When Pope Benedict XVI retired in 2013, he promised to live the remainder of his days in seclusion and serve the Church through “a life dedicated to prayer.” In a rare public statement, however, he has published a letter written to bishops and cardinals this February.
In the letter, published in German Catholic magazine Klerusblatt, he blames the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, “homosexual cliques” within seminaries and a general collapse in moral standards for the international scandal of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
Before becoming Pope, Benedict worked at the Vatican as Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger. As one of Pope John Paul II’s closest confidants, he was charged with managing revelations of clerical sexual abuse as they emerged. He has been accused of personally making decisions to leave priests who raped young boys unpunished, merely sending them away to new dioceses where they continued to find victims.
The 5500-word letter begins with a section decrying the 1960’s as a time of “all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.” With relativistic ideas of morality growing both in and outside of the Church, he writes, people lost faith in the idea of absolute good and “previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely.”
He adds that “Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of 1968 was that pedophilia was now also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.”
Next, the letter describes how this loss of morality created “homosexual cliques” within seminaries.
Finally, he blames an “absence of God” for the recent sexual abuse scandals and says the only solution is that “we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him.”
Pope Benedict concludes the letter by thanking Pope Francis for his continued work to show “the light of God.” However, his views as expressed in this letter contrast with those of the current Pope – who has said that abuse often stems from the corrupted power of clergy, and from systemic problems within the Church that encourage coverups.
Many Catholic theologians have condemned Pope Benedict’s apparent effort to divert blame away from senior Church officials and onto gay or sexually liberated Catholics. Brian Flanagan, professor of theology at Marymount University, says on Twitter “This is an embarrassing letter. The idea that ecclesial abuse of children was a result of the 1960s, a supposed collapse of moral theology, and ‘conciliarity’ is an embarrassingly wrong explanation for the systemic abuse of children and its coverup.”
This is an embarrassing letter. The idea that ecclesial abuse of children was a result of the 1960s, a supposed collapse of moral theology, and “conciliarity” is an embarrassingly wrong explanation for the systemic abuse of children and its coverup. https://t.co/fFunmGdfjh
— Brian Flanagan (@BrianPFlanagan) April 10, 2019
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