March 2010 was not a good month for the papacy. On March 5, Thomas Chinedu Ehiem, a Nigerian chorister in St. Peter’s Giulia Choir, was dismissed from his position after wiretaps in an unrelated corruption case revealed that he had been acting as pimp for Anthony Balducci, a Vatican construction consultant and member of the elite papal usher corps, “The Gentlemen of His Holiness.” Ehiem had been a chorister at St. Peter’s for 19 years, and over the past decade had supplied Balducci with male escorts, including seminarians, for fees ranging from 50 to 100 euros.
On March 10, the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, 86, admitted he was aware of and had participated in undue corporal punishment of minors, including face-slapping, while director of the Regensburg Cathedral boys choir in the 1960s. He claims to have been unaware of the cases of sexual abuse at the choir, stating “These things were never discussed. The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”
As scandal touched the Pope’s residence and his own family, the Vatican pulled in its miters and prepared for the other red Prada shoe to drop.
Which it duly did, with the revelation on March 24 that the Pope, while still Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the disciplinary office of the Catholic Church charged with bringing sexual offenders to justice, had refused to prosecute a case against Father Lawrence Murphy. Murphy was accused of molesting more than 200 deaf boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin. The Pope declined to respond to several letters from Rembert Weakland, the Archbishop of Milwaukee, in 1996, which recommended dismissal, a canonical trial, and defrocking for Murphy, a teacher and senior administrator at the school from 1950 to 1974. Eight months later, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Ratzinger’s second in command at the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, consented to a secret canonical trial that could have led to Murphy’s defrocking, so long as there was no public exposure of his crimes.
But Father Murphy, who was retired and in ill health at the time, appealed directly to then Cardinal Ratzinger: “I have just recently suffered another stroke which has left me in a weakened state. I have repented of any of my past transgressions, and have been living peaceably in northern Wisconsin for 24 years. I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood. I ask your kind assistance in this matter.” No response from the Pope survives, but following receipt of this letter, Bertone wrote back to the Archbishop, stating that the trial should not proceed, as Murphy had already repented, was in poor health, and in any case his acts had exceeded the church’s own statute of limitations. The Archbishop made one more appeal, during a personal visit to the Vatican in 1998, but was unable to persuade Ratzinger’s office to take action. So Murphy was never tried in canonical court, nor in any public trial. Three successive archbishops of Milwaukee were aware of his activities but failed to report him to any civil authorities. He died in 1998, still a priest, and was buried in his vestments. Archbishop Weakland later resigned in 2002, after his affair with another man, to whom he had settlement using church funds, became public.
Father Lawrence Murphy was a gifted teacher of American Sign language and an effective fund raiser for Catholic causes, later promoted to head administrator of St. John’s School for the Deaf in 1963, despite reports from his pupils that he had molested them. He sexually abused more than 200 boys multiple times, as many as 50-60 incidents per child. Murphy is accused of molesting boys in his office, his car, at his mother’s country home, on class excursions and fund-raising trips, in their dormitory beds at night, and even in the confessional.
In 1973, formal accusations of child sexual abuse were made to the archdiocese, which the following year quietly removed Murphy from the directorship of the St. John’s School and transferred him upstate. There he continued to have unsupervised daily contact with young boys in parishes, schools and a juvenile detention center. By 1993 reports continued to surface in Archbishop Weakland’s office, and he arranged for Murphy to be interviewed by a social worker with experience treating sexual offenders, who reported that Murphy admitted the molestations but showed no remorse or understanding of the criminal nature of his acts. At this point, Weakland forced Murphy’s retirement. The case was sent to Ratzinger at the Vatican only because of the alleged violations during the sacrament of confession.
The exposure of the Murphy story came on the Friday before Palm Sunday, and the Vatican struggled with the resultant blowback all during Holy Week. Then, just as things began to die down, on the Friday after Easter, April 9, a 1985 letter from Cardinal Ratzinger emerged which clearly showed the future pontiff’s involvement in delaying the defrocking of a California priest who pled guilty to molestation and had served probation for the crime.
