Pope Benedict’s New Epistle

This item was in our newsfeed the other day, but it’s worth a closer examination:

Benedict’s letter came out on April 11th. No doubt the timing is deliberate: a bit of kairos (i.e, the proper time). At any rate, timely enough for it to spread throughout the Church during Holy Week. Heaven only knows what Gethsemane Benedict will face for this uppity act of disobedience. He was, after all, given orders to keep his trap shut. Maybe at the age of ninety, he’s decided discretion is the better part of valor after all.

One does hope he’s been permitted to retain a food taster on staff.

Here is the full text.

And some commentary:

Tracing the sexual revolution in Germany and Austria via an account of state-sponsored sex-ed films for children and youth showing sexual intercourse, Pope Benedict’s letter then notes the betrayal of theologians regarding the rejection of the concept of intrinsic evil – the concept that there are “actions which were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil.”

Benedict recalls how Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor was denounced by the leading German theologian because of its inclusion of intrinsic evil.

Explaining the concept in defense of Pope John Paul, Benedict writes: “[John Paul] knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit. There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs. There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life.”

Turning to the moral corruption of the clergy, Benedict writes that during the 1960s, “In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries.” He notes that when the Vatican tried to investigate such things they were blocked.

From a seemingly detached position, Benedict notes that the “criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also been changed after the Second Vatican Council… Above all, a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their ‘conciliarity.’” He adds: “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.”

Giving an example, the Pope Emeritus relates, “One bishop (whom he does not name), 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.”

Summarizing in one paragraph the severity of the problem 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. 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.

The Pope Emeritus recalls the words of Jesus: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42) relating them to an abuse of the faith. “The phrase ‘the little ones’ in the language of Jesus means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm,” explains Benedict.

Some of the faithful are saying that Benedict is not accepting his own responsibility in this mess. They have a point; it is generations old and there was public talk about an old friend of his – a prelate in Mexico, if I remember correctly. But it’s been a right good while since I tried to remember that name.

14 thoughts on “Pope Benedict’s New Epistle

  1. A nearby county has a huge and VERY conservative seminary which has a waiting list for admissions. It moved lock, stock, and barrel to our area from Minnesota…I wonder why.

    The B’s favorite response to this whole mess is the same one Benedict uses:

    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung ’round his neck and he were thrown into the sea”. (Mark 9:42)

    Since it’s in Mark, who wrote for the Roman community, no doubt the author found need to include such a statement. I haven’t checked the other Synoptics to see if they use it also. Mark’s is considered the earliest, second only to Paul’s Epistles. Lordy, Paul sure covered sins of the flesh…

  2. Benedict does share the blame. As does John-Paul II. This evil was allowed to fester for decades after the disgraceful reigns of John XXIII and Paul VI were over. John-Paul II and Benedict XVI could have undone the damage done by their two predecessors, but they chose not to. Now we have a veritable monster sitting on the throne of Peter. Well done, Benedict.

    • So, you are saying there is a Swamp in Washington, DC and if it is still there after Trump goes, it is his fault?

      Not how the world works, my friend.

    • I suspect Benedict was going to attempt to “undo the damage” and that’s why he was the first Pope since the 11th century to be sacked and silenced.

      It wasn’t until massive criminal complaints were brought to the grand jury in places like Pennsylvania that the whole mess became public at last. This letter from Benedict is merely follow-on from a ninety-year-old man who is putting his affairs in order.

      • It is never too late to repent. Glad he acted, despite his age, and despite the possible threat to his life.

      • Years ago my family was hurt by a priest. I went pretty high up in the diocese and was told this particular priest was untouchable for a number of reasons.

        I have been going to a Lutheran Church the past 25 years

        • Yeah, there were a lot of those “untouchables” who got away with heinous crimes. They are slowly — all too slowly — being brought to light.

          In the parish where I grew up we had mostly native-born Irish priests as our neck of the woods was almost totally Baptists (except for the Episcopalians, who ran everything). Once we had an American-born curate for a little while. After he arrived, he was put in charge of the altar boys. At one point, he took the whole group on a weekend camping trip. Somehow he ‘fell down’ into a ravine and suffered mortal injuries. This was in flat, flat Florida where ravines are not common or very deep. One of the boys (many years later) told me it was “an accident on purpose”.

          There used to be an old saying among Christian clergy: “it’s either Punch or Judy”. In other words, alcohol or women. I learned that from a recovering Lutheran minister. He should have added money since that’s a big temptation too.

