A recent new book now available in England, written by Paul van den Heuvel, gives us for the first time a look inside the Vatican’s secret archives. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to know for certain what’s there. I mean….haven’t you? I wasn’t raised Catholic but my mother certainly was (she got kicked out of St. Justin’s church on Mt. Washington for marrying—horrors!—a Protestant); much as she loved the liturgical music, in particular “Avé Maria” and its stylistic kin, her rage at the Church for its purely bureaucratic decision remained with her until death. It reminds me in some ways of the way the US military treats gay/lesbian service members—as unclean. She could never understand that, and to be honest I was on her side. Any religious body that takes such a view, I learned, cannot possibly claim a monopoly on truth.
And that was the beginning of my falling away from religion. Not belief, mind, but surely religion. I won’t go back. There is no going back.
Still, I’ve remained curious, if only in an academic sense, about said contents, and the piece in the Telegraph is for me more of a beginning than an end, since van den Heuvel’s anything but a Vatican scholar, suggesting the Vatican knew precisely what it was doing when it said yes to him and no to so many others. Here’s something to bear in mind, and it’s pretty cagey on the Vatican’s part—they don’t allow mere browsing, meaning you can’t simply blunder into something like, oh, say, Rome’s complicity in pedophile priests’ cases or with the Nazis, etc.. Also, everything since 1939 is still off limits. Damn it….
For all that, though, it’s a crack in the stone wall that’s caused so much rumor. The Vatican is not above the law. Period. But maybe even a glimmer of transparency could be helpful. Maybe now we’ll quit obsessing over whether some Pope ever made contact with space aliens and etc.