The case of Father Stephen Kiesle is more than pathetic. Ordained in 1972, amid serious reservations from his superiors about his fitness for the position, Kiesle, a priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Oakland, was arrested in 1978 after allegedly tying up six boys, aged 11-13, and molesting them in his church. He pled no contest to two counts and received three years’ probation, during which time he was placed on extended leave. Upon completing his probation in July 1981, Kiesle himself requested his own laicization, or defrocking, and the case was sent to Ratzinger, newly appointed prefect at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That November Ratzinger’s office asked for more information. The case dragged its heels for four years, with the Bishop of Oakland repeatedly requesting direction that was not forthcoming. It was not until November 1985 that Ratzinger’s response, which has just now surfaced, came.
In it, the future Benedict XVI states: ”This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favor of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner [Kiesle was 38 at the time.]. It is necessary for this Congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.“
Kiesle was not defrocked for another two years, and even after this, incredibly, was allowed to serve as youth pastor at another church, and continued to volunteer in Catholic youth services until his retirement. In 2002 Kiesle was arrested and charged with 13 counts of child molestation dating from the 1970s. All but two counts were dropped due to statute of limitations laws, but during discovery interviews with Kiesle while he was in prison, prosecution attorney Lewis VanBlois asserts the former priest came clean about his past: “He admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he tried to molest every child that sat on his lap. When asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said ‘tons.’”
As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI headed the disciplinary office of the Catholic Church from 1981 until his election as Pope in 2005. He held that office during the exposure of many pedophile priests, and the resulting scandals, in the mid and late 1990s. Of the more than 3000 priests accused globally of these crimes between 2000 and 2010, half of which time Ratzinger was specifically in charge of prosecutions, the remainder of which he generally oversaw these operations as head of the Catholic Church, less than 20% of offenders came to canonical trials, and only a small percentage of those were defrocked. Another 10% left the priesthood voluntarily when accused, but the vast majority were disciplined with lesser penalties, like being prohibited from celebrating mass, or received no penalty at all. Ratzinger brings this sorry resume to his tenure of the Holy See. Although it is unlikely he will resign, the scandal has further eroded his spiritual authority at a time when organized religion, and Catholicism specifically, is hard-pressed to justify its continued existence.
Father Lawrence Murphy, born 11 November 1925, has a nativity fraught with galactic complications and asteroids revealing at best a sexuality ambivalent in its orientation. A grouping of Saturn at 17 Scorpio conjoined the Sun and Pandora at 18 Scorpio and Icarus at 22 Scorpio opposes a Black Hole at 16 Taurus, is squared by Neptune at 24 Leo, and forms a Grand trine with Pluto at 14 Cancer retrograde and Uranus at 21 Pisces retrograde. Saturn/Sun shows one who gravitates to a position of authority, and the Grand Trine indicates, via Pluto, an attraction for the forbidden or taboo, a desire for manipulation and control of others, a well-developed ability to maintain secrecy, and a potential for ultimate scandal; and via Uranus, an inclination to pursue unorthodox ends, to brook no restraints, and a lack of self-control which can be dangerous to others.
This Grand Trine becomes a kite with the inclusion of asteroid Lust at 14 Capricorn, in exact opposition to Pluto, indicating what the focus of these interlinked energies would be. Lust is conjunct natal Jupiter at 18 Capricorn, making it difficult to ignore its yearnings and inflating or increasing desire. Jupiter itself conjoins the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, suggestive of religious desires or inclinations which become twisted or perverted by the reality-warping effects of the Black Hole until they are unrecognizable from their original intent. The Pluto/Lust opposition becomes an exact T-Square with the addition of asteroid Nessus at 14 Aries retrograde, named for the mythic centaur who attempted to rape Heracles’ wife as he gave her passage across a river, and which astrologically represents improper sexual advances or actions. Nessus is further conjunct asteroid Askalaphus, named for that tale-bearing resident of Hades who informed on Persephone’s ingestion of six pomegranate seeds during her enforced sojourn there, which necessitated her annual return ever after. Nessus/Askalaphus assures that whatever sexual transgressions occur, they will eventually come to light, particularly as they oppose an illuminating Quasar at 14 Libra.
