My weekend took a strange bent. I mean I should have planned some kind of outing for the weekend, but instead I collapsed in front of the TV on Saturday evening and watched a rerun of the Magdalene Sisters, a movie about the Magdalene laundries which operated as Catholic work houses in Ireland from the 1920s to the mid-1990s. These asylums were created in the Middle Ages for repentant prostitutes. By the 20th century they had evolved into work houses for poor young women and unwed mothers who had no families or who were shunned by their families and society. They were essentially prisons and the women who were forced to live there suffered from every kind of abuse at the hands of the nuns. It is a horrific story to be sure and the Irish government finally bowed to pressure from the victims and offered damages in the amount of 1 billion pounds. Of course, the Catholic Church has consistently denied any responsibility for the mistreatment of thousands of defenseless young women. The Vatican’s position was that the institutions were privately run by the orders and not under control of the church. What?
Fast forward to Sunday morning when I reach for a cup of coffee and the LA Times. Right there on the front page is a story about the cover-up of child molestation cases by the Catholic Church in California. Now the Catholic Church has finally agreed to release the files without redacting the names of the priests and church hierarchy involved in the cover-up. The Catholic Church fought tooth and nail to keep these records hidden. It was far more concerned about its pedophile priests than it was for the victims. Cardinal Mahony received a public rebuke for his role in the child abuse scandal, but as far as I can tell, it’s a mere slap on the hand. Records show that Bishop Curry of Santa Barbara, long a staunch defender of the church and a Mahony ally, repeatedly chose to conceal priests’ crimes rather than help victims. He has just stepped down from his position. Curry did not believe the church was legally responsible for harm its priests caused. The arguments of the church hierarchy for their failure to help the most vulnerable—the times were different, they didn’t know how to deal with these situations. What?
Later in the day, I sit down at the computer and stumbled across an old article about the so-called lost book of Nostradamus, the Nostradamus Vatinicia Code, that was discovered in the Italian National Library in Rome in 1994. This book is considered by some to be Nostradamus’ final prophecies regarding the end of the world as we know it. Supposedly, Nostradamus gave the book to his son Cesar to give to the cardinal who later became Pope Urban VIII. There is no clear evidence that this book was written by Nostradamus. The 80 watercolor drawings it contains were not done by him but could have possibly been done by his son. The drawings are full of symbolic objects and veiled references too enigmatic for anyone to sort out. It is thought that the origin of this book is probably fourteenth century Vaticinia de Summis Potificibus. In any event, scholars seem to think there is a link between these drawings and the mysterious, difficult to understand quatrains that Nostradamus wrote as predictions of the future. It’s hard to evaluate Nostradamus’ ability as a seer because he went to such lengths to conceal his meaning in order to avoid persecution, but these drawings may have been his inspiration. It’s more than my brain can sort out. Somewhere buried in the centuries of dust is the truth, but clearly in those remote times certain people held very strong, apocalyptic views about the world and the Church of Rome. In the time of Nostradamus and before, there were many prophecies that implied the end of the Catholic Church and the coming of the anti-Christ. Well, the deeper I dug into these mysteries and all the speculations about them, the more confused I became. However, one thing rings true with me—power and corruption have been a part of the Church’s history. The battle between good and evil goes on to this day within the Church and without. The Catholic Church is not the institution that Jesus envisioned. I long ago lost any attachment I might have had to it. Every Catholic has a few scars, but some more than others. It seems to me that Nostradamus and other seers of long ago were trying to warn us that the Church has wandered from the teachings of Christ and that one day there will be a reckoning.
So I wonder at this strange alignment of events—a movie, a newspaper article, and internet browsing. What am I supposed to do with this information? I guess there has to be a story there.