It has been curious to read recent letters criticizing The Eagle for hoping for or demonstrating the need for change in the Catholic Church. One of these letters stated the claim of infallibility of the pope, a central belief of the Church, that the pope's actions and leadership come exclusively from "gospel" or the word of God.

It is disturbing to apply this assumption historically upon the questionable actions of the Catholic Church and many of its popes over 2,000 years. Too many examples to speak of here, including the Crusades, the Inquisition and right up to 2013. The Vatican's participation in the rise of fascism in Italy became apparent in 1929 when Pope Pius XI signed the Lateran Treaty with Mussolini's government. In exchange for supporting the brutal Mussolini reign, the church got $90 million in cash, a new tax-exempt papal "state," government salaries for Italian priests, and the promise of both power and financial security.

Seeing Hitler as a potentially valuable ally, the Vatican applied pressure to German Catholics and was able to exert enough force to get Hitler elected. In exchange, Hitler signed a concordat with the Vatican in 1933 that gave the Church exemption from some laws, state financial support and cash amounting to billions of dollars during Hitler's reign.

For years, despite repeated allegations that Father Marcial Maciel was a drug addict, sexually abused young men and fathered up to six children, Pope John Paul II continued to call him a friend and important leader of youth. Father Maciel was revered in the Vatican, probably because he was the greatest fundraiser of the modern Church. For decades Father Maciel distributed money to leaders of the Vatican in exchange for their support and hampering of any criminal investigations. Despite Maciel's molesting 30 boys back to the 1950s, then Cardinal Ratsinger was instructed by Pope John Paul II not to investigate him. [Editor's note: Pope Benedict XVI removed him from the active ministry in 2006.]

Most recently ABC News reported that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony plans to attend the conclave to elect a new pope. It was Cardinal Mahony that was relieved of duty for his cover-up and criminal handling of priest sex abuse cases in the 1980s. Ken Smolka, one of hundreds of children who were sexually abused says, "If Mahony helps choose a new pope (then) nothing has changed."

Raised a Catholic I believe the Church is run by men capable of human error. I reject infallibility and hope the Church continues to evolve in regard to actions on abuses, condom use, gays, priest marriage and women. Otherwise the Church in the 21st century will find pews that continue to be emptier. PAUL GIROUX

Great Barrington