“A sordid tale of pederast priests and blind-eye bishops: a headline fit for today, that is 350-odd years old. . . . Liebrich’s account shows not only that priestly abuse is an old problem, but also that cover-ups never worka pointed moral with obvious, and timely, implications.” Kirkus Reviews
Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio
978-0-8021-4220-7 • $14.00 • Paperback • Oct. 2005
For hundreds of years the Piarist Order of priests has been known for its history of important contributions to education, science, and culture. Throughout Italy, Spain, and central Europe, the order’s schools evolved from shelters created to educate poor children into exclusive private academies. Thousands of children were educated at Piarist schools, including Mozart, Goya, Schubert, Victor Hugo, Johann Mendel, and a host of astronomers, kings, emperors, presidents, even a pope. Yet in 1646, the Piarist Order was abruptly abolished by Pope Innocent X, an unprecedented step not seen since the Knights of Templar were suppressed for heresy in the fourteenth century.
Fallen Order is the stunning story of how the sexual abuse of children, practiced by some of the leading priests in the order, led to the Piarists’ collapse. Karen Leibreich spent several years researching in the order’s archives and in the Vatican Secret Archive, and discovered how the founder of the Piarist Order, Father José de Calasanz (later honored as the patron saint of Catholic schools) knew of the scandal and tried to keep it a secret. Cardinals and bishops actively participated in the cover-up in an effort to protect the reputation of an important cleric with influential family connections. The complicity of abuse went as far as the pontiff himself, when Pope Innocent X appointed a man known to be a prolific child abuser in charge of an order dedicated to the education of children. Although the Piarist Order was suppressed when the scandal eventually became public, it was later revived and is still in existence today, its turbulent past ignored.
A brilliant portrait of seventeenth-century Rome, and the politics, personal rivalries, and Byzantine workings of the Vatican and the Catholic Church, Fallen Order is an explosive account of a history of cover-ups, deception, and shuttling known abuser priests from school to school that is frighteningly similar to the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse in the priesthood today.