Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sandy Hook, Meth and the Knights of Malta

Increasingly the Vatican is starting to resemble a slow-motion car crash.

Of course, such a description could've been used to describe the Vatican for any number of years leading up to now but it is especially apt since Pope Benedict XVI tendered his resignation on  February 11, 2013. Benedict is only the fifth pope in the past thousand years to resign, and the first in almost 600. If this wasn't epic enough the infamous prophecy of Saint Malachy suggests that Benedict's successor will be the final pope and that the city of Rome itself will be destroyed during the reign of this pope.

Pope Benedict XVI

Incidentally (or not), the ongoing Catholic child abuse scandal has once again been in the news due to the pending disposition of the notorious Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles. It is also beginning to enter the debate surrounding the elections of the next pope. MSNBC notes:
"Los Angeles' retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was rebuked last month for his handling of the sex-abuse crisis, suggests he was 'scapegoated' in a blog post ahead of two important dates: his Saturday deposition in a lawsuit alleging that the church hierarchy protected a priest accused of molesting children and his trip to Rome to help pick the next pope.

"The high-profile 'prince of the church' is at the center of an outcry over several scandal-tainted cardinals being allowed to help choose who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI at next month's conclave at the Vatican.

"Ireland's Sean Brady, Belgium's Godfried Danneels and Philadelphia's Justin Rigali have all been pilloried in the Italian press over allegations they failed to protect children from pedophiles -- but it's Mahony who has drawn the most ire.

Roger Mahony

Then, just as it seems news out of the Vatican couldn't get anymore sensational, Italian dailies began to report that Benedict's resignation was being driven partly by the discovery of a so-called "gay faction" within the Vatican. Slate reports:
"Pope Benedict XVI is a little more than two weeks away from beginning his retirement at the Castel Gandolfo, but his final days as head of the Catholic church don't look like they're going to be quiet ones. Unsourced reports coming out of Italy suggest that the pope decided to call it quits not because of his old age but instead to avoid the fallout that could come from a secret 300-page dossier compiled by three cardinals he tapped to look into last year's leak of confidential papers stolen from his desk.

"Those papers, widely known as the 'VatiLeaks,' raised questions of financial impropriety and corruption at the Vatican. The investigation that followed, however, may prove even more uncomfortable for church officials.
"The secret dossier allegedly details a wide range of infighting among various factions in the Vatican's governing body, known as the Curia. But the headline-ready takeaway from today's report from La Repubblica concerns the existence of one faction in particular, a network of gay church officials. Just in case that weren't enough to pique international interest, the Italian newspaper also reports that some of said officials had been blackmailed by outsiders. According to the report, the pope got his first look at the dossier—'two folders hard-bound in red' with the header 'pontifical secret'—on Dec. 17, and decided that same day to retire."

(As an interesting side note, the date of December 17 has some interesting esoteric associations, which I've written on before here).

Strangely, all of the strands --the incredible corruption within the Catholic Church, the ongoing child abuse scandal, and the whispers of a "gay faction" inside the Vatican, are all seemingly playing out in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The diocese, based out of Fairfield County, Connecticut, has been at the center of numerous scandals for years. Of course there are the inevitable charges of child abuse. Connecticut Magazine report:
"Ten years ago this spring, the sexual abuse crisis involving hundreds of Roman Catholic priests and thousands of young victims broke nationally in the media, engulfing dioceses from Boston to Los Angeles but also the Diocese of Bridgeport, where 23 lawsuits against seven local priests were working their way through the courts.

"Three years earlier, however, this magazine had reported on long-standing and widespread abuses in the diocese (“Gods and Monsters,” May 1999; link opens a .pdf of the original story), then under the leadership of Bishop Edward Egan. In that article, Egan was portrayed as a wily, coldly-calculating defender of the Church and abusive priests, more corporate lawyer than spiritual guardian. The article revealed that he had let accused priests continue to work in local parishes, authorized payments to victims in exchange for silence agreements, and lied about those payments during a deposition."

Other members of the clergy have been convicted of embezzlement. MSNBC states:
"Last year, the Rev. Michael R. Moynihan, the former pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Greenwich, was sent to prison for obstructing justice after being accused of spending church money on himself. In 2007, the Rev. Michael Jude Fay, from St. John Roman Catholic Church in Darien, was convicted of stealing $1.3 million; he died in prison."

