I have just finished reading Pope Emeritus Benedict’s remarks which were released today. I’ve never pretended to be a theologian and I’m the furthest thing from a canon lawyer, so I don’t have too many interesting things to say. You can read the full text here.
The Pope Emeritus compiled some “notes” that he hopes will be helpful to those addressing the sex abuse crisis. He then gives a series of remarks on a cultural falling away from God and from the Natural Law among some theologians in the 1960s, on canon law, and on the sexual revolution in the 1960s, and on a lack of reverence for the Eucharist. On my reading, he seems to take it as absolutely given that, since he was unaware of priestly sexual abuse prior to the 60s, that it didn’t happen prior to the 60s. Perhaps this is why he assumes without offering evidence that it is a consequence of cultural upheaval in the 60s.
We can choose to agree or disagree with him on any of these notes– for example, to me, the timeline of events doesn’t seem exactly relevant to clerical sexual abuse, because the abuse cases go back far further in history than the sexual revolution of the 60s. Saint Catherine of Sienna was decrying very similar things to our current abuse crisis hundreds of years ago. We can choose to agree or disagree with whether it was prudent for the Pope Emeritus to speak out like this in the first place; I’ve heard plenty of different positions on that today.
But what I definitely want to point out, is that the Holy Father Emeritus says nothing about a “Lavender Mafia,” some sort of secret gay cabal controlling the seminaries and dioceses all over the world. He mentions that one of the factors stemming from the sexual revolution and the mainstreaming of pornography was “homosexual cliques” in some German seminaries. One of the ways the Pope Emeritus feels the Church was going wrong in the 60s, involved homosexual seminarian cliques. He spends equal time talking about students with girlfriends and wives being allowed to bring them to the seminary cafeteria and his presumption that that must have interfered with seminary formation. He adds longer, not very organized remarks on the mainstreaming of pornography– remember, he said from the beginning that he was “compiling notes,” not writing an essay.I did not see any statements positing some kind of vast homosexual conspiracy. If Benedict believes a “lavender mafia” or anything like one exists, he did not mention it in today’s remarks.
I mention this because I already see some people crowing on Twitter that Benedict said the word “homosexual” and therefore their notions are all true. That’s not the case. Homosexual cliques in seminaries are among the factors Benedict lists briefly– as part of the general cultural shift he observed in Germany, which he supposes must have caused the abuse crisis. In the Pope Emeritus’s view, the sexual revolution and a general cultural turning away from God and the Eucharist preceded his hearing about the abuse in the Church, so must have caused it. You can feel free to disagree with any of that, but don’t misrepresent his words.
He also offers some commentary on his experience of how canonical cases were being handled in the 80s and 90s, and makes no mention whatsoever of how abuse cases were handled prior to that in the 20th century– again, as if he doesn’t believe they existed. I am not qualified to pass judgement on canon law or its history.
All that sounds a lot more mundane than what I’m hearing on social media.
I am sorry if that disappoints you– but as I said, you’re free to disagree with him and believe anything you like.
(image via Pixabay)