The Catholic Church has been in existence since the 1st century AD. That’s plenty of time to rack up a few skeletons in the closet. The presence of the Church is felt all over the world. This institution commands upwards of 1.27 billion followers but has some shocking secrets that it would prefer not to discuss in too much detail.
Now for all the terrible crimes (and they are horrible) the Catholic Church has been involved in they have also been a powerful positive force in the world. For example, the Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world. Just as with most things in life, this religious institution is a complex mix of both good and bad.
The crux of the matter is people. There are some religious people driven to do good deeds and serve their community and others who would rather serve their own needs. When the greedy ones get into a position of power that’s when things go wrong.
The worst thing about the atrocities we’re looking at today is how most of them have been covered up (by friends in high places) and how most of them involve women and children.
15. Nazi Gold In The Vatican Bank
The Institute for the Works of Religion (AKA Vatican Bank) was founded by papal decree by Pope Pius XII in June 1942. Three years later, according to a report by a US Treasury agent, the bank received approximately 2 million francs, smuggled out of Germany via a puppet regime. Receiving Nazi gold (and we all know where that gold came from and how many people died for it) is one thing, but the report claimed that Vatican Bank took it one step further.
It’s believed that the money was slowly funnelled out of the bank into Spain and South America where it was used to help Nazi officers and officials escape punishment for their crimes against humanity.
14. Withholding Jewish Children After WWII
Despite staying silent during the Holocaust the Catholic Church did try to help the Jewish people in their own way. They helped to save thousands of Jews from certain death by supplying them with falsified birth certificates and documents that identified them as Catholics. In France, Jewish children were hidden from the Nazis in church-run schools.
Of course, this was admirable but the problem came after the war was over. The Catholic Church issued a decree which forbade Jewish children from being returned to their families. The document stated that returning them would possibly mean that they would be raised outside of the faith, which was unacceptable. Some of the younger children grew up without ever knowing their true families or heritage. It’s still unclear exactly how many of the children they saved were returned after the war.
13. Ireland’s Homes For Unmarried Mothers
St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home in Ireland was one of the several church-run homes for unwed mothers. But far from being a place of sanctuary, this home was a place of pain, suffering, and death.
Doctors were hardly ever present for the births and mothers who complained of pain were quickly told by the nuns that their pain was a punishment from God for their wicked ways. In the early 1920s when the home was established becoming pregnant outside of marriage was considered a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Often the babies were taken from their mothers at birth and shipped off for adoption. Due to the lack of medical attention in the home, many of the babies that remained didn’t survive. Almost 800 children died at the St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home between 1925 and 1961.
12. Protecting Abusers
The Catholic Church hates to discuss the allegations of child abuse which have been widely reported in the media from the 1980s onwards. Officials are quick to point out that other religious institutions also have similar problems but the point is this: there is a problem. And even worse, they’ve known about it for years and tried to cover it up.
Just one of example is that of Father Lawrence Murphy. He worked at a school for deaf boys and it’s believed that he molested upwards of 200 boys during his 24 years there. When the Church was made aware of this abuse he was moved from place to place and when he finally went to Rome to answer for his crimes the powers there decided he was too old and frail to face punishment.
11. Selling Out To Fascism
After Italy was united in the 19th century the Pope lost his sovereign territories. This caused a rift between the government of the time and the church. But when Italy fell under the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini the crisis was resolved. In order to get the church behind them, the fascists offered the church a deal it couldn’t resist. In exchange for their public support, they were granted a sovereign state within Italy (Vatican City), a hefty cash payment, tax exemptions and government salaries. Catholicism was also named as Italy’s state religion and Mussolini made it a compulsory subject in all schools.
The Catholic Church was good to its word and after they came to an agreement with the new regime they published a statement in the Vatican’s official newspaper which praised Mussolini. It said, “Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy.”
10. The Croatian Holocaust
While the Nazi death camps are widely known about, few people know about the horrors of the Croatian Holocaust and estimated 100,000 lives it claimed. And all the while the Independent State of Croatia ruled by the Ustaše regime managed to maintain a cordial association with the Catholic Church. Catholic archbishop Aloysius Stepinac even held an elaborate banquet for the regime’s dictator, Ante Pavelic. Pavelic was also granted an audience with the Pope Pius XII.
Many of the concentration camps set in this regime, with the aim of “cleansing” the population were run by Catholic priests who took active roles in the slaughter of thousands of people. While the mass murder continued the Catholic press in Croatia published propaganda for the fascist regime and the Vatican remained silent.
9. Home Children
In order to ensure that their colonies maintained healthy white majorities, the British sent approximately 150,000 children to Rhodesia, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia during the 19th and 20th century. Religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, saw this as an opportunity to increase their followers and became involved.
The Catholic Church shipped over a 1000 children to church-run schools in Australia between the 1930s and the 1960s. These children were often stripped of their birth name and subjected to hard labor. Many were starved, beaten and raped, all while under the Church’s care. Some survivors reported having to fight over food thrown on the floor.
8. The Murder Of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl
On the April 6th, 1980 the body of a Catholic nun, Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, was discovered in the chapel of the Toledo Mercy Hospital. The 71-year-old woman had been stabbed 31 times, including 9 stab wounds to the chest in the shape of an inverted cross. Father Robinson, who also worked at the hospital was a suspect but ended up going free– for 26 years.
