Retired pope Benedict XVI blames swinging 60s for Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals
The former pope also blamed the crisis on failures of moral theology in that era and slams church laws that protected priests.
Friday 12 April 2019 09:19, UK
The swinging 60s and laws that protected priests are to blame for the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals, retired pope Benedict XVI has said.
In an essay, the former pontiff traces the start of the clergy abuse crisis to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and cites the appearance of sex in films in his native Bavaria.
He also blames the crisis on failures of moral theology in that era and slams church laws that gave protection to priests accused of abuse.
The essay has been been described by a church historian as “catastrophically irresponsible” because it conflicts with efforts by his successor Pope Francis to lead the church out of the sex abuse crisis.
Benedict says that during the 1980s and 1990s “the right to a defence (for priests) was so broad as to make a conviction nearly impossible”.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict reformed the law in 2001 to make it easier to remove priests who abused children.
He clamped down on clerical sex abuse and when he became pope, defrocked hundreds of priests accused of raping and molesting children.
In his essay, he writes: “Why did paedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”
Benedict, who retired in 2013, also blames the scandal on a clerical culture in the church that raises priests above worshippers.
The essay has been criticised by church historians, including Villanova University theologian Massimo Faggioli, who said it was thin on analysis.
He said it omitted key cases, such as sex abuse carried out by the founder of the Legion of Christ, which began well before the 1960s.
Mr Faggioli said: “If a pope emeritus decides to stay silent, it’s one thing and can be defended. But speaking and telling a tiny part and a very personal version of the story, it’s hard to defend.
“Everything we know in the global history of the Catholic abuse crisis makes Benedict XVI’s take published yesterday very thin or worse: a caricature of what happened during in the Catholic Church during the post-Vatican II period – with all its ingenuities and some tragic mistakes.”
Church historian Christopher Bellitto questioned if Benedict, who turns 92 next week, was being manipulated by others and said the essay undermined Pope Francis’s efforts to to clean up the church.
He added: “It is catastrophically irresponsible, because it creates a counter-narrative to how Francis is trying to move ahead based on the 2019 (sex abuse) summit.The essay essentially ignores what we learned there.”
David Gibson, from Fordham University’s Centre on Religion and Culture, said: “For a retired pope to try to undo the critical work of a sitting pope and on such a crucial issue seems… bad.”