Chronicling the history of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church would take us back well over a thousand years. Mandatory clerical celibacy was decreed by the 2nd Lateran Council in 1139, although medieval scholars note that the law was neither universally accepted nor obeyed. The 4th Lateran Council of 1215 specifically addressed the issue of celibacy violations and homosexuality among the clergy.
2002, The Turning Point
In 2001 major lawsuits were filed in the United States alleging that Catholic priests had sexually abused minors and that their superiors had conspired to conceal their criminal misconduct. However, these lawsuits were generally carried on away from the public eye, that is, until January 6, 2002 when the Boston Globe began a series of articles covering the growing sexual abuse scandal.
From that point on, other abuse victims across the country found the courage to come forward with their allegations, which resulted in more lawsuits and more coverage by the media. Huge settlements were sought and awarded in Louisville, KY ($25.7 million), Tucson, AZ ($22 million), Spokane, WA ($48 million), Orange, CA ($100 million) Los Angeles ($660 million). The financial burden on many local diocese became so great, that a wave of bankruptcies followed in the wake of the lawsuits. The Archdiocese of Portland became the first Roman Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy on July 6, 2004, only hours before two abuse trials were scheduled to begin.
Clearly, 2002 is the turning point in this lurid scandal, the year when the Catholic Church's dirty laundry was being publicly aired across the country. Naturally, Pluto, the lord of the underworld, was involved. On January 6, 2002 when the Boston Globe initiated the investigative frenzy, transiting Pluto was exactly opposite the Vatican Sun (orb 0º05').
Pluto was bringing something up from the underworld that would completely overturn the public's confidence in the Catholic leadership. Over the coming year, Pluto would oppose the Vatican Sun two more times, as it unraveled the sordid details and ravaged the Vatican's reputation.
Also in 2002, transiting Saturn was in Gemini, and likewise was passing back and forth across the Vatican's Gemini Sun. The combination of Saturn and Pluto on the Vatican Sun led to a debunking and restructuring of Church policy regarding its treatment of wayward priests.
And if that weren't enough, transiting Uranus in late Aquarius was also activating the Vatican's central configuration involving Jupiter at the Midheaven, Neptune in the 12th house, and Saturn. Transiting Uranus opposed the 12th house Neptune, exposing the flawed policy concerning predator priests as a con game aimed more at protecting the church than innocent children.
By secondary progression, Mars had reached 28º Virgo, where it was forming an exact square to the Vatican's Saturn. In this configuration, we can see the unmoveable force of moral authority (Saturn in Sagittarius) being attacked by angry critics (Mars in Virgo).
Initially, the Vatican had little response to the growing outcry in the American media. But by April 2002, John Paul II decided to call all the American Cardinals to Rome to discuss the matter.
On April 24 he gave his address to the Cardinals, which called for an energetic response. "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young," he said. "They must know that Bishops and priests are fully committed to the truth on matters of sexual morality."
The slow process of working with civil authorities began changing in the early 1980s when several court cases could not be settled quietly. The first widely publicized clergy sex offender was Gilbert Gauthe, a priest in the Lafayette diocese of Louisiana. He began molesting boys shortly after he was ordained in 1971, and over the next few years, church authorities made several unsuccessful attempts to fix him through the usual means of relocating and counseling. In 1980, the father of three boys he had molested realized that the Catholic policy was not working and he sued Gauthe in the U.S. Criminal system. Gauthe was suspended from the priesthood on July 1, 1983 after admitting to molesting at least three dozen boys.
At the time, transiting Neptune was conjunct the Vatican's Saturn, dissolving the veneer of absolute authority. By secondary progression, the Vatican's progressed Mars was at 16º Virgo and squaring the natal Sun, which reflects the anger (Mars) directed at the Church leadership (Sun). Also, by secondary progression, the Sun had just entered the Vatican's 12th house, bringing light to an area that had long been shrouded in secrecy. Around this time, details of the case made the national news, and other cases were beginning to make people more aware of a systemic problem. However, the stories and lawsuits faded away until 2002 when the Boston Globe began a series of articles on criminal sexual abuse cases involving five Catholic priests in the Boston area.
handsome boys and each other became so commonplace that they could not be considered lapses but ways of life for entire communities."