Moynihan (top) and Fay (bottom)

While all of this is certainly rotten it's hardly uncommon of a Catholic institution in this day and age. But in the last few months the Diocese of Bridgeport has cropped up in two high profile incidents. The first and most horrific is of course the Sandy Hook shooting. Both Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza and his mother, Nancy, had attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, a church under the authority of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Even more bizarrely, eight of the 20 children Adam Lanza murdered also attended this church reports the New York Post:
"The monster who massacred 20 first-graders in Connecticut belonged to the same Catholic church as eight of them — and it’s where the children’s funerals will be held this week.

"Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, and his mother, Nancy Lanza, had been parishioners at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown. Adam also had gone to the church’s school as a child after his mother pulled him out of nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he conducted his murderous rampage Friday.

"Worshippers said they felt nauseous after realizing that the crazed gunman was a member of their community."

Adam (top) and Nancy (bottom) Lanza

A little less than a month after the Sandy Hook shooting Monsignor Kevin Wallin, a former priest who had been the pastor of the Cathedral of St. Augustine at Bridgeport (one of the choices positions in the Diocese of Bridgeport), was indicted as being a part of a crystal meth ring. Shortly thereafter it was also revealed that Wallin was also a homosexual and cross-dresser, a fact that has been of infinite fascination to the press. The Connecticut Post remarks:
"The Catholic priest busted for allegedly dealing crystal meth was suspended after church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at Bridgeport's St. Augustine Cathedral...

"In his post-priesthood, Wallin, 61, bought an adult specialty and video store in North Haven called Land of Oz that sells sex toys and X-rated DVDs. Investigators believe the shop helped him launder thousands of dollars in weekly profits."

In between the cross-dressing and running an adult video store Wallin seems to found time to build a nationwide meth ring, stretching to California. The San Clemente Times remarks:
"According to a Wednesday news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Conn. returned the indictment on January 15 following a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Connecticut State Police Department’s Narcotics Task Force.

"The five indicted were Chad McCluskey, 43, of San Clemente; Kristen Laschober, 47, of Laguna Niguel and three Connecticut residents, Kevin Wallin, 61; Kenneth “Lyme” Devries, 52 and Michael Nelson, 40.

"All were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine.

"The investigation included the use of court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of methamphetamine, physical surveillance and an undercover officer, the release said.

"Wallin was also charged with six counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine having allegedly received shipments of methamphetamine from California and then selling the drugs to an undercover officer six times between September 2012 and January 2013."

If all of this wasn't suspicious enough a recent MSNBC article dropped another compelling detail about Wallin. The article stated:
"He was involved with many local charities and on the board of Sacred Heart University. He was an important pipeline to wealthy parishioners whose donations were crucial, especially as chaplain to the Order of Malta, an international Roman Catholic charity."
 In other words, Wallin was a member of the Knights of Malta. The Knights of Malta are a centuries-old order dating back to the Middle Ages, as I'm sure many of my regular readers are well aware. For those of you uninitiated, Foreign Policy has a solid overview of the order, which can be found here. I shall defer to it now in explaining the origins of the Knights of Malta:
"The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta is a Roman Catholic organization based in Rome with around 13,000 members worldwide. The group was founded in 1048 by Amalfian merchants in Jerusalem as a monastic order that ran a hospital to tend to Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. At the height of its power, the order was also tasked by Rome with the additional military function of defending Christians from the local Muslim population. The Knights of St. John were just one of a number of Christian military orders founded during this period -- including the fabled but now defunct Knights of Templar.

"When the Sultan of Egypt retook Jerusalem in 1291, the Knights of St. John went into exile, settling in Rhodes 20 years later. In 1523 they were forced from Rhodes by the Sultan's forces and settled in Malta, which they ruled until they were dislodged by Napoleon's army in 1798. The order settled in Rome in the mid-19th century, where it remains to this day.

"Despite its name, the Knights haven't had any military function since leaving Malta. Instead, the order has gone back to its charitable roots by sponsoring medical missions in more than 120 countries."

