VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Voicing hope for "a new beginning" for the Church, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is speaking out against the clerical sex abuse crisis.
On Thursday, the former pontiff issued a 6,000-word essay on the roots of the crisis; titled "The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse," the piece was published in Klerusblatt, a monthly journal for German-speaking clergy, instead of through official Vatican channels.
Outlining the "wider social context" of the predator priest phenomenon, Benedict begins by observing that, in the 1960s, "an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the subject of laborious attempts at disruption."
He points to the malign influence of radical "state-prescribed and supported" sex education programs introduced during the period, noting that under the guise of "liberation," they destroyed the innocence of Western youth by inciting hedonistic self-indulgence and abandoning the concept of human sexuality as a sacred, God-given gift.
"Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms," he writes.
As sexual revolution inflamed societies across the West, inside the Church, a parallel crisis was developing. After decades spent working quietly in the shadows, modernist philosophers and theologians began emerging from the shadows, using Vatican II as cover to promote their views. Among them, Benedict writes, was the idea that morality is relative — that truth is not absolute:
In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed. While the old phrase "the end justifies the means" was not confirmed in this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; [there could be] only relative value judgments. There no longer was the [absolute] good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.
As these concepts took hold among Catholic theologians, clerics and laity, doubts about "the fundamental authority of the Church in matters of morality" exploded, he notes. Then, as now, those "who deny the Church a final teaching competence in this area force her to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake."
"The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was ... marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s," Benedict observes. "This dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church necessarily had to have an effect on the diverse areas of the Church."
"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," he adds.
By the late 1960s, the surging licentiousness of secular society had engulfed the seminaries.
"In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries," Benedict writes.
"There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern 'Catholicity' in their dioceses," he continues. "Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk."
"Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world," the former pontiff recalls. "One bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith."
Reflecting further, Benedict notes the catastrophic impact of the 1960s revolutions on the Church, and the West as a whole:
A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God's death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil. Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.
"And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them," Benedict laments. "The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular."
"Why did pedophilia reach such proportions?" he asks.
Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God. ... God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.
"A world without God can only be a world without meaning," says Benedict. "For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense."
"Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist," he continues. "Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning."
Benedict reminds Catholics that though today's Church is infested with sexual and doctrinal dissenters, the institution itself will, as Christ promised, weather the current storm: "It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible."
"Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us," he notes. "Today God also has His witnesses (martyrs) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them."
Benedict goes on to acknowledge that "today's Church is more than ever a 'Church of the Martyrs' and thus a witness to the living God."
"If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering," he notes. "One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them."