Flash forward half a millennium and we are now in what the National Catholic Reporter calls the "largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in Church history." What has happened, what's changed in recent decades has not been a sudden increase in pedophilia, homosexuality, or any other kind of sexual expression - it's been the public criminal prosecution of sexual crimes by priests. Until very recently, church policy was to not report predator priests to the civil authorities, but to reassign offenders to other locations and to offer them counseling. Prevailing psychological theory, fully embraced by the Catholic hierarchy, was that sexual deviancy (however one might define that) could be cured through counseling and prayer. However, in practice it never worked out, and predators generally continued their molestations in their new locations.
Whenever a predator priest was brought before the civil authorities, the church authorities always settled out-of-court to keep the lurid stories away from the media and public attention. This policy was secretly initiated by decree in 1962 and continued through 2009, by which time the Vatican had paid out some $2 billion in compensation to victims in the U.S. alone. To date, Pope Benedict XVI has not yet explicitly promulgated a church wide policy that supports the notion that sexual offenses are civil crimes and should be reported to local authorities, although that policy has begun in the United States.
In 1517, Martin Luther tacked his grievances on the castle church in Germany, which began the Protestant Reformation. Mainstream history describes the reformation as a dissatisfaction over the sale of indulgences (essentially, buying one's way into heaven). However, the major reformers of that era all rejected mandatory celibacy, seeing that it fostered widespread illicit sex and moral corruption. One 16th century historian writes about the Catholic monasteries that "the monks' lapses with women,
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II (May 18, 1920; 5:00 pm; Wadowice, Poland) personifies many of the Vatican's qualities because several of his planets match up so closely to the Vatican's key points. Most importantly, his Taurus Sun is closely conjunct the Vatican's Jupiter, so that he embodies the solid, traditional beliefs of Catholics. He has a Gemini Moon, as does the Vatican, which emphasizes his communication skills in expressing Catholic doctrine and values. John Paul's Saturn-Uranus opposition is perfectly aligned with the Vatican's Ascendant-Descendant, so that his interest in bridging the past with the future (Saturn-Uranus) shaped the Catholic Church's evolution in the late 20th century.
In an attempt to solve the growing problem, to discover where they had gone wrong, the Vatican held a three-day conference beginning on April 2, 2003. They invited eight non-Catholic psychiatrists to address Catholic leaders on the subject of "Abuse of Young People by Catholic Priests". At this time, transiting Saturn was opposing natal Saturn, suggesting a critical self-analysis was being made. That the conference brought home the truth and offered a path to recovery can be seen in the position of progressed Mars. Progressed Mars was now past the troublesome square to Saturn and forming a close, growth-oriented trine to Jupiter at the Midheaven. Also, transiting Jupiter had just entered the Vatican's 12th house, where it was bringing some expert's inside information.
Note also that transiting Pluto at this time was opposing the Vatican's Mercury (the Vatican's ruling planet), leading to an intense psychological evaluation of the Catholic patriarchy. The panel of experts identified five major factors that led to the sexual abuse scandal: 1) failure by the hierarchy to grasp the seriousness of the problem, 2) overemphasis on the need to avoid the scandal, 3) use of unqualified treatment centers, 4) misguided willingness to forgive, and 5) insufficient accountability.
Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005. His funeral, held on April 8, 2005, set the world record for the single largest gathering of heads of state, which included four kings, five queens, 70 presidents and prime ministers, and 14 leaders from other religions. An estimated four million mourners traveled to Rome to pay their respects, the single largest Christian pilgrimage in history. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – the future Pope Benedict XVI – conducted the Requiem Mass in St. Peter's Square as the assembled crowd chanted "Santo subito!", meaning "Saint now!" Everyone expected that John Paul II would be put on the fast track to sainthood.
