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.
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.