According to NBC News, retired Pope Benedict XVI has published an analysis on the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal, blaming it on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and church laws that protected priests.
The essay immediately raised eyebrows, seeming to interfere with or even contradict Pope Francis’ own efforts to confront one of the most critical issues facing the church.
One church historian called Benedict’s essay “catastrophically irresponsible,” because it conflicted with Francis’ own efforts to lead the church out of the sex abuse crisis.
U.S. church analysts said the essay, published in the German monthly Klerusblatt, was both flawed in content and problematic on universal church level, exacerbating existing divisions in the church that have emerged between supporters of Francis and Catholics nostalgic for Benedict’s doctrine-minded papacy.
In the essay, Benedict traced the start of the clergy abuse crisis to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, citing the appearance of sex in films in his native Bavaria. He also blamed the crisis on failures of moral theology in that era, as well as church laws that gave undue protection to accused priests.
“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God,” he wrote.
Francis has blamed the scandal on a clerical culture in the church that raises priests above the laity.
Villanova University theologian Massimo Faggioli said the essay was thin in its analysis by effectively attributing the scandal to the sexual revolution. He said it omitted key cases, such as the Legion of Christ founder’s pedophilia, which began well before then.
“If a pope emeritus decides to stay silent, it’s one thing and can be defended. But speaking and telling a tiny part and a very personal version of the story, it’s hard to defend,” he said on twitter.
“Everything we know in the global history of the Catholic abuse crisis makes Benedict XVI’s take published yesterday very thin or worse: a caricature of what happened during in the Catholic Church during the post-Vatican II period – with all its ingenuities and some tragic mistakes,” he tweeted.
According to nationally recognized sex abuse attorney Jeff Herman, “The reality is the church’s culture of cover-ups predates the 1960s. For decades, Vatican officials have chosen to protect their reputation, rather than children.”