Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Benedict Blames Clergy Abuse on Sexual Revolution, Vatican II Theology

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Benedict Blames Clergy Abuse on Sexual Revolution, Vatican II Theology

Article excerpt

VATICAN CITY * Retired Pope Benedict XVI has published a new letter blaming the continuing Catholic clergy abuse crisis on the sexual revolution, developments in theology following the Second Vatican Council, and modern society's aversion to speaking about God.

The letter, one of a handful the ex-pontiff has shared publicly since his resignation in 2013, immediately drew criticism from theologians and Vatican watchers. They noted it does not address structural issues that abetted abuse cover-up, or Benedict's own contested 24-year role as head of the Vatican's powerful doctrinal office.

The former pope instead points the finger at a range of esoteric issues, from a supposed societal "mental collapse" brought on by the protests of 1968, to a claim that the sexual revolution declared pedophilia to be "allowed and appropriate," and to "vehement backlashes" by theologians against a 1993 encyclical by Pope John Paul II.

"Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was... all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms," Benedict said at the beginning of his text.

"The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence," he continued, claiming: "That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers."

"At the same time, independently of this development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society," said Benedict.

A lengthy 5,500-word text, the former pope's letter was published overnight April 10 by several right-wing Catholic websites, including the EWTN-owned outlets National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency

The Vatican press office did not immediately respond to requests to verify the letter's authenticity, but the city-state's news portal reported on the text at length, saying it was first written for a German magazine for clergy, Klerusblatt.

Release of the letter comes less than two months after Pope Francis hosted a first-of-its-kind summit in February on clergy abuse with the heads of the world's Catholic bishops' conferences and leaders of religious orders.

Francis opened the summit with a promise that the Catholic Church would be taking up new "concrete and effective measures" to confront clergy sexual abuse. Weeks later, he approved the first overarching child protection policy for the Vatican city-state.

At the end of his letter, Benedict places the blame for clergy abuse on the lack of appreciation for the role of God in modern society

After an apparent reference to the famous 1966 Time magazine headline that asked "Is God Dead?", he said: "Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. …

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