Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI penned an essay addressing abuse within the Church, tracing its origin and suggesting solutions for the crisis.
The retired pontiff plans to publish the essay written in his native German, The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse, in a periodical for clergy in his home state of Bavaria. Benedict XVI hopes the essay helps the Church find “a new beginning” to make her “truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in service against the powers of destruction”
Benedict XVI says the crisis is a product of the “mental collapse” that followed in the wake of the social “Revolution of 1968” where young rebels “sought to fight for … all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.”
“This was in many ways a very difficult time … 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.”
The pontiff emeritus also placed blame on the “collapse of Catholic moral theology” that “rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society” under the Second Vatican Council. Intrinsic evil and objective morality based on Natural Law was replaced for something more “pragmatic” in which
“There could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; there could only be relative moral judgments. … There is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life.”
The rejection of Catholic theology coincided with a rejection of Catholic tradition. Bishops were appointed for their “conciliarity”, an attitude understood to be critical of “existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world.”
“There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern ‘Catholicity’ in their dioceses.”
He says in some seminaries, students reading his books were considered “unsuitable for the priesthood – my books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.
The corruption of morality led to the establishment of “homosexual cliques” in seminaries. Benedict XVI calls out one unnamed bishop who went so far as to “arrange for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith.”
The laxity also led to changes in how the Church handled cases of abuse accusations. In proceedings, “above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all … convictions were hardly possible.”
Benedict XVI addressed what ought to be done, starting with restoring reverence with the gift of Jesus Christ wholly present in the Eucharist.
“What is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament. We must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.”
Today, “Christians and priests also prefer to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical.” But paramount to the solution “is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him.”
“Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.”
In writing his essay, Benedict XVI had the approval of Pope Francis who he thanked “for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared.” You can read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s full essay here.