Regarding sexual matters, Mars near his Libra Ascendant gave him strength, physical vitality, and a healthy sexual appetite. As a youth he was very athletic, but the arrival of World War II transformed his life path. Both his parents died before he was 20, which moved him to better understand the spiritual side of life, as depicted astrologically by his Jupiter-Neptune conjunction in the tenth house of career. At this time he elected to study for the priesthood. Venus in Taurus also speaks of a healthy sensuality, but with Venus conjunct his South Node, he realized this was an energy to overcome. Pluto, the ruler of his North Node, is located in the 9th house of religion, so that his passion was directed toward the philosophical, religious side of life. Also, his Sun and Moon in the 8th house of sex and transformation suggested a need to overcome physical lust for what he saw as a higher calling.
When John Paul addressed the assembled Cardinals on April 24, 2002, transiting Venus was conjunct his Sun while transiting Uranus was squaring his Sun. Here we can see the need to discuss sexuality (Venus) in a radically new and open way (Uranus). Following the Pope's advice, in June 2002 the Catholic Bishops met in Dallas, Texas to figure out how to protect Catholic minors and children.
They commissioned a study to better understand the scope of the problem, which was designed by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. During the 18 months the study was being conducted, transiting Pluto was opposing the Vatican Mercury, the natural ruler of reports and documents. Also, the Vatican's progressed Venus was conjunct natal Pluto, which adequately describes the sexual nature of the in-depth inquiries.
The results were announced on February 24, 2004 as transiting Neptune opposed the Vatican's 12th house Mars, creating much doubt about the priests' vows of celibacy. The extent of the sexual abuse was shocking, a real wake up call to everyone involved. This can be seen in the transiting Sun-Uranus conjunction right on the Vatican Descendant. Among their findings, which was confined to the years between 1950 and 2002, the researchers noted that some 11,000 allegations had been made against 4,392 priests. The report* concluded that "the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95 percent of the dioceses and approximately 60 percent of religious communities."
The astrological event that best portrays what was happening at this time was the Vatican's progressed Sun conjunct natal Neptune (orb 0º09'). The progressed Sun, representing the Vatican's evolving leadership, was aligned with Neptune, which in its highest expression, is associated with spiritual perfection. In the Vatican's horoscope, Neptune is placed in Leo, the sign of heroes and monarchs. The Vatican's Neptune is amplified by its conjunction with the first magnitude star Regulus, the heart of the Lion. Regulus in traditional astrology is connected with royalty. As the Vatican's progressed Sun was conjunct Neptune, John Paul II's funeral was attended by more religious glamour and spiritual glitz than anyone had ever seen before.
However, Neptune has a deceptive side. All is not what it appears to be when Neptune is activated. Six years after his funeral, John Paul was beatified, (the prerequisite to sainthood), even though Pope Benedict waived the five-year waiting period. The process to sainthood seems likely to be bogged down for quite some time. The problem is that, like his predecessors, John Paul II took the sexual abuse cases that were reported to him as something to manage discreetly, something to sweep under the carpet. Only after he died have investigators discovered the extent to which he facilitated this traditional Vatican policy.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI (April 16, 1927; 4:15 am; Marktl, Germany) has a horoscope that looks every bit like it belongs to a pope. Jupiter conjunct the Pisces Ascendant is the essence of a religious personality, especially one that enjoys the rituals, pomp, and pageantry. When he was five years old, the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich visited his village, and he was immediately struck by the colorful costumes. He announced to his family that day that he would become a cardinal. Since Jupiter rules his tenth house of career, his chart was set up from the beginning to follow this path.
In 2006, a BBC documentary called Sex Crimes and the Vatican noted that in 1962 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith had promulgated a new policy aimed at absolute secrecy and control of all sexual abuse cases by the Catholic clergy. Under this internal mandate, all allegations of sex abuse were to be handled within the church diocese rather than civil authorities. Extraordinary cases were sent to the Vatican, and from November 1981 on, Cardinal Ratzinger handled the problem from there. The BBC documentary referred to this 1962 doctrine as "a secret church decree called Crimen Sollicitationis". It "imposes the strictest oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest dealing with the allegation, and any witnesses. Breaking that oath means instant banishment from the Catholic Church – excommunication."
