Pope Benedict's Resignation is Nothing Compared to the 15 Biggest Pope Scandals of the Past

You thought a little resignation was bad? How about the pope whose syphilis was so bad he couldn't preach, or the one who threw orgies, or the one who had a kid with his sister? Caroline Linton runs through the biggest scandals the church has ever seen--from modern pedophilia all the way back to a dead pontiff on trial in 897.
Benedict XI Resigns, 2013

Benedict's resignation came as a real shock--he's the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, with the last resignation being Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 to end a church schism. The 85-year-old pontiff announced he would be stepping aside on Feb. 28 due to declining health, citing his "incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

Taking over in April 2005, Benedict was a surprising pick for pope to begin with: Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, he was a member of the Hitler Youth during World War II, although he insisted he was never part of the Nazi Party. As a cardinal, Benedict was one of the most conservative in the church, making his pick all the more unusual after popular reformer Pope John Paul II.

Pedophilia in the American Church, 2001-present

There were always the whispers about American Catholic priests sexually abusing children--with one bishop apparently warning of the consequences as far back as the 1950s--but the church's role in covering up the abuse came to light in 2002 when the Boston Globe published an in-depth investigation into defrocked priest John Geoghan, who had been suspected of molesting an estimated 150 children over a 30-year period. Geoghan would eventually be convicted in criminal court and sentenced to 10 years in prison and murdered two years into his sentence. But the real scandal was that the church had not only known about the allegations against Geoghan, they had moved him from parish to parish, sent him to therapy, and tried to cover it up--even after he was defrocked in 1998. After the Geoghan case, hundreds of other instances were uncovered, including in Los Angeles, where the church agreed to pay over $600 million in 2007 to settle with victims dating back decades.

Vatican Commission Endorses Birth Control--Then Pope Takes It Back, 1960s

The Catholic Church and birth control have had a long, complicated relationship. When the pill was introduced in the 1960s, Pope John XXIII appointed a commission called the Study of Problems of Population, Family, and Birth (featuring one Polish bishop named Karol Wojtyla, who would go on to become Pope John Paul II) to study whether birth control could be incorporated into the church doctrine. But surprise, surprise: the commission recommended to Pope Paul VI, who had taken over in 1963 and expanded the commission to 58 members, that the ban on contraceptives be lifted. The findings were leaked in 1967, making it all the more heartbreaking for Catholics who wanted contraceptives when Paul rejected the findings in a 1968 paper called Humane Vitale. In the 40 years since, it's believed that up to 98 percent of American Catholics have used artificial birth control at some point in their lifetimes.

Pope Pius XII and Holocaust, 1940s

The Catholic Church's relationship with Jews has always been tumultuous--it wasn't until 1965 that the Vatican rejected the notion that Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, and the Vatican didn't recognize Israel until 1993. Pope Pius XII, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, has long been known as "Hitler's pope" for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust--especially since he served as No. 2 to the previous pope and before that as special envoy to Germany. At Israel's national Holocaust Museum, a wall panel criticizes Pius's conduct during the war, although it was updated in 2012 to include instances when the church's "neutrality" saved lives. Fair assessment? The Vatican insists Pius used quiet diplomacy, and that if he had spoken out publicly, there could have been more deaths. And in a book published in February 2013, British historian Gordon Thomas claims Pius gave his blessing for the establishment of safe houses in Vatican City, and that he instructed priests to conduct a secret operation to hide Jews.

Secret Papers Published, 1869-70

It turns out VatiLeaks isn't the only time secret papal papers have been leaked. At the First Vatican Council in 1869--convened by Pope Pius IX to deal with the creeping influence of rationalism, liberalism, and materialism--the church introduced what would later become one of its most important teachings: that the pope is infallible. But apparently the papal security is not so infallible: secret papers from the council ended up published in German newspapers.

SOURCE: The Daily Beast
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