The Black Hole opposition from the Sun/Saturn conjunction suggests a high level of manipulation of reality, a person practiced in wearing a mask and allowing others to see only what they wish to (Black Hole Sun), and a corruption or misuse of a position of authority or trust (Black Hole Saturn). Icarus with Sun/Saturn shows rash, reckless tendencies, and one who takes risks with his work or career, who is heedless of the consequences of his actions, both to himself and others. Pandora here displays the unleashing of unintended consequences and ills which impact others as much, or more, than oneself, which can be seen in the violated lives of the children he molested and the fallout now for the church he served, and its head. The square from Neptune indicates a difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, or determining the true effects one’s actions have upon others, as well as a natural gift both for dissembling and for feigning sympathy or identification with others.
Venus and Mars are both exactly conjunct Black Holes, Venus at 5 Capricorn, where transit Pluto was about to form its retrograde station when the revelations broke, and Mars at 28 Libra, from where it opposes Chiron, emblematic of wounding or maverick behavior, which also conjoins a Black Hole at 25 Aries. Having both major planetary indicators of sexuality and attraction conjunct Black Holes indicates an inability to relate normally to others, desires which others find incomprehensible, inexplicable, or reprehensible, and sexual actions that lie well outside the mainstream.
Asteroid Eros, an indicator of sexual passion acknowledged as a patron of homosexual attraction in ancient Greece, falls at 7 Libra, exactly on a newsy, media-oriented Pulsar, and also conjunct asteroid Apophis, named for an ancient Egyptian deity who personified evil incarnate, which is itself exactly conjoined a spotlighting Quasar at 5 Libra, the whole grouping suggestive of heinous acts of an erotic nature which are eventually revealed in a highly public manner garnering widespread media attention. Asteroid Pecker, euphemistic for penis, falls at 4 Scorpio exactly conjunct another illuminating Quasar, and with its sextile to Venus at 5 Capricorn forms a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with asteroid Lie at 7 Gemini at its apex, conjunct a controversy-provoking Maser. Asteroid Sisyphus, named for that Hadean worthy doomed to forever roll a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down again, at 2 Capricorn conjoins Venus, an indicator of the repetitive, virtually ceaseless nature of Murphy’s transgressions. Asteroid Aristaeus at 28 Capricorn, named for a mythic Greek character who was chasing the hapless Eurydice, attempting to rape her, when she trod upon a serpent and died, is exactly conjunct another Pulsar, again combining themes of forced or coerced sexual contact and media attention.
A grouping of asteroids Nemesis, Lawrence, Tantalus and Child, at 13, 16, 20 and 25 Sagittarius respectively, straddles Black Holes at 17 and 18 Sagittarius, a Pulsar at 24 Sagittarius, and the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius. Nemesis linked with Lawrence personalizes this role of retribution and punishment to Murphy himself, now playing that part for the Catholic Church in general, and Benedict XVI specifically. Tantalus is noted for particularly heinous crimes against a child, and paired here with asteroid Child, Nemesis and Lawrence, well depicts Murphy’s effect upon so many lives. The Black Holes again represent the parallel reality aspect to the crimes, especially as his victims were themselves to some extent caught up in the alternate reality of living without hearing. The Pulsar ensures media attention and notoriety at some point in the life, with the Galactic Center further indicating that the news made will be of a global impact or notice.
Finally, asteroid Benedix, for Pope Benedict XVI, falls at 18 Virgo, exactly sextile Murphy’s natal Sun and opposed by natal Uranus at 21 Pisces, indicating the shocks and upsets which the revelations of Cardinal Ratzinger’s inaction in Murphy’s case would cause for the pontiff and his church.
Benedict XVI’s nativity reflects many of these same themes, interacts significantly with Murphy’s, and was under considerably apt stressors by transit when the story broke in the press. Born 16 April 1927, Benedict’s 25 Aries Sun conjoins a Black Hole and is an exact match for Murphy’s natal Chiron, and the wounding this incident has evoked may well be the most serious of his life and career. Combined with the Sun natally are Nemesis at 29 Aries, the karmic comeuppance that cannot be avoided; Achilles at 0 Taurus, the inherent weak spot which can lead to destruction; Nessus at 17 Aries, sexually inappropriate, coerced behaviors; and Apophis, Pecker, Child and Tantalus at 21, 22 and 24 Aries, the unalloyedly evil, heinous sexual acts directed toward children. That this man should have been in charge of dispensing justice to priests accused of sexual molestation of minors is more than cosmic coincidence. That all these points are opposed by asteroid Lie at 19 Libra retrograde, forming a T-Square with the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, calls into serious question the Pope’s honesty in these matters of sexual abuse, and portrays his desire to maintain the church’s false facade and image of propriety, consigning the true reality into the invisibility of the parallel reality beyond the Black Hole.