Crimen Sollicitationis was issued by Pope John XXIII on March 16, 1962 as transiting Uranus was going through the Vatican's 12th house where it conjoined Neptune, squared Jupiter and trined Saturn. A progressed Moon-Mars conjunction within one degree of the Vatican's Virgo Ascendant suggests the forcefulness of the decree and the need to follow the mandate as a duty or obligation to the Vatican. Critics say this doctrine has created a culture of secrecy and fear of scandal that led the entire Catholic patriarchy to place its own interests ahead of the safety of children. Lawyers handling criminal lawsuits against predator priests cite Crimen Sollicitationis as evidence of obstruction of justice.
However, not until 2001 did Cardinal Ratzinger move to consolidate the sexual abuse scandals within the Vatican. Up to that point, the primary responsibility for managing these cases was left up to the individual diocese. Ratzinger convinced John Paul II to put his office in charge of all such cases, so that he could personally clean up the mess that was rotting the Church from the inside. On May 18, 2001 he sent a letter to all the cardinals advising them of the new policy. The letter was called De delictus gravioribus (meaning "on more serious crimes"). Of the many astrological indicators present at this time, perhaps the most interesting is that Ratzinger was experiencing a progressed New Moon conjunct his progressed Ascendant - all at 6º Cancer. This triple conjunction was quincunx his 9th house Saturn, so that, in effect, he redefined his job description, giving himself new authority.
Over the next few years, he did his best to clear out the rotten apples. As the cases came pouring in, he came to know the extraordinary extent of the problem better than anyone else. He established a fast track policy for getting rid of the worst offenders. One of the cases he was pursuing involved a Mexican priest named Marcial Marciel Degollado, who was repeatedly accused of numerous sexual abuse offenses. When Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to take action in 2004, he was blocked by John Paul II's personal secretary from doing so. Apparently, John Paul II was close friends with Maciel, and protected him as long as he remained pope. As soon as Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, one of his first acts was to remove Marciel from active ministry.
A similar case involved an Austrian cardinal named Hans Hermann Groër, another friend of John Paul's. Cardinal Groër was accused by many of his former students and monks of sexual molestation – as many as 2000 according to one investigator. Here again, he was blocked form taking action. Upon becoming pope, Benedict pursued these cases and eventually promised to work with civil authorities in sexual abuse cases.
This last step – working with civil authorities - was a major change of strategy for Pope Benedict. Although he has two Grand Trines to protect and guide him, he does have an extremely challenging natal configuration that portrays what he goes through regarding predator priests: Mars in the last degree of Gemini is conjunct the North Node, with both squaring Uranus at 0º Aries. This highly volatile, anti-authoritarian, risk-taking combination has played out in his life as trouble from wayward priests. Planets are people. The recently discovered outer planet known as Eris is also involved with this configuration: Eris is located at 1º Aries, and is associated with troublemakers. That's all Pope Benedict has dealt with since he moved to Rome in 1981.
Benedict's Mars opposes the Vatican's Saturn. When he wanted to take action (Mars) he was repeatedly blocked by the powers that be (Saturn). Now that he is pope, he is the powers that be. It took him a few years to shift his problem-solving strategy from managing sexual abuse cases internally to working with the public and civil authorities. After all, the entire fiasco is terribly embarrassing for an institution that is supposedly being run by "infallible" popes. In 2009, Pope Benedict's progressed Sun was conjunct natal Pluto. This brought a complete change of consciousness, and he soon began to publicly declare his sorrow, his apologies, and his promise to work with the public's legal system. Of course this shift was accompanied by simultaneous outcries from the many affected regions around the world, especially in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, and of course, the United States.
In April 2010, the Vatican issued new guidelines concerning claims of sexual abuse by the clergy. The radical departure from the tradition included the statement that "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes should always be followed." Pope Benedict is still taking a lot of flak for his role in overseeing the sexual abuse cases within the Catholic hierarchy. Yet he has done more than any of his predecessors to resolve the problem. And since 2010 (after his progressed Sun was conjunct natal Pluto), he's taken steps to work in cooperation with the secular world.
While Pope John Paul II is the larger, more mythic figure, Pope Benedict is the one who is bringing real change with regard to predator priests. Remember that he took office when the Vatican's progressed Sun was conjunct natal Neptune. And in accordance with misty Neptune's square from the 12th house to flamboyant Jupiter at the Midheaven, all is not as it seems within the Vatican.
