Pope Benedict XVI responds to criticism of his reflection on the sex abuse crisis

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

FREIBURG, Germany (CNS) -- Responding to criticism of notes he published about the roots of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, retired Pope Benedict XVI said the fact that the critiques barely mentioned God proved his point.

"As far as I can see, in most reactions to my contribution, God does not appear at all," which is "exactly what I wanted to emphasize" as the central problem, he wrote in a brief note to Herder Korrespondenz, according to KNA, the German Catholic news agency.

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In April, the retired pope sent a compilation of what he described as "some notes" on the crisis to Klerusblatt, a German-language Catholic monthly journal for clergy in Bavaria.

[Related: Pope Benedict’s letter on sex abuse is not an attack on Francis (or Vatican II)]

Seeing the crisis as rooted in the "egregious event" of the cultural and sexual revolution in the Western world in the 1960s and a collapse of belief in the existence and authority of absolute truth and God, the retired pope said the primary task at hand is to reassert the joyful truth of God's existence and of the church as holding the true deposit of faith.

Most of the criticism, though, focused on Pope Benedict seeming to blame the cultural and sexual revolution of the '60s, especially when many cases of priests sexually abusing children occurred before that time even if the public found out only recently.

In the new note, Pope Benedict said the "the general deficit in the reception of my text" was a lack of willingness to engage with his contention that abuse is related to a lack of faith and strong morals.

He used as an example a critique in the July issue of Herder Korrespondenz by the historian Birgit Aschmann.

"In the four pages of the article by Mrs. Aschmann, the word God, which I made the central point of the question, does not appear," he wrote.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Michael Bindner
2 months 2 weeks ago

Lack of spirituality does not cause either pederasty or alcoholism. It does not cure these conditions, it just provides remission.

Nora Bolcon
2 months 2 weeks ago

I hear you! This is a truly disturbing article, about a truly disturbing statement, by a Pope, who did not want to own the fact that his own lack of concern about children was why the abuse crisis became so awful and gigantic. To look at many of the comments responding to this article is even more disturbing, as it shows there are plenty of Catholics who would let this pope, or another, get away with hiding their faces from a future abuse scandal.

Pope Benedict is not right at all! Critiques may not have included God because it was not God who was considered responsible for the abuse crisis but Pope Benedict and JP II and even Pope Francis. Also, I know this Church Body's misogynistic tendencies have it wanting to blame feminism and the sexual revolution on the abuse crisis but that is not at all likely to be the reason any of it took place. On the contrary, these things are perhaps the main reasons that the crisis became public. The sexual revolution took pedophilia and teen sexual abuse by priests and bishops out of the closet and put it in the newspapers and court rooms. There has likely always been such abuse, and it is sexism that is the only proven winner to support its heavy existence in our Church, throughout our history. There is no evidence that mandated celibacy for ordination of priests causes child, or teen sexual abuse, or the abuse of women by priests. However, there is ample evidence sexism leads to the sexual abuse of children, and teens, along with the abuse of women, both in our church and outside of it. This means the sexual revolution is and was part of the current solution to the abuse crisis, not the promoter of it.

Michael Bindner
2 months 2 weeks ago

Neither alcoholism nor pedestry are cured by a spiritual program. Spirituality is effective on drinkers, but abusers. Benedict has no clue about asexuality or that he likely is one. They put the A in LGBTQIA. Most Aces are not abusers, but almost all abusers are Aces.

Michael Bindner
2 months 2 weeks ago

Neither alcoholism nor pedestry are cured by a spiritual program. Spirituality is effective on drinkers, but abusers. Benedict has no clue about asexuality or that he likely is one. They put the A in LGBTQIA. Most Aces are not abusers, but almost all abusers are Aces.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 2 weeks ago

Michael
There is a notable lack of initials after your name representing your degrees in Psychiatry and Psychology....care to cure the defect?

Michael Bindner
2 months 2 weeks ago

MPA with PhD work in cultural theory. Unlike the bishops, I also keep an ear to gender and queer theory and am well read on Garry Wills treatment of the subject, from St. Augustine to Papal Sin. I also wrote a book of annotations on some of the most inane encyclicals from MirareVid to Evangelium Vitae. The Church is flying blind in sexual ethics.