In 2003, another abuse survivor came forward, saying that she had also been subjected to bizarre satanic rituals by Robinson. That case prompted the police to look into the nun’s murder again and eventually in 2006 Father Robinson was found guilty and sent to jail. He died in 2014, meaning he served 8 years for the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl.
7. Helping Nazi’s Escape
It’s estimated that following the end of WWII some 9000 Nazis managed to escape to South America. Many people believe that the Catholic Church helped a large number of these war criminals to get there and escape punishment for their crimes. There were numerous cases of senior Nazi officials who were given false Vatican passports allowing them to travel in disguise as priests.
One famous case is that of Franz Stangl. He was smuggled out of Germany and into Brazil by a bishop named Hudal. Stangl evaded capture until 1967 when he was sent back to Germany and convicted of overseeing the mass murder of close to a million Jews.
6. Magdalene Asylums
Magdalene Asylums also known as Magdalene Laundries were institutions that existed from the 18th century until the late 20th century. The purpose of these facilities was to provide “rehabilitation” for what society considered “fallen” women (i.e. unmarried mothers, prostitutes or sexually promiscuous women). Often the girls who ended up in these laundries had little choice in the matter. Their families didn’t want the shame of being associated with a “loose” woman.
The women were expected to work incredibly long, hot hours in the laundry, seven days a week for little to no pay. They lived in deplorable conditions and were often malnourished. The laundries were run by the church, who, of course, made a huge amount of money from the laundries due to the unending supply of free labor.
5. Duplessis Orphans
During the 1940s the Catholic Church became involved with a deplorable money-making scheme in Quebec that ended up damaging the lives of more than 20,000 young children.
The scheme went a little something like this: mental institutions received more money for the care of a patient than orphanages did for the care of orphans. The government of the time embarked on the scheme together with the Catholic Church in order to turn this into a profit. The Church, who ran the majority of the orphanages and the mental institutions, began to diagnose children with mental disorders in mass, shipping them off to the hospitals where they would command more money from the state. Once the orphanages were empty they were converted into, surprise, surprise, mental hospitals. The saddest part is that many of these children, who endured horrific treatment in these hospitals, were not orphans at all but were confiscated from their mothers for the terrible crime of being born out of wedlock. The Catholic Church has never apologized for this.
4. The Terrible Case Of Henk Heithuis
Henk Heithuis was a child of divorce and because he was unwanted by his family he spent his entire childhood in orphanages and boarding schools– most operated by the church.
One of the schools that he attended from the age of 15 to 18 was the Saint Vincent Boarding School in the Netherlands which was run by monks. It was here that he was subjected to cruel sexual abuse. Instead of remaining silent Henk was brave enough to speak out and when he was 20 he filed a criminal complaint against the holy men.
But things went from bad to worse for Henk at that point. The result of the case was that he was found guilty of seducing the monks and sent to a catholic mental hospital where he was treated for homosexuality. Part of the treatment was castration. Henk died at the age of 28 in a car accident and the day he died police confiscated and destroyed all his possessions and court documents. Nothing to hide, right?
3. Castrating Choir Boys
A castrato is a classical high male singing voice similar to that of a soprano. But this angelic voice comes at a price– it’s produced by castrating (removing the testes) of a young boy before he reaches puberty. This prevents the boy’s voice from “breaking” and he is able to retain a wide vocal range.
In 1589, Pope Sixtus V reorganized the choir of St. Peter’s, Rome. He banned females from singing and put castrati boys in the top line of the choir.
During the 18th century castrati, voices become intensely popular and priests would often offer money to the parents of poor boys in order to castrate and train them as choir boys. Most parents would agree, even though the procedure carried an 80% mortality rate at the time. The practice has thankfully since been banned by the Pope.
2. Sister Abhaya
The body of Sister Abhaya was discovered at the bottom of a well alongside the St. Joseph’s Congregation Church in India where she lived. She was 19 years old at the time of her death in 1997. Despite clear indications of foul play, her death was ruled as a suicide.
The case was plagued by interference, evidence and crucial documents “went missing”, and one of the investigators even committed suicide by slashing his wrists– citing emotional torture from those trying to control the investigation from within.
Eventually, in 2009, two priests and a nun were charged with the murder of Sister Abhaya. It seems that she had walked in on them while they were engaged in a sexual act and in a panic, they had murdered her with an axe before throwing her down the well. They went to extreme lengths to cover the crime– the nun in question even underwent a surgical procedure known as hymenoplasty to “restore” her virginity.
1. Kidnapping And Money-Making Adoptions In Spain
Spain came under the control of the fascist regime of Francisco Franco in the 1930s. Franco named himself the defender of Catholic Spain and with the close co-operation of the church embarked on a mass kidnapping and for sale adoption scheme that saw more than 300,000 babies taken from their families.
They would take children from undesirable parents and in their eyes unmarried mothers and those who didn’t support the regime fell under that umbrella as well. Because the church controlled schools and hospitals it was easy for them to kidnap the children who were often sold in illegal adoptions. Often new mothers would be fooled into thinking their newborn baby was dead. Catholic nurses would take the healthy baby and bring them the body of a dead baby instead.
Franco died in 1975 but the nurses continued stealing babies and selling them until at least 1987.