Jupiter is part of a Water Grand trine involving Pluto in Cancer and Vesta in Scorpio. The asteroid Vesta is often associated with the devoted life, and her focus turns religious with the connections to Jupiter and Pluto. The water signs suggest an intense inner passion for meditation and prayer, and a protective, self reliance that gains confidence through faith in a higher order and divine justice.
His Aries Sun participates in a Fire Grand Trine, which includes Neptune in Leo and the Sagittarius Midheaven. This helped him to rise quickly within the Catholic hierarchy. Saturn in the ninth house of religion likewise reflects his ambition to lead a religious life, especially as an authority figure.
Like many popes before him, Benedict has a prominent Ceres. It's located in Sagittarius near his Midheaven, so that he evokes a caring, nurturing attitude toward the people he presides over. Similarly, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, and Pope Paul VI all had Ceres Rising. John Paul II had Ceres conjunct Venus, the ruler of his chart.
For readers who would like to further explore the popes' horoscopes, from astrodatabank, here's the rest of the birth data for the popes active since the signing of the Lateran Treaty: Pope Pius XI (May 31, 1857; 8:00 am; Desio, Italy), Pope Pius XII (March 2, 1876; 10:30 pm; Rome), Pope John XXIII (November 25, 1881; 9:25 am; Sotto Il Monte, Italy), Pope Paul VI (September 26, 1897; 10:30 pm; Consescio, Italy), and the ill-fated Pope John Paul I (Oct 17, 1912; 11:30 am; Canole D'Angordo, Italy).
Although a prominent Ceres is found in most of these charts, it's not universal. The only common planetary signature I found in all these charts is a Pallas-Neptune aspect. Pallas, the asteroid known for its political astuteness, wisdom and creative intelligence, helps mediate the spiritual or transcendent presence associated with being pope. Pius XI had Pallas quincunx (150º) Neptune. Pius XII had Pallas near his Scorpio Ascendant opposite Neptune, while his successor John XXIII had Pallas conjunct his Sagittarius Ascendant and trioctile Neptune (trioctile is the 135º aspect, also known as the sesquiquadrate). Pope Paul VI had Pallas octile (45º or semi-square) Neptune, and Pope John Paul I had Pallas sextile Neptune.
With the exception of John Paul I, who lived a scant 33 days as pope, all these Pallas-Neptune aspects can be considered "challenging". These popes all had their controversies as they tried to express their self-designated "infallibility" in the real world. Pope John Paul II was blessed with Pallas in assertive Aries trine Neptune and Jupiter in his tenth house. He was the only one who seemed to gracefully glide through the world, easily blending his pioneering political insights with religious protocol.
Pope Benedict XVI has Pallas in Scorpio square Neptune. With Pallas in the eighth house of sex, this signature assured that he would have to deal with the worst sexual abuse cases that had been accumulating over the decades. Pandora's box was opened during his predecessors' watch, but he had to manage the fallout.
As it turns out, Benedict had been managing the predator priest problem since November 25, 1981, when Pope John Paul II appointed him to head up the "Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", a centuries' old Catholic institution formerly known as the Inquisition. Officially, this top level post has authority over the teaching of church doctrine, but one of its subsidiary roles is jurisdiction over clerical sexual misconduct. Known as Cardinal Ratzinger at this time, he held this position until he was elected pope in 2005.
Astrologers can see the importance of this assignment as a career move through the many transits and progressions to his natal horoscope. Transiting Neptune had arrived at his Midheaven, bringing him a long-term position in his religious vocation. Transiting Pluto opposite his Sun suggested the deep personal transformation this would have on his life, as well as some of the complex sexual matters he would have to resolve. By secondary progression, the love planets Venus and Mars were conjunct at 1º Leo where they squared his natal Chiron. Here we have the signature of dealing with wounded sexual relationships, which readily translates into dealing with predator priests.
Part Two of the full length article by Michael O'Reilly. On this page: tracking the predator priest problem historically, and what John Paul II and Benedicit XVI have done about it. Part One: the Vatican horoscope and descriptions of its elevated Jupiter and 12th house Mars.
The Astrology of the Vatican and
Part One: the Vatican horoscope and descriptions of its elevated Jupiter and 12th house Mars.