JOHN GRONDELSKI
2 months 2 weeks ago

Very much on target. Sexual abuse by clerics Homosexual abuse by clerics is not just a "trust" issue, as with teachers or others in positions of authority. It is, pace Kaveney in these pages, sacrilege, which alienates people from God and His Church. That is an issue Ratzinger brings up, and that is an issue downplayed by his critics.

Angela Sullivan
2 months 2 weeks ago

Yes sad they missed the most important point.

Angela Sullivan
2 months 2 weeks ago

Yes sad they missed the most important point.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Benedict is right. There was a sea change in morality in the 1960’s. Not the only thing that happened to affect the increase in abuse but likely an important one. It did not happen over night as it took time to get there. Benedict is also right that the heart of the problem is belief.

There was much more in Benedict’s previous essay than the discussion of sexual abuse. A lot of other changes were taking place within the Church.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

In November 1965, a huge power failure blacked out most of New York state. In New York City, the crime rate was lower than usual that night. in 1977, another electric power outage happened and New York City was again dark but now there was widespread looting and arson. In 1954, London had a total of just 12 armed robberies all year. Armed robberies rose to 1,400 by 1981 and 1,600 in 1991 despite tough restrictions on firearms. Something happened.

Nora Bolcon
2 months 2 weeks ago

Hi J.

This seems quite circumstantial and I would like to know where you are sourcing your statistics since I believe they are inaccurate.

You need to remember that before the sexual revolution people were doing the same things, which would be traditionally described as sexual sins (adultery, homosexual sex, oral sex, abortion, sodomy, etc.) as they were doing after it. The only difference is people were now speaking about these actions publicly. the Hyde Report proved this. You need to realize we have a lower abortion rate now than existed before the sexual revolution and from when abortion was a crime. People tend to romanticize the past but that is not a rational or accurate version of actual history.

JR Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Read Thomas Sowell's Discrimination and Disparities and The Better Angels of Our Nature by Professor Steven Pinker. They document the turn around in the 1960's. Also abortion rates in the US http://bit.ly/2ZnF2Tr

Angela Sullivan
2 months 2 weeks ago

Pope Benedict XVI is correct, a world without GOD is lost. Pope Benedict XVI is such a great theologian and so humble. God Bless our beautiful Church. Thanks for posting this article.

Angela Sullivan
2 months 2 weeks ago

Pope Benedict XVI is correct, a world without GOD is lost. Pope Benedict XVI is such a great theologian and so humble. God Bless our beautiful Church. Thanks for posting this article.

Mary O'Neill
2 months 2 weeks ago

Pope Benedict did not take into account that the clerical abuse of victims was often based on or at least related to the belief of the victims that their abusers were often portrayed by “the church” as the embodiment of our faith’s absolute truth.

Mike Macrie
2 months 2 weeks ago

There was the Abuse and then there was the Cover Up. Hear no Evil, See No Evil, Speak no Evil.

J. Calpezzo
2 months 2 weeks ago

Benedict should be in prison, pure and simple.

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

Well, I certainly respect former Pope Benedict's right to express an opinion I do not agree with. Sure, changing social norms probably did contribute somewhat to the problem of priests overstepping bounds..but the core problem, as I see it, is unhealthy attitudes and mandates about sexuality, as enforced to this day by our church, in spite of enlightenment and positive changes that have taken place in societies such as ours with a strong Catholic presence.

I do not agree with the former Pope's decision to interfere in the work of the current Pope.

I believe God wants us, humans, to move towards health, growth, and happiness. He wants us to respect ourselves and live at peace with the souls he gives us.

Clayton E
2 months 2 weeks ago

L Hoover, you wrote of "the former Pope's decision to interfere in the work of the current Pope." In what sense is the Pope emeritus interfering in the work of Pope Francis?

