculation about CIA-style diplomacy.
That too may change with the emergence of Neo-Nazism and Neo-Fascism in Europe and the Americas. For the time being, while issuing the occasional feeble diatribe against the excesses of its fellows, the Roman Catholic Church continues to function as a power bloc in the cynical and shape-shifting world of international politics.
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