Retired Pope Benedict XVI made a rare public statement Thursday with an essay on the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse crisis, linking it to a breakdown in sexual morality in the 1960s and warning against an excessive focus on the rights of accused abusers.
The retired pope’s words are in striking contrast with the Vatican’s policy under Pope Francis, which has increasingly emphasized the rights of the accused and reduced punishments for abusers on appeal.
Pope Benedict’s statement could provide encouragement to proponents of the “zero tolerance” approach to clerical abuse, which requires the removal from ministry of any priest found guilty of even one instance of abuse of a minor. Bishops in the U.S. and a handful of mostly English-speaking countries promote zero tolerance for use by the church at large, but the Vatican hasn’t endorsed the policy for global application... Pope Benedict’s essay also deviates from statements by Pope Francis, who generally has played down sexual morality and attributed the abuse crisis largely to a culture of “clericalism,”or excessive power in the hands of the Catholic hierarchy.Pope Benedict wrote that his 6,000-word essay, published Thursday by German, Italian and English-language outlets including the Catholic News Agency, was in response to an international summit on sex abuse held at the Vatican in February.
“Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself—even though, as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible—what I could contribute to a new beginning,” he writes, noting that he obtained the permission of Pope Francis to publish his thoughts.
describes an ’80s private-school party scene in which heavy drinking and sexual encounters were standard fare.
.. Judge wrote about the pledge he and his friends at the all-male school on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda, Md., made to drink 100 kegs of beer before graduation. On their way to that goal, there was a “disastrous” party “at my house where the place was trashed,” Judge wrote in his book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.” Kavanaugh listed himself in the class yearbook as treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club.
.. “I’ll be the first one to defend guys being guys,” Judge wrote in a 2015 article on the website Acculturated. He described a party culture of “drinking and smoking and hooking up.” During senior year, Judge said he and his pals hired a stripper and bought a keg for a bachelor party they threw to honor their school’s music teacher.
“I drank too much and did stupid things,” he said in his memoir.
“Most of the time everyone, including the girls, was drunk,” Judge wrote in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” a memoir of his alcoholism and recovery. “If you could breathe and walk at the same time, you could hook up with someone.
.. Judge seemed to some friends to stay fixed in the experiences of his adolescence. Over time, his politics shifted from left to right, and his writing often focused on his view of masculinity (“the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion”) and his concern that gay culture was corroding traditional values.
.. In one column for Acculturated, Judge wrote that it is “important that for some brief moments in his life — preferably when he is young — a man should be, at times, arrogant, a little reckless, and looking for kicks.”
.. Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), one of Judge’s classmates at Georgetown Preparatory School
.. ‘Bully’ may be an overused term, but he regularly belittled people he perceived as being lower on the high school hierarchy.”
.. I just had an instinct and desire to get into trouble, and science and psychotherapy are useless to explain it. I just liked causing trouble.”
.. Judge has written about his Prep years as a time of drunken debauchery. Beach Week, a summertime excursion with classmates, was a nonstop roller coaster of drinking, sexual encounters with girls from other prep schools, blackouts and more drinking. “It was impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated,”
.. on Monday mornings during senior year, the boys would tell their Marriage and Sex teacher, Bernie Ward, about their excesses.
“The drinking was unbelievable,” said Ward, who later spent two decades as a radio talk-show host in San Francisco and served six years in federal prison for distributing child pornography. “It was part of the culture. A parent even bought the keg and threw one of the parties for the kids.”
.. The faculty at Prep, he said, had morphed from “tough guys” to “hippies and leftists.”
.. “Doctors have called it attention deficit disorder, psychiatrists have cited my behavior as a cry for attention from my distant, drinking father, but at the end of the day I simply had a problem with authority,” Judge wrote in “Wasted.” His behavior when he was drinking was, he wrote, “not dignified.”
.. Judge sent a vituperative email wishing him the same fate as Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten and left to die in Wyoming in 1998.
.. Judge has described living for years in the basement of his parents’ home in Potomac. Public records list his home at an address in Georgetown that turns out also to be the address of a UPS store.
.. Mark’s brother Michael to write in Washingtonian magazine about how the family “did come to fear one of its members. . . . Mark is a solipsist: spoiled as a child, always gazing inward, unable to recognize any pain but his own.”
.. Judge’s views about men and women seemed grounded in midcentury notions. In his high school yearbook, he cited a Noël Coward lyric, “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”
.. In 2003, a student named Eric Ruyak reported to school authorities that a Jesuit priest who was a teacher at Georgetown Prep had touched him inappropriately. Some Prep alumni, including Judge, rallied around the teacher
.. Numerous alumni told me that Judge was going around saying I was emotionally unstable and a sexual deviant,”
.. An investigation by Jesuit authorities later confirmed Ruyak’s account. Orr was placed on a leave of absence from his order. When another Prep student later alleged that Orr had sexually abused him, the priest was arrested. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2011 to five years of probation.
