In a German-language essay published Thursday, the pope emeritus supplies a way forward.
VATICAN CITY — In his most substantial pronouncement because he resigned the papacy in 2013, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written a lengthy essay on clerical sex abuse in which he explains what he sees as the roots of the crisis, the effects it has had on the priesthood, and how the Church really should greatest respond.
Operating at just more than six,000 words and to be published April 11 in Klerusblatt, a smaller-circulation Bavarian month-to-month, Benedict XVI locations the blame primarily on the sexual revolution and a collapse of Catholic moral theology because the Second Vatican Council. This resulted, he argues, in a “breakdown” in the seminary formation that had preceded the Council.
Benedict criticizes canon law for initially getting insufficient in dealing with the scourge, explains the reforms he introduced to deal with abuse circumstances, and asserts that “only obedience and adore for our Lord Jesus Christ” can lead the Church out of the crisis.
The pope emeritus starts his essay, entitled “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” by noting that the “extent and gravity” of the abuse crisis has “deeply distressed” priests and laity and “driven extra than a couple of to get in touch with into query the extremely faith of the Church.”
Recalling the Vatican’s Feb. 21-24 summit on the protection of minors in the Church, he says it was “necessary” to send out a “strong message” and seek a “new beginning” so the Church could once more turn into “truly credible.”
Benedict writes that he compiled notes from the documents and reports from that meeting that culminated in this text, which he says he has shown to Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.
The essay is divided into 3 components. The initial is an examination of the “wider societal context” of the crisis, in which he says he tries to show that an “egregious event” occurred in the 1960s “on a scale unprecedented in history.”
A second section bargains with the effects of this on the “formation of priests and on the lives of priests.”
And in a third element he develops “some perspectives for a right response on the element of the Church.”
To give an concept of the wider societal context, the Pope Emeritus recalls the “all-out sexual freedom” that followed the “1968 Revolution.” From 1960 to 1980, he says “standards with regards to sexuality collapsed totally,” resulting in a “normlessness” that, regardless of “laborious attempts,” has not been halted.
Drawing mainly on examples from German-speaking Europe, he remembers state-sponsored graphic sex education, lascivious marketing and “sex and pornographic movies” that became a “common occurrence” just after 1968. This, in turn, led to violence and aggression, he says, and pedophilia was “diagnosed as permitted and proper.”
He wondered at the time how young individuals would method the priesthood in this environment and says the collapse in vocations and “very higher quantity of laicizations” had been a “consequence of all these processes.”
At the similar time, Catholic moral theology also “suffered a collapse,” he says, rendering the Church “defenseless against these alterations in society.”
He explains that, till the Second Vatican Council, moral theology was largely founded on organic law, but in the “struggle for a new understanding of Revelation,” the “natural law was largely abandoned, and a moral theology primarily based totally on the Bible was demanded.”
In consequence, Benedict says, no longer could something be “constituted an absolute superior,” but only the “relative” could be “better, contingent on the moment and on situations.”
This relativistic viewpoint reached “dramatic proportions” in the late 1980s and 1990s, when documents emerged such as the 1989 “Cologne Declaration,” which dissented from Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching, prompting an “outcry against the Magisterium of the Church.” He recalls how John Paul II attempted to stem the crisis in moral theology by way of his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor and generating the Catechism.
But dissenting theologians began applying infallibility only to matters of faith and not to morals, even although, Benedict writes, the Church’s moral teaching is deeply linked to the faith. These who deny this, he continues, force the Church to stay silent “precisely exactly where the boundary among truth and lies is at stake.”
Turning to the second element of his essay, Benedict says this “long-ready and ongoing course of action of dissolution of the Christian idea of morality” led to a “far-reaching breakdown” in priestly formation.
He notes how “various seminary homosexual clubs” had a substantial effect on seminaries, resulting, in the U.S. at least, in two apostolic visitations that bore small fruit.
But he also underlines how alterations to the appointment of bishops just after Vatican II place an emphasis on “conciliarity,” major to a “negative attitude” toward tradition — so a great deal so that Benedict says even his personal books had been “hidden away, like undesirable literature, and only study beneath the desk.”
Pedophilia did not turn into “acute” till the late 1980s, he says, but canon law at that time “did not look sufficient” for dealing with the crime. Rome believed “temporary suspension” was enough to “bring about purification and clarification,” but this was not accepted by U.S. bishops dealing with the emerging American clergy abuse crisis, for the reason that the alleged abusers had been nevertheless “directly associated” with their bishop. A “renewal and deepening” of the “deliberately loosely constructed criminal law” of the 1983 Code of Canon law then “slowly” started to take location.
