Religion News Service
April 15, 2019
By Thomas Reese
The recent essay on clergy sexual abuse by Benedict XVI shows why it was such a good idea for him to resign as pope. In the letter released last week, he shows how out of touch he is with the causes of the abuse crisis.
Fundamentally, Benedict lives in a Platonic world of ideas where facts don’t matter.
Most of the media attention since a German Catholic magazine published Benedict’s 6,000-word statement has been focused on Benedict blaming the sex abuse crisis on the collapse of sexual standards in the 1960s.
Actually, he may have a point. Data presented by the 2004 John Jay report on clerical abuse showed that, both in the church and in America as a whole, the number of abuse cases began increasing in the mid-1960s and peaked in the ’70s. Something was happening, not just in the church but in the world.
On the other hand, sexual abuse was occurring before the 1960s. The church and America were just better at covering it up.
But Benedict also wants to blame sex abuse on contemporary moral theologians who challenged the church’s traditional, natural law ethics, especially as it applied to sexual ethics. Contemporary moral theology is less rule-based and, rather, takes a more personalistic and relational approach. Challenging the church’s opposition to birth control, as did most theologians, opened the floodgates to all sorts of sexual sins, including child abuse, in his view.
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