The strength of the social teaching of the Church is that it has remained intact through the many generations when the Church herself often seemed to be coming apart, but just as it is with the current sexual abuse scandal, the Church founded on the rock of Peter will stand regardless of what the world throws at it or what it brings down upon itself, for that is the promise of Christ the Lord.
In the first millennium of the Church, it appeared in often dire straits, and Rodger Charles writes about the various scandals and in the excerpt below focuses on one 150year period.
Rodger Charles S.J. wrote the single best expression of the social teaching of the Church in its entirety and he makes it clear that it is a teaching with a history that began with Genesis.
His two volume work was published in Great Britain in 1998, Christian Social Witness and Teaching: The Catholic Tradition from Genesis to Centesimus Annus (Volume 1) From Biblical Times to the Late Nineteenth Century & (Volume 2) The Modern Social Teaching Contexts: Summaries: Analysis.
An excellent review of the work is at the Acton Institute’s Journal of Markets & Morality.
The best place to find both volumes is through the publisher, Gracewing Publishing, and occasionally they will show up at Amazon or Abe Books.
Here is the excerpt on early Church scandals.
“The scandals were intermittent over a period of some one hundred and fifty years from about 900 to 1050. The family of Theophylact was the first to exercise consistent control over the Papacy. From being a simple papal official, Theophylact progressed to treasurer and commander of its militia and in 915 ‘Senator of the Romans’. His influence and control was excessive, but not as evil as its political enemies portrayed it. The charges that his wife Theodora had been the mistress of Pope John X (914-928) and his daughter mistress of Pope Sergius III (904-911), for example, once widely accepted, now appear to have been unfounded, but the overall results of Theophylact power was malign. Marozia [daughter of Theodora] was the dominant influence towards the end of John X’s reign, but he broke with, and found himself at war with her, being imprisoned after riots in Rome; there he died, smothered it is said on her orders. She nominated the next three popes, the last of whom, John XI (931-935), was her son. Another son, Alberic, rebelled against her and she was herself imprisoned. The next four popes, from 936 to 955, were his nominees and they were men of good life, reformers guided by Odo of Cluny. When Alberic however died in 954 the full evil of lay control of the Papacy was demonstrated once more, because his sixteen-year-old son not only succeeded him as civil ruler, but also, in accordance with his father’s wishes, was elected pope as John XII (955-964). His pleasures were boorish and his lifestyle debauched; it is said he died in the arms of a woman. Strangely however this totally unworthy occupant of the office accepted his official responsibilities in its administration in a way which the Church found acceptable.
“The Crescenti family succeeded the Theophylacts as the dominant Roman family, and the catalogue of politically appointed popes went on. From Benedict VII (974-983) to Benedict VIII (1012-1024) in particular, the appointees were all virtuous men, but with John XIX (1024-1032) corruption and immorality returned and were continued under Benedict IX (1032-1044). The Emperor Henry III now took a hand in bringing the scandals to an end and at the Council of Sutri in 1046 the contested papacy of Gregory VI was ended with his abdication: eventually in 1048 Leo IX was nominated by the Emperor and lasting reform was under way.” (Volume 1: pp. 118-119)