For, from the time that the Bishop of Rome had gotten to be acknowledged for bishop universal, by pretence of succession to St. Peter, their whole hierarchy, or kingdom of darkness, may be compared not unfitly to the kingdom of fairies; that is, to the old wives' fables in England concerning ghosts and spirits, and the feats they play in the night. And if a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof: for so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power.
In medieval times, contrary to popular belief, most knights were bandits, mercenaries, lawless brigands, skinners, highwaymen, and thieves. The supposed chivalry of Charlemagne and Roland had as much to do with the majority of medieval knights as the historical Jesus with the temporal riches and hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter. Generally accompanied by their immoral entourage or servants, priests, and whores, they went from tourney to tourney like a touring rock and roll band, sports team, or gang of South Sea pirates. Court to court, skirmish to skirmish, rape to rape. Fighting as the noble's substitution for work.
In 1231, Pope Gregory ordered the Dominicans to take charge of papal courts and decisions and so prevent mob rule and guarantee that the accused received a fair trial and the right of defence. This was the foundation of the Inquisition, and it was a move to organize, control, and limit violence, disruption, and division. Of course, it often failed and even achieved the opposite of its stated and original purpose, but it's surprising how often in an age of casual and brutal violence a relative moderation and legality was achieved. Civil law was far harsher than canon law, demanding confiscation of a heretic's property and usually death, something the Church had tried to prevent for generations.
The Church, though, has always held up a mirror in which society can see reflected some of its uglier aspects, and it does not like what it sees. Thus it becomes angry but not, as it should be, with itself, but with the Church. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to issues of personal gratification and sexuality and especially, apart from abortion, when issues of artificial contraception, condoms, and the birth-control pill are discussed. The Church warned in the 1960s that far from creating a more peaceful, content, and sexually fulfilled society, the universal availability of the pill and condoms would lead to the direct opposite. In the decade since, we have seen a seemingly inexorable increase in sexually transmitted diseases, so-called unwanted pregnancies, sexuality-related depression, divorce, family breakdown, pornography addiction, and general unhappiness in the field of sexual relationships. The Church's argument was that far from liberating women, contraception would enable and empower men and reduce the value and dignity of sexuality to the point of transforming what should be a loving and profound act into a mere exchange of bodily fluids. The expunging from the sexual act the possibility of procreation, the Church said, would reduce sexuality to mere self-gratification. Pleasure was vital and God-given but there was also a purpose, a glorious purpose, to sex that went far beyond the merely instant and ultimately selfish.
One of the accusations made against the Pope is that he did not give a public and obvious denunciation of anti-Semitism during the Holocaust. It's a valid issue but one that is often discussed with too little understanding of the reality of 1940s Europe. Such explicit condemnations of Nazi anti-Semitism were not really made in London, Washington, or Moscow, but it's always assumed that Rome should somehow have been different, in spite of the fact that the Vatican was surrounded by Nazi or pro-Nazi troops and that millions of Roman Catholics lived under Nazi occupation whereas London, Washington, and even Moscow were relatively cocooned and the latter even comparatively safe.