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Ex-pope Benedict XVI blames clerical sex abuse on 1960s sexual revolution

Benedict has written a 6,000-word essay for Klerusblatt, a German monthly magazine for clergy.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2013
Pope Benedict XVI in 2013
Image: Michael Kappeler

FORMER POPE BENEDICT XVI has blamed Catholic clerical sex abuse scandals on the 1960s sexual revolution and a collapse in faith in the West.

The ex-pontiff, who retired in 2013, said responsibility for the crises affecting the Roman Catholic Church globally lay with the fight for an “all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer admitted any norms”.

He argued that paedophilia “reached such proportions” because of the “absence of God”.

“Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ’68 was that paedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate,” he said.

Benedict - born in Germany as Joseph Ratzinger – has written a 6,000-word essay for Klerusblatt, a German monthly magazine for clergy.

Benedict said the direct consequence of the 1960s era of counterculture and sexual activism in Europe and America was the “collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicisations” or priests leaving the Church.

Before becoming the pope in 2005 Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger and he headed the Vatican department that investigates sexual abuse. 

‘Deeply flawed’

Some theologians have criticised Benedict’s essay on the causes of clerical paedophilia. 

The letter was “deeply flawed” and “profoundly troubling”, Julie Rubio, professor of social ethics at Santa Clara University’s Jesuit School of Theology, said.

Catholic theologian Brian Flanagan described the letter as “embarrassing”.

“The idea that ecclesial abuse of children was a result of the 1960s, a supposed collapse of moral theology… is an embarrassingly wrong explanation for the systemic abuse of children and its coverup,” Flanagan tweeted.

Benedict’s essay comes after Pope Francis hosted a landmark conference in February on how to deal with paedophilia within the Church. 

At the end of the conference, he vowed an “all-out battle” against abusive priests.

Benedict said in his essay that the sexual revolution also led to the “establishment” in various seminaries of “homosexual cliques … which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate”.

Benedict criticised a seminary in Germany where trainee priests and lay ministers lived together.

He wrote: 

At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends.

“The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely.”

Benedict went on to recall one bishop who “arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behaviour contrary to the faith”.

The Church was first rocked by the child sex abuse crisis in the second half of the 1980s, particularly in the US, and it has been repeatedly criticised for protecting paedophile priests and its reputation.

Benedict was the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years.

Includes reporting by © – AFP 2019

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