Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently surprised church observers by weighing in on the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal. In an almost 6,000-word article published in Germany, Benedict argued that clerical sexual abuse could be traced to the moral transformation that transpired during the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The rejection of biblical morality and absolute truth, Benedict said, has led to the “dissolution of the Christian concept of morality.”
The public comments represent a rare move for the former pontiff, who, in 2013, became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign. At the time, Benedict pledged to live out his remaining years in quiet contemplation. Thus, his public letter, which was approved by Pope Francis, is a notable change for the former leader of the world’s largest church.
Initial reaction to Benedict’s letter was mixed. Whereas conservatives praised the former pope’s analysis, those on the theological left immediately criticized the letter for its “thin analysis” of the situation. Critics, such as church historian Christopher Bellitto, attacked Benedict’s letter for omitting conclusions that were reached during a February summit in Rome, such as the claims that “abusers were priests along the ideological spectrum, that the abuse predated the 1960s, that it is a global and not simply Western problem, [and] that homosexuality is not the issue in pedophilia.”
As far as the contents of the letter, it is divided into three parts.
The first section outlines the “wider social context” of the clerical sexual abuse scandal. In scathing language, Benedict attacks the 1960s as a time when the “previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely.”
Specifically, Benedict points to the loss of objective truth as a major turning point for the church.
Although the former pope’s analysis, in nature, is largely theological, he is specific about how changing cultural mores led to a rejecting of standards of right and wrong. For example, he argues that “sexual and pornographic movies… became a common occurrence” and that violence and sexual deviance began to be tolerated.
Elsewhere, he writes, “Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.”
These changes in the culture eventually found their way into the seminaries. “The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments,” Benedict wrote.
Arguing for the reality of and the need to recover biblical truth, he stated, “There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, David Closson