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Benedict Emerges to Pin Sex Abuse on Sexual Revolution

He publishes a 6K-word letter 'to assist in this difficult hour'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2019 8:35 AM CDT
Benedict Emerges to Pin Sex Abuse on Sexual Revolution
In this July 21, 2008, file photo, then-Pope Benedict XVI is shown.   (Dean Lewins/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Newser) – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has emerged from the shadows with a new letter that assigns blame for the clergy abuse crisis. In a 6,000-word letter whose authenticity was confirmed by Benedict's personal secretary, Benedict begins by writing that his remarks are intended "to assist in this difficult hour." At the National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty succinctly follows the thread of his argument: that the "revolutionary spirit" of the '60s made its way into the church. "Possessed by that spirit, arrogant theologians determined on creating 'another Church' destroyed the traditional moral theology of the Faith, leading to a complete breakdown of moral discipline in the clergy and even a generalized spirit of blasphemy, which Benedict intimately and unforgettably connects with the phenomenon of child abuse," Dougherty writes. Here are major quotes from the letter and some reaction to it:

  • In pointing a finger at the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Benedict writes that graphic sex education and porn became commonplace as a result of the "egregious event," and "the mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. ... Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of '68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate."

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  • He goes on to detail the "collapse" of Catholic moral theology "that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society," citing the "vehement backlashes" by theologians against a 1993 encyclical commissioned by Pope John Paul II.
  • Ultimately, he blames the crisis on the abandonment of God in modern society: "Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course."
  • The Washington Post notes Benedict’s letter "shows the unprecedented and awkward position facing the ideologically divided Roman Catholic Church, which has—for the first time in six centuries—two potential authority figures who hold sometimes-differing views." It goes on to size one pope's response up against another, noting Francis has taken a much different approach than Benedict's theology- and history-based one, focusing on "the corrupted power of clergy and ... systemic problems that result in coverup."
  • The National Catholic Reporter rounds up criticism from theologians who called out the letter for not addressing "structural issues that abetted abuse cover-up, or Benedict's own contested 24-year role as head of the Vatican's powerful doctrinal office."
  • At the National Review, Dougherty raises a different point. "The very fact of this letter—its lucidity and depth of thoughts—can't help but inspire a question from Catholics. Why did this man resign from the office of the papacy? The stated fears were ones of incapacity, but in this letter, he demonstrates an acute view of the Church."
(Read more Pope Benedict XVI stories.)

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