ROME (Crux) – In one of his most extended public statements since his resignation more than six years ago, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has ascribed the clerical sexual abuse scandals to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and a post-Vatican II “collapse” in Catholic moral theology.
Most basically, Pope emeritus Benedict argues that the scandals reflect a decline in faith in a personal God.
“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God,” he wrote. “We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical.”
Reflecting on early struggles in the Vatican to cope with the abuse scandals, Pope emeritus Benedict said one problem was an exaggerated “guarantorism” in Church law that put such an emphasis on the due process rights of accused parties that “convictions were hardly possible.”
It was only with time, he said, that imposing permanent penalties on abuser clergy became accepted, recognizing “it is not only the right of the accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as the faith are equally important.”
The emeritus pope’s comments come in a 6,000-word essay written for Klerusblatt, a monthly magazine for clergy distributed mostly in his native Bavaria region of Germany.
He said he was motivated to write by the Feb. 21-24 summit convened by Pope Francis on the abuse scandals for the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world, and that he sought the permission of both Francis and Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, before going public with his thoughts on “what I could contribute to a new beginning.”
Pope emeritus Benedict begins by surveying the cultural landscape in the German-speaking world after the upheavals of 1968, describing the rapid introduction of sexually explicit materials in public education and then in society at large – which, among other things, he said, promoted violence.
“That is why sexual films were no longer allowed on airplanes,” he recalled, “because violence would break out among the small community of passengers.”
In general, he said the rapid abandonment of traditional norms post-1968 made today’s pedophilia scandals possible.
“Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate,” he wrote. “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 said the sudden adoption of a new sexual ethos was felt inside the Church.