Benedict also pinpointed yet another canonical dilemma: the Church’s perception of criminal law which so completely assured the accused’s rights that “any conviction” was “factually excluded” — one thing he describes as “guarantorism.”
But Benedict argues that a “properly formed canon law” will have to include a “double guarantee” — legal protections for each the accused and the “good at stake,” which he defines as defending the deposit of faith. The faith “no longer appears” to be a superior “requiring protection,” he says, adding it is an “alarming situation” that pastors will have to take “seriously.”
To aid overcome this “guarantorism,” Benedict decided with John Paul II to transfer abuse circumstances from the Congregation for Clergy to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — a move, he says, that was crucially crucial to the Church, as such misconduct “ultimately damages the faith” and that enabled “the maximum penalty” to be imposed.
But he adds that an aspect of guarantorism rightly remained in force, namely the require for “clear proof of the offense.” To assure this, and that penalties had been lawfully imposed, Benedict says the Holy See would take more than investigation of circumstances if dioceses had been “overwhelmed” by the require for a “genuine criminal course of action.” The possibility for appeal was also offered.
But all of that was “beyond the capacities” of the CDF at the time, major to delays. “Pope Francis has undertaken additional reforms,” Benedict notes.
What Need to Be Completed
Turning to what requirements to be accomplished, Benedict argues that attempting to “create yet another Church” has “already failed” and proceeds to give a catechesis on how the “power of evil arises from our refusal to adore God.”
He teaches that a globe with no God “can only be a globe with no which means,” with no requirements of “good or evil,” exactly where “power is the only principle” and “truth does not count.” A society with no God “means the finish of freedom,” he continues, and Western society is one particular exactly where “God is absent” and has “nothing left to provide it.”
“At person points it becomes abruptly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has turn into a matter of course,” Benedict writes. “That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a brief time ago as really genuine, but it has spread additional and additional. And now we comprehend with shock that points are taking place to our young children and young individuals that threaten to destroy them. The truth that this could also spread in the Church and amongst priests ought to disturb us in unique.”
Pedophilia reached such proportions, he says, for the reason that of the “absence of God,” and he notes how Christians and priests “prefer not to speak about God” and he has “become the private affair of a minority.”
Thus, the “paramount task” is to after once more location God in the “center of our thoughts, words and actions,” he says, to be “renewed and mastered by the faith” rather than be “masters of faith.”
He says the Second Vatican Council “rightly” focused on returning the genuine presence of Christ to the center of Christian life, but nowadays a “rather diverse attitude is prevalent,” one particular that destroys the “greatness of the Mystery.” This has resulted in declining participation in Sunday Mass, the devaluation of the Eucharist to a “ceremonial gesture,” and the reception of Holy Communion basically as a “matter of course.”
“What is necessary initial and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ provided to us in the Blessed Sacrament,” Benedict says. “In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been produced acutely conscious of this.”
The Indestructible Holy Church
He also observes that the Church nowadays is “widely regarded as just some sort of political apparatus,” spoken of in “political categories” as one thing we will have to “now take into our personal hands and redesign.” But a “self-produced Church can’t constitute hope,” he says.
Noting that the Church nowadays is and usually has been produced up of wheat and weeds, of “evil fish” and “good fish,” he says that to proclaim each “is not a false type of apologetics, but a needed service to the Truth.”
But the devil is identified in the Book of Revelation as “the accuser who accuses our brothers prior to God day and night” for the reason that he “wants to prove there are no righteous individuals.” Nowadays, the accusation against God is “above all about disparaging His Church as undesirable in its entirety and therefore dissuading us from it,” he says.
But he stresses that, also nowadays, the Church is “not just produced up of undesirable fish and weeds,” but continues to be the “very instrument” by way of which God saves us.
“It is extremely crucial to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the complete truth,” Benedict says. “Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even nowadays there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible.”
And he recalls the “many individuals who humbly think, endure and adore, in whom the genuine God, the loving God, shows Himself to us,” as properly as “His witnesses (martyres) in the globe.”
“We just have to be vigilant to see and hear them,” he says, adding that an “inertia of the heart” leads us to “not want to recognize them” — but recognizing them is critical to evangelization, he says.
Benedict closes by thanking Pope Francis “for every thing he does to show us, once more and once more, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even nowadays. Thank you, Holy Father!”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.