In Genesis 3, the serpent approached Eve and insinuated that an unhealthy mandate had been given by God. There is nothing new under the sun. When Eve and Adam decided that the serpent had given the correct evaluation of the situation, everything crumbled into suspicion and fear. Once suspicion and fear were given reign, and the attempt was made to find happiness by declaring autonomy -- the abandonment of dependence of God -- Eve and Adam lost their true identity and everything went haywire. Are we really unwilling and unable to understand our current situation in light of this primordial and perennial situation?

Saint Paul makes a similar point in the opening of his letter to the Romans: "Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions."

Silly Saint Paul; clearly he needs to be enlightened by the glories of the sexual revolution and atheistic psychology. Why did he have to pretend it had something to do with the Creator? Get with it, Paul. We are SO much more enlightened than you. Our happiness MUST come from severing ourselves from what has been revealed by God.

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

So, Clayton, are you sure our Lord wants the Catholic church to continue its stand against artificial contraception, wants mandatory celibacy for priests, and wants masturbation cast as a mortal sin for which Catholics have to go to confession? Are you sure He wants us to participate in the marginalization of active homosexuals, the divorced and remarried (without an annulment), and would prefer a priest shortage to allowing women to serve as deacons and/or priests?

Are you sure you and other caretakers of Catholic doctrine have drawn the irrevocably correct conclusions from the scripture you cite, and that your interpretations should never change?

Sometimes we examine issues in such depth that we fail to see truths that are sitting right there on the surface. It’s also possible that, in our effort to avoid one type of sin, we can sin in ways that are even more offensive to God----such as sins against the Spirit in those He would have us lift up.

Clayton E
2 months 2 weeks ago

Did you receive a private revelation of Our Lord indicating the contrary? On what basis are we supposed to discern an abandonment of what the Church teaches, in favor of what might seem best to our own understanding? If we have no deep relationship of prayer with our Lord, based on obedience to what the Church has asked of us, how can we possibly expect to hear Him clearly? Sin makes us stupid, and then the mind makes excuses and acedia causes us to look for shortcuts and comfortable detours.

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

Most essentially well-intended people don't take themselves quite so seriously. They are not so sure they can merge the teachings of their faith with devoted prayer and come out with a clear understanding of how they should live. The Church has been wrong before, and it has made doctrinal changes from time to time, as any healthy, evolving system must do.

Most of these essentially well-intended people manage to love God and love, or at least not intentionally bring to harm, their neighbors. They fight here and there for truth, justice, peace, and inclusivity. They take care to not intentionally marginalize or humiliate others. ‘Do Unto Other’s’ makes sense to them. When I look at them, muddling along as best they can, trying to do good, I see the face of God.

Conversely, when I learn of arguments from the doctrinaire (just a label), I do feel respect----unless said seriously religious are using doctrine to, for example, intentionally marginalize children of God. Was it last year that some Cardinals were questioning whether the Church should be welcoming of homosexuals? Just welcoming of essentially good, well-intended people who happen to be homosexual? Many Catholics feel that sort of behavior is the bigger sin than some of the stuff most Catholics don’t do anyway, or if they do, it is to bring about a greater good.

Clayton E
2 months 2 weeks ago

If the Church’s teaching on faith & morals have been wrong before, then her truth claims are lies. In that case, wouldn’t we best leave her and find an altruistic NGO to inhabit?

And if my intentions are sufficient to render an act morally good, then no act is intrinsically wrong anymore, including sexual seduction of minors.

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

When I was a small fry and claimed there was a Santa Claus, I wasn't lying. I was stating my belief based on the evidence before me and my ability to process information about it, at that time in my life. If the Church construed things one way based on current understandings, but evolved----the Church was not entirely wrong before, nor is she likely entirely right in her new interpretations. Humans at the helm are likely doing the best they can, probably with some less savory motives mixed in, because they are, after all, human and not God.

No, it would not be better to leave the Church if God is calling us to the Church.

I think we can agree that the sexual seduction of minors is undoubtedly evil and is known to cause much harm, on so many levels. It is totally unacceptable and must be stopped.

In assessing levels of less obviously harmful sin, and some more harmful sin, however, doesn't it make sense to consider the many facets of context, including intent?

