It Isn’t Bad Apples; It’s a Bad Barrel

Only a tiny percentage of Catholic Church officials would compare the sexual abuse and cover-up charges against the Pope and Church with the anti-semitism of three generations ago that led to the slaughtering of millions of Jews.  Unfortunately, that small group seems to be running the Church.  Even so, trying to identify with the Jewish victims of seventy years ago is unwise on at least three counts:


•  In his youth, Joseph Ratzinger was a member of the anti-semitic Hitler Youth movement.  If we believe the tree grows as the twig is bent, this may be the measure of at least one part of this Pope’s character.  It also has family resemblances to Cardinal Ratzinger’s behavior during his 23 years as the Church’s Grand Inquisitor, where he was known as “God’s Rottweiler.”

•  Once Hitler came to power, the first diplomatic treaty he signed was with Pope Pius XI and the Roman Catholic Church, on July 8, 1933.  The Nazis agreed to stop their propaganda campaign against the Church, which in turn instructed German Catholics to stop all political protests against Hitler’s Third Reich.  Christopher Hitchens reports that at the first meeting of his cabinet after this capitulation was signed, Hitler — himself a Catholic — announced that this official agreement between Nazis and the Catholic Church would be “especially significant in the struggle against international Jewry.” 

Four years earlier, the Vatican had signed a similar “Lateran Treaty” with Mussolini, in which Mussolini gave the Church the small part of Rome we know as the Vatican City, and the Church promised to remain neutral in all future military conflicts.  The Vatican knows this history.  Pretending to identify with the Jews doesn’t show the scope of their righteousness, but the size of their blinders.

•  The Nazi atrocities against the Jews – with the Church’s complicity – were done because of who the Jews were.  The current accusations against the Pope and the Church are made because of what they did.  It’s a significant difference.

The Church’s narrow vision – like finding no moral basis for speaking out against the fascisms of Mussolini and Hitler – is also an acquired habit that has made them active agents of evil at many points of their history: crusades to kill Muslims, the slaughter of a million Cathars and the French Catholics who protected them, the tortures and murders of the Inquisition…

The Pope and the Church are trying to talk their way out of a corner they acted themselves into.  So far, it looks like this isn’t going to work, and can’t be spun away.  The Church has already paid out more than two billion dollars on sexual abuse charges, with more to come.  Every day, more people around the world become convinced that the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have allowed their priests to continue abusing children as though pederasty came with the job.


The Church’s new ruling that bishops must report sexual abuse cases to police cannot be serious, for some very down-to-earth reasons.  In the U.S. alone, 1,200 priests retire or die each year, while only about 450 are ordained to take their place (CBS Evening News, July 17, 2007). 

Eight years ago, it was reported that two-thirds of sitting U.S. Bishops had been accused of moving pedophile priests to new assignments (Front page above the fold, The Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2002, by Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin.)  Nuns are almost extinct, priests look like an endangered species, and two-thirds of their U.S. bishops are complicit in covering for the Church’s ordained pedophiles.  The Church is faced with a choice between truth and justice, or acting to preserve their dwindling supply of priests.  If history is a guide, we know which they will choose to serve. 

It isn’t a few bad apples; it’s a bad barrel.

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About the Author

Davidson Loehr is a former musician, combat photographer and press officer in Vietnam, owner of a photography studio in Ann Arbor, and a carpenter. He holds a Ph.D. in methods of studying religion, theology, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of science, with an additional focus on language philosophy (The University of Chicago). From 1986 to 2009, he served as a Unitarian minister. He is the author of one book, America, Fascism & God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher, (Chelsea Green, 2005). Now retired from the ministry, he is building a platform to become involved in national discussions of religion, science and culture. His book in progress is The Rise of Secular Religion in America.

  • marvin

    been saying this for years: religion is poison and this article proves my point.

  • nono

    Articles like this force religious people to go on the defensive. If you want a polarized world, keep talking this way.

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