Especially since it comes just months after the Vatican held a summit of bishops from around the world to address the sexual-abuse crisis. Bishops heard the painful testimony of victims who’d been abused by priests, and Francis called for concrete action. The conference was seen as a step forward, even if victims’-rights organizations said that it didn’t go far enough, and that it confirmed their sense that they’ve found a clearer response through civil justice.
Read: The “Spotlight” effect: This Church scandal was revealed by outsiders
Benedict didn’t stay in the background. Instead, he published a letter that is incoherent, inaccurate, and at times truly bizarre. In his letter, he wrote that the news of the February conference had compelled him to action. “I compiled some notes by which I might contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour,” he wrote.
Benedict alerted Francis that he’d be publishing the letter, but I can’t begin to imagine how Francis responded.
In his letter, Benedict blamed the sexual-abuse crisis on the absence of God. This is a theological argument that’s worth hearing out, although one could argue that, say, human agency was also to blame for a crisis in which priests sexually abused minors and dioceses routinely covered up the abuse.
But most of all, the pope emeritus blamed the crisis on the upheavals of 1968. Benedict has long been obsessed with that year as a destructive social force, and has written in the past about how destabilizing the sexual revolution and student protests were to the social order and to the Church’s role as a moral authority. In his letter, things get even stranger:
I still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema, something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.
Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.
The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view to facilitating a climate of learning.
This is not just the free association of the average nonagenarian; these are the observations of the pope emeritus, the man who led a church of 1 billion people from 2005 to 2013, and who before that was its top doctrinal enforcer. Also: Violence on planes? What is he talking about?