A grouping of natal Uranus at 0 Aries (about to be highlighted with transit Uranus’ return to its natal place at its retrograde station exactly conjoined this degree in July) with Mercury on the Black Hole at 28 Pisces (representing children and students), Eris at 1 Aries (named for the Greek goddess of strife and discord), and asteroids Lust at 6 Aries and Lawrence at 7 Aries, well depicts the shocking revelations (both Uranus) of Murphy’s (Lawrence) acts of sexual molestation (Lust) of young boys at the school (both Mercury), and the resultant contention and fractiousness (both Eris). A pairing of natal Saturn at 6 Sagittarius with asteroid Kassandra at 1 Sagittarius suggests disbelief directed at the pope’s career, and a lack of faith in his authority.
When the story broke on 24 March 2010, the transit Sun at 3 Aries was exactly conjunct a media-oriented Pulsar and highlighting Benedict’s Mercury/Uranus/Eris/Lust/Lawrence grouping, which was also trined by transit Mars (sexual acts, aggression) at 1 Leo and opposed by transit Saturn (papal authority, Benedict’s career) at 1 Libra retrograde. Transit Mercury at 13 Aries was exactly opposed a Black Hole, filling in the missing leg of the T-Square of Pluto/Lust/Nessus/Askalaphus in Murphy’s chart and transforming that into a Grand Cross. Transit Pandora at 19 Aries and transit Eris exactly conjunct transit Venus at 21 Aries were rolling over the pope’s natal Nessus/Apophis/Pecker/Child and Sun grouping, with transit Apophis at 0 Taurus exactly conjunct his natal Achilles, and transit Achilles, just past its return degree, conjoined a spotlighting Quasar at 4 Taurus, bringing the matter to light. Transit Askalaphus, the talebearer, and transit Lawrence, for Murphy, at 16 and 19 Taurus are traveling together, both within the grip of the Black Hole at 16 Taurus and all opposing Murphy’s natal Sun/Saturn.
Transit Nemesis at 27 Gemini is inciting global notice with its opposition to the Galactic Center, and closing in on Benedict’s natal Mars, sexual acts and aggression, at 29 Gemini. Transit Pluto is exactly conjoined transit Karma at 5 Capricorn, both exactly on the Black Hole there, as well as conjunct Father Murphy’s natal Venus. Transit Nessus (inappropriate sexual advances and behaviors) at 19 Aquarius conjoins transit Pecker (penis) and transit Damocles (the doom that hangs unawares overhead) both at 20 Aquarius, all these squared Murphy’s natal Sun/Saturn and sextile Benedict’s Pecker/Apophis/Child. Perhaps most tellingly, transit Benedix, for the pope, at 12 Leo is closely conjunct transit Child at 13 Leo, both conjoined the volatile, controversy-provoking Maser at 14 Leo and opposed the reality-warping Black Hole at 13 Aquarius.
After weeks of silence, on 12 April 2010 the Vatican issued new guidelines for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Stating that bishops are required to investigate every allegation of sexual abuse of minors, report any with “a semblance of truth” to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and then contact civil authorities and police, the seemingly sensible and obvious guidelines are perhaps most shocking for their late enactment, more than a decade after the initial high-profile scandals of the 1990s. A directive issued by the Pope when prefect of the CDF in 2001 had imposed a “papal confidentiality” on abuse cases which the Vatican now states was never intended to prevent recourse to the criminal justice system, although it admits it had that effect.
Benedict XVI followed up this policy clarification with a personal mea culpa, when he visited Malta on 18 April. In a private 20-minute session, the pontiff met with a group of ten men who claim sexual abuse as minors while living in a Maltese Catholic orphanage, stating afterward that he “was deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered,” while assuring them that “the church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse, and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future.”
Everything within its power, short of defrocking confessed abusers like Lawrence Murphy and Stephen Kiesle, and reporting them to criminal justice authorities.