Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio

Catholic hierarchies protecting paedophile priests is a scandal as old as time, and one that has plagued the Church since the 1600s. 

In 1643, after a failure by the Church hierarchy to deal with child abuse scandals amongst their members, a group of priests took control of the Order of the Clerics Regular of the Pious Schools.

It would be anachronistic to call this group a paedophile ring, but it is nevertheless true that a man accused of abusing the boys in his care was promoted to universal superior of a Catholic teaching order, supported by a small group of like-minded priests, and with the full complicity of the Inquisition and the pope himself.

This is the world that Karen Liebreich uncovers; one of ancient, deeply disturbing and intensely secretive shames that was endorsed by Joseph Calasanz, the founder of The Order of the Pious Schools.

It was at these private schools, run by the Piarist order of priests, that some of the most famous children in history were educated and vast contributions to science, art and culture were also overseen by heads of the Church. 

Yet investigations into child-molestation and the relentless brutality of priests were frequently quashed – countless children who were the recipients of abuse and psychological violence were silenced. 

Great lengths were taken to protect the reputation of the Church as rivalry, bribes, conspiracy, evil and pressure from the Vatican continued to mount amongst the priests. 

Liebreich brilliantly depicts the dangerous politics of the Church in seventeenth-century Rome, revealing previously hidden and immensely sobering information she uncovered during her intense historical research.

As an Irish Catholic I was vastly curious to read this and learn about Liebrech’s take on what has happened in the church. She was able to discover from YEARS of research which group of priests more than likely could be considered responsible for the downfall by immoral sexual conduct of the Church. These men were given the duty and trust to educate future generations and they betrayed their calling and the innocence of an untold number of children but what is worse is knowing this scandal is not something that just hit the church from a few decades of looking the other way but it is allegedly been an issue for centuries.

Liebreich thankfully offers an extremely logical, well-thought out look at this group from their rise, through its history, growth and spread across the world. By examining how they grew she was able to discover a fundamental flaw in that not everyone that can teach should particularly when they only get the position via misconduct of other church members. Unfortunately she is able to show the church is not immune to greed and that old adage “money talks” which allowed those with wealthy connections essentially sanctioned access to a never ending group of innocents from which to choose.

In the Catholic Church the practice of bestowing ‘sainthood’ is well known as is the idea that these saints are assigned jobs for a lack of better word. Some are the patron saints of countries, places or ideas to whom we are given have a more unique access or insight to God to help with particular areas. It is without a doubt heartbreaking to learn that the man who is the patron saint of Catholic schools, a man who should take his job most seriously and be of the purest heart, was a man with intimate knowledge of the severe trauma students at these schools were suffering to which he did nothing about.

The average reader may have difficulty with this book though, not because of the material which we all have unfortunately become accustomed to, but the way in which it was written as it seems to be intended for a historian than the layman.

Although the subtitle leads one to believe that art and science will play a significant part of this book which was another reason I chose to read it, the arts and sciences are hardly mentioned, more as an afterthought. I felt the subtitle was quite misleading but to the publisher’s credit including it will probably get more sales until the word is out that the book actually does not include much.

All in all, misleading subtitle aside, I felt the author did a great job bringing together verifiable facts about a heart wrenching part of the Church’s history.

*synopsis and pic from amazon.com

 Buy on Amazon: http://a.co/0HWg85G

Thank you to Netgalley and Endeavor Press for allowing me to review this book.

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