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The Former Pope Speaks, Candidly and Acidly, On Abuse


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Benedict’s intervention in this debate is both powerful and sad.

Michael Brendan Dougherty

April 11, 2019

Pope Emeritus Benedict has allowed the publication of a letter he addressed to bishops and cardinals who met in February to discuss the problem of child abuse. The letter is a collection of personal remembrances and acid observations about other churchmen, theologians, and recent Church history wrapped around an argument.

The Emeritus Pope’s argument is explosive. (The full text can be read here.) In summary, Benedict charges that a revolutionary spirit from the world entered the Church in the 1960s. Possessed by that spirit, arrogant theologians determined on creating “another Church” destroyed the traditional moral theology of the Faith, leading to a complete breakdown of moral discipline in the clergy and even a generalized spirit of blasphemy, which Benedict intimately and unforgettably connects with the phenomenon of child abuse. Along the way, he points out how, having abandoned a traditional understanding of the Catholic faith, bishops and cardinals felt no compulsion to protect the Faith itself, and allowed the rights of accused clergy to develop in such a way that they totally obliterated the prerogative of serving God and passing on the faith to the next generation. “The Church is dying in [people’s] souls,” he observes in a spirit that reads equally mordant and mournful.

Although he does explain his own view that abuse can be adjudicated as a crime against the Faith, the former pope tries to transcend a debate that he views as too focused on managerial or technical solutions. Benedict XVI argues that churchmen themselves must be converted into believers who fear and honor a living God. “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”

(Snip)

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