The order's ties to the Knights Templar have fascinated conspiracy theorists for years, though not remotely as much as the Templars themselves. It is widely believed in such circles that modern-day Freemasonry is descended from the Knights Templar. One of the most compelling accounts of this theory was presented by John J. Robinson in his 1990 work Born in Blood. Robinson did not begin this work in an attempt to prove the ties between the medieval order of the Knights Templar and modern-day Freemasonry. Rather, it was meant to be a study of the 1381 Peasant's Revolt but Robinson became convinced that this incident was the result of a secret society comprised of the descendents of the Knights Templar (who were ruthlessly suppressed by the Pope and King Philip of France in 1307 and officially disbanded and 1312) and other fellow travelers. Even though the Peasant's Revolt failed the secret society lived on and eventually became modern-day Freemasonry, in Robinson's hypothesis.

Robinson also believed that the Knights Templar had an ongoing rivalry with the Knights Hospitaler, who eventually became the Knights of Malta. He even went so far as to speculate that the Masonic myth of the murder of Hiram Abiff by three unworthy craftsman is an allegoryof the three "assassins" of the Knights Templar, one of which Robinson believed where the Knights Hospitaler.
"And if Clement V had been merely a timorous puppet pope with Philip pulling the strings, as church historians would have us believe, the kings of France would have been the new owners of the Templar properties in France, not the Hospitalers. The pope was much tougher, or at least much more obstinate, than we have been led to believe and it would appear that he had contrived a plan of his own in concert with the Hospitalers.

"That order has managed to escape any criticism in the matter of the Templar suppression, but apparently only because it had kept a low profile throughout, probably for the very good reason that it's role and its reward had been worked out in advance. It is well-known that the papacy he was in favor of a union of the Templars and the Hospitalers and had already determined that Foulques de Villaret, master of the Hospitalers, would be the Grand Master of the combined orders. The Templars, at their headquarters in Cyprus, had heard of the serious intent to combine the orders and had taken the time to prepare a written rebuttal. The Hospitalers, at their own headquarters on the same island, must have received the same information, yet they prepared no rebuttal, written or verbal. In fact, de Villaret managed to stay away from the meeting in France altogether, with no recorded papal criticism of his absence. That was undoubtedly because his presence wasn't needed and because there was no point in changing a confrontation between the two orders, especially since the pope was already dedicated to looking after the interests of the Hospitalers. Not only did the Hospitalers offer no objection to the concept of the merger, but they made no attempt whatsoever to speak up for their brother warrior-monks as they were arrested and tortured. They simply stayed out of it and bided their time, until Clement V, much to the anger of King Philip, declared that all of the confiscated Templar property would go to the Knights Hospitaler and that all released Templars would be taken into the Hospitaler order, thereby achieving de facto the union he had been planning all along, with full Hospitaler approval and cooperation. If one looks for motive, the Hospitaler order was the major beneficiary of the suppression of the Templars, as had probably been planned from the beginning. The pope and the Hospitalers together thwarted the aims of Philip of France, and there should be no doubt that the Hospitalers rank as one of three assassins of the order of the Temple."
(Born in Blood, John J. Robinson, pgs. 272-273)
Foulques de Villaret on Knights of Malta stamp

This is of course hardly the only conspiracy theory surrounding the Knights of Malta. Foreign Policy described some of the more notable modern accusations made against the order:
"Because of its secretive proceedings, unique political status, and association with the Crusades, the order has been a popular target for conspiracy theorists. Alleged members have included former CIA Directors William Casey and John McCone, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and GOP fixture Pat Buchanan, though none have ever acknowledged membership. Various theories have tied the Knights to crimes including the Kennedy assassination and spreading the AIDS virus through its clinics in Africa."
There are, however, far more tangible recent charges. One of the more well known at this point is the order's ties to the notorious private military firm Academi, previously known as Blackwater.
"Joseph Schmidt, like Erik Prince and other executives of Blackwater, was a Catholic and a Christian fundamentalist. Some would go so far as to say he was a religious fanatic obsessed with implementing 'the rule of law under God.' In numerous speeches given during his time as Pentagon Inspector General, Schmidt articulated his vision and understanding of the global war on terror, employing the rhetoric of Christian supremacy... On his official biography, Schmidt proudly list his membership in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Christian militia formed in the eleventh century, before the first Crusades, with the mission of defending 'territories that the Crusaders had conquered from the Moslems.' The Order today boasts of being 'a sovereign subject of international law, with its own constitution, passports, stamps, and public institutions' and 'diplomatic relations with 94 countries.'"
(Blackwater, Jeremy Scahill, pg. 367)
Joseph Schmidt

Even more intriguing (for our purposes, at least) is the evidence that the order was involved in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal.
"The fact that the Christian Right raised millions of dollars in aid to the Contras has been 'backburned' in most histories of the affair. Indeed, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network was only one source of aid and support to the Contras; in addition, we find the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon as well as the Knights of Malta fraternal society involved in fund-raising and other efforts on behalf of the rebels.