It's supposed to be a sin to harbor anger and bitterness and speak poorly of others, for example. However, a survivor of abuse must experience and work through it all, to get him or herself free of anger and bitterness and a ferocious desire for retribution. Similarly, suicide is supposed to be a terrible sin....but people who commit suicide are often mentally ill---clinically depressed and perhaps not receiving adequate treatment. As such, it is best not to be too concrete in our understandings of sin and trust that God will sort things out with the receptive.

Alan Johnstone
2 months 2 weeks ago

You are a case in point.
The divinely appointed authorities in your young life, your parents, told you a bald-faced lie and acted out the fiction by presents and such like.
Having been deceived by the highest authority on earth as a child, you now have no confidence in the duly constituted spokespersons of Almighty God when they try to teach you the absolute and infallible truths of faith and morals.

For the emotionally unstable, the mentally confused or deluded and the socially wounded the one thing they all need is certainty about the rightness or wrongness of what they say or do.
The good goal kept in sight is a signpost of the proper destination.

The damage done to victims is the measure of the evil which brought about the damage.
A wound might heal, but the scar remains on the body until death and so it is for psychological and moral wounds.

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

Alan Johnstone: Christmases were actually quite a lot of fun in my childhood home. God intends that we have joy in our lives and Christmas mornings sure were joyful. Your point about the dangers of telling children about Santa Claus is interesting but you haven't established a causal link between Santa and later disbelief.

To be honest with you, I do not aspire to be an exemplary Catholic. I strive to love God and neighbor and Catholicism helps me to be as God intends, as an evolving person and in the moment.

JOHN GRONDELSKI
2 months 2 weeks ago

"unhealthy attitudes towards sexuality" -- the unhealthy attitudes towards sex CAME FROM the 1960s; they were not the 60's REMEDY.

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

"Unhealthy" could be when all outlets are forbidden.

Alan Johnstone
2 months 2 weeks ago

In case anyone has been asleep for a century, virtuous behaviour has not been an universal norm for society ever, anywhere.

It is a central truth of the Judeo-Christian faith that the hearts of all human beings are prone to choosing evil as well as choosing good.

The only question is, has there ever been a time when a large number of people lived virtuously for most of their lives?
I am old enough to remember that life lived in a suburban community in Australia after the second world war took good behaviour as the norm, bad behaviour as reprehensible and confined as much as possible to privacy, done in secret.
The neighbourhood consisted of almost everybody being a baptised Christian or Anglican or some other sort of Protestant.
There were churches all over the place and they all had church bells which rang every Sunday.
That suburb now consists of neo-pagans, zealous atheists and materialists. Few are married, most are single parents with undisciplined kids or same-sex couples or DINKs or yuppies.
Many of the churches are gone, those still standing forbidden to ring their bells and often vandalised.

The thing that changed was infant baptism, and that changed because the baby-boomers chose the New Age rather than the Faith of Our Fathers.

Just as Benedict was saying.

Clayton E
2 months 2 weeks ago

The Second Vatican Council articulated it well:

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.

Gaudium et Spes, 22

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

John Chuchman
2 months 2 weeks ago

A Ratzinger Cop-out

Nora Bolcon
2 months 2 weeks ago

Yes - Exactly - Scary how many people on this thread would just let it all happen again.

Clayton E
2 months 2 weeks ago

St Augustine said “Love God and do what you will.” I think the Love God part is essential.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
2 months 2 weeks ago

Right-on-Point, Your Holiness! A life without God is pointless and doomed to destruction. It seems to me His Holiness' point is the same basis for Humanae Vitae and all of the encyclicals of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Leave God out and chaos, etc. follows.

Vincent Gaglione
2 months 2 weeks ago

I find it hard to believe that the excesses of behaviors described recently against Catholic clergy, originally thought to be just a USA problem and eventually proved to be worldwide, did not exist equally as prevalently in previous decades and centuries and millennia. As for why they happened, perhaps Benedict is correct, perhaps off the mark. The sad part is the efforts to diminish or hide what happened. How do we explain that rationally, at least in the Catholic Church which holds us all to a higher standard?

L Hoover
2 months 2 weeks ago

Having high standards is laudatory. Setting forth unattainable standards undermines many worthy causes, such as the pursuit of holiness.

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