          I recommend the novel by John Updike, “Month of Sundays”, which explores the problem to some degree.

          IOW, it’s not Catholicism specifically, though in Catholic enclaves that appears to be the case.

  3. Would someone please explain why Pope Benedict stepped down while he was still in relatively good health. Pope Francis has been an embarrassment to many Catholics and Christians for his abandonment of Christian principles. Most recently in Morocco, he told followers that they should NOT try to convert Muslims to Christianity, in direct violation of Jesus’ final command in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8.

    • Francis is not saying anything new, he is not revolutionary and as ratzinger said the crisis in the church started much before. Francis is not the first pope to “pray” (whatever that means for masonry) in synagoge and monsque, he is not the first to wash feet to outsider people as a pope. And ratzinger was not that really different himself from atheologian point of view ratzinger is the mind as theologist of modernism, while francis is the arm. They are working for the same institutions they represent.

  4. I read the whole thing; while Benedict (for whom, as a non-believer, I have more respect than Francis) touches on attitudes to secular law in Part II, there is no direct acknowledgement that the Church was deeply at fault, and arrogant, in failing to pass all allegations on to the secular authorities, with any evidence available (an attitude which is still apparent). I was personally acquainted with one Catholic who left the Church over this issue, and I’m sure he is not alone.

    Some years back, I worked with a Catholic woman who knew of a boy who was sexually abused by a priest. The bishop moved the priest to another church; the boy later committed suicide. The bishop later rose to higher office- I won’t say more. If he’d called the police, and the priest had been convicted, the boy might still be alive; even if not, the bishop was utterly wrong to put the reputation of the Church above the interests of the victim. If Gates of Vienna stands for anything, it is surely that in the public sphere, Church (or mosque) is not superior to the State.

  5. I read the letter very carefully. I’m an atheist, but recognize the importance of strong churches in Western culture.

    I can’t help thinking of the humongous technological companies: Facebook, Google, Twitter etc, that seem to be tossing any commitment to liberties as defined in the law and culture of the US. A common feature of these companies is that they have grown too huge and across too many different cultures and governments, to retain any real identity other than expediency. They are not even particularly concerned with the opinion of their client base in any country, since they have so many other directions.

    The salient feature of the Catholic Church is it tries to arrogate to itself control and ownership in virtually the whole world. France, Germany, US, Canada, Nigeria, Mexico, Somalia, Egypt, Israel: the church has branches, voices, and constraints in all those countries. Pedophilia is viewed very differently in Mexico and Central America than it is in the US or even Europe. Can a church giving voice to Mexican bishops as well as German prelates maintain a course in any particular direction? Can a church maintain its identity being headed by someone whose innate culture derives from South America rather than Europe or Rome?

    My own view is that US companies ought not to be allowed foreign subsidiaries or ownership. When they operate in foreign countries, they should operate as a US company under US laws and US restrictions. Any part of the market not addressable by a US company should be addressed by a foreign company, whose relationship with US companies is by contract, formal, based on value given for value received and which does not involve interlocking directorships. There would be no such thing as “parking” foreign profits by foreign subsidiaries to await more favorable US tax laws.

    Similarly, in my opinion, the Church has the choice of limiting its ownership to what’s in the Vatican and serving as a source of teachings and faith on its own terms: strictly, not based on equitable representation of all countries, like a miniature UN. Otherwise, it operates like Google or Facebook: it blows with the wind, is inordinately concerned with the value of its properties and its financial commitments, and loses its focus, which is not, in fact global, but limited very strictly to a basis in Western culture. That is, to the extent to which any focus remains.

    • Before kings started ‘converting’ whole kingdoms, that’s how the Church worked. The temptation to power was overwhelming, though.

      There was once Italian Catholicism, Irish Catholicism, even that rara avis, English Catholicism. It was an English Catholic, Lord Acton, who (in a different context) coined the axiom, “power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. With resurrections of various nation-states and their attendant cultural practices, we shall eventually see the grip of Rome falter. I can see it now in the new SSPX seminary here in central Virginia. A huge physical plant which must have cost millions. There is a waiting list to get in.

      For background, see this – a generation-old pushback against modern practices in the church.


      Benedict was in negotiations with the group to end their schismatic status and welcome them back into the fold. That effort died when BXIV was kicked out.

    • Re your fourth para: if such constraints were to be placed on all companies operating in (relatively) free economies, it would stifle economic growth, which (broadly) benefits us all.

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