"The Knights of Malta participation is interesting because, at the time, it's head was J. Peter Grace, an old friend of Pat Robertson and the godfather to his children. It was Grace who famously hired a Nazi scientist, Otto Ambrose, to work for the W. R. Grace Corporation even though his past as a chemist and director of I.G. Farben during World War II was well-documented."
(Sinister Forces Book II, Peter Levenda, pg. 309)
J. Peter Grace

It has long been alleged (and for good reason) that the US-backed Contras were involved in drug trafficking.
"In Columbia as in the Far East, the CIA's proprietary and contract airlines have been accused of more direct involvement in drug trafficking. The U.S. airline Southern Air Transport has been flying to Colombia and Venezuela since least 1960, when it became for while a CIA proprietary company. A series of reports, none of them proven, have linked the airline since then to cocaine. In January 1987, during the first phase of the Iran-Contra revelations, newspapers reported that the Justice Department had recently suppressed a DEA investigation of Southern Air Transport for drug trafficking...

"The New York Times reported at the time that the accusations 'will be studied again' as part of the Iran-Contra investigation. Predictably, they were not. Yet allegations continue. According to a recent report by the CIA inspector general,
a 1991 DEA cable to CIA reported that SAT was 'of record' in DEA's database from January 1985-September 1990 for alleged involvement in cocaine trafficking. An August 1990 entry in DEA's database reportedly alleged that $2 million was delivered to the firm's business sites, and several of the firm's pilots and executives were suspected of smuggling 'narcotics currency.'
"This claim corroborates one made in 1986 by an FBI informant, Wanda Palacio, who was the wife of a Colombian trafficker. Palacio told investigators for the Kerry Senate subcommittee investigating Contra drug trafficking that in 1983 she had seen Southern Air Transport planes in Brranquilla, Columbia, unloading guns and being loaded with cocaine."
(Drugs, Oil, and War, Peter Dale Scott, pgs. 89-90)

The "charitable" efforts of the Knights of Malta in raising money for the Contra network would have provided a convenient means of laundering drug money. Of course, there is no evidence that the Knights of Malta were involved in such acts, only that they would have been in a highly advantageous position to do so if they were so inclined.

And now, some 30 years later, we find a former priest who was also a chaplain for the Knights of Malta (and who was deeply involved in raising funds from "wealthy parishioners" nonetheless) involved in a nationwide meth ring. And all of this is unfolding in a diocese riddled with child abuse and embezzled funds and which catered to the spiritual needs of Adam and Nancy Lanza at one point.

And what are we to make of Wallin's peculiar sex life in light of the allegations of this "gay faction" within the Vatican? Is it possible that Wallin had some kind of ties to this faction? As outlandish as this may sound keep in mind that Wallin was described as a "towering figure in the Roman Catholic Church in southwestern Connecticut." He was a confidant to two bishops and was given a pastorship in one of the key churches under the Diocese of Bridgeport's authority. By all accounts he was a rising star being groomed for upper management, in other words. Wallin's association with the Knights of Malta is a strong indication of this.

Even more disturbing is the revelation of a "gay faction" within the Vatican in the midst of the ongoing child abuse scandal. If there is a "gay faction," could their also be a pedophile faction? Such a possibility makes the Diocese of Bridgeport, with its incidences of child abuse and embezzlement and now a gay, meth-dealing priest with ties to the Knights of Malta, especially interesting. Are there ties to the pedophilia, embezzlement and drug dealing? Are the Knights of Malta involved in some way?

Are all of these things mere coincidence? Or do they point to something far darker and more sinister within the Vatican than the public has yet imagined? If so, than the scale of corruption must be epic indeed.

Epic enough, at least, to make a pope resign for the first time in almost 600 years.

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