“For years, I couldn’t shake Judge,” Ruyak said. “He would write about the case to advance his agenda about the school being a nest of liberalism and homosexuality. This guy did unbelievable damage to me when I was a kid.”
The Catholic Church needs leaders who can purge corruption even among their own theological allies. The pope is failing that test.
During the Catholic Church’s synod on the family in Rome in 2015, a rough-and-tumble affair in which Pope Francis pushed the assembled bishops to liberalize Catholic teaching on remarriage and divorce, one of the attendees, by the pope’s own invitation, was the retired Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels.
Danneels was a natural pick in one sense: One of the church’s prominent liberals, he had been part of a circle that supported Jorge Bergoglio in the run-up to his election as Francis, and in a synodal fight with conservative bishops, the pope needed all the allies he could get.
.. In another sense, though, Danneels was a wildly inappropriate choice, because at the conclusion of his career he was caught on tape trying to persuade a young victim of sex abuse not to go public with allegations against the victim’s uncle, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium.
.. hauling a cover-up artist out of retirement for a synod on the family was a statement that ideological loyalties mattered more to him than personal misconduct: Sex abuse might be bad, but what really mattered was being on the correct side of the Catholic civil war.
.. after years of failed American attempts to get Rome to take action, Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, placed the already retired McCarrick under some form of sanctions — moving him out of his residence, restricting contact with seminarians, limiting public appearances. It further claims that despite being told that McCarrick was a sexual predator, Francis removed those sanctions, raised McCarrick’s profile and relied on him for advice about major appointments.
.. noting that McCarrick appeared at many events, including with Benedict himself, in the period when he was supposedly under sanctions.
.. given the distracted and ineffectual way that the last pope ran the church, it’s very easy to imagine a distracted and ineffectual attempt to restrict McCarrick being subverted and ignored by the cardinal and his allies in the hierarchy.
.. In which case it’s also easy to imagine a scenario in which Francis didn’t technically “lift” those sanctions so much as acted in ignorance of them, or of their seriousness. He might have been given some knowledge, by Viganò and others, of the allegations against McCarrick but either assumed they couldn’t be that bad (at this point the cardinal mostly stood accused of imposing himself on seminarians, not teenage minors) or else chose to believe a denial from the accused cardinal himself. Why? In part because of perceived self-interest: Francis needed allies, McCarrick was sympathetic to the pope’s planned liberalizing push, and the pope wanted his help reshaping the ranks of American bishops.
.. In this scenario Francis would be guilty of self-deception and incuriosity but not as nakedly culpable as Viganò implies. And if it’s easy to imagine this scenario because of the Danneels example, it’s also easy to imagine because that’s how things have proceeded consistently in the church since the sex abuse scandals broke: If a given predator or enabler is “on side” for either conservatives or liberals, he will find defenders and protectors for as long as events and revelations permit.
- That’s a major reason John Paul II refused to investigate Father Marcel Maciel, the wicked founder of the Legionaries of Christ — because the Legionaries were conservative, and apparently a great success, and that was all that mattered.
- It’s why many conservative Catholics unwisely defended John Paul II-appointed prelates like Boston’s Bernard Law in the early 2000s.
- It’s why a notorious traditionalist priest, Father Carlos Urrutigoity, could find a welcome from conservative bishops in Pennsylvania and then Paraguay, despite a trail of abuse allegations.
.. Now it’s why certain organs and apostles of liberal Catholicism are running interference for McCarrick’s protectors — because Francis is their pope, the liberalizer they yearned for all through the John Paul and Benedict years, and all’s fair in the Catholic civil war.
.. But the inevitable, even providential irony is that this sort of team thinking never leads to theological victory, but only to exposure, shame, disaster. Indeed, the lesson of these bitter decades is that any faction hoping to lead Roman Catholicism out of crisis should begin with purges within its own ranks, with intolerance for any hint of corruption.
.. Francis, alas for everyone, did the opposite. Elected by cardinals eager for a cleanup at the Vatican, he wanted to be a theological change agent instead — which led him to tolerate the corrupt Roman old guard (whose names fill Viganò’s letter) and to rehabilitate liberal figures like Danneels, McCarrick and Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Honduras (a dubious figure with a predator among his underlings and a scandal at his seminary) who deserved the sidelines if not a penitent’s cell.
.. purge the corruption he has tolerated and to supply Catholicism with what it has lacked these many years: a leader willing to be zealous and uncompromising against what Benedict called the “filth” in the church, no matter how many heads must roll on his own side of the Catholic civil war.
It is hard to overestimate the storm that is brewing. Only penance and a complete housecleaning can restore credibility and trust.
I hope our bishops, especially the highest ranking and those closest to the epicenter of the Archbishop McCarrick case, hear just how angry the faithful are. I think it is hard to overestimate the storm that is brewing.
.. If any of our prelates think this latest storm will soon pass, they should ponder the more likely case that these are merely the outer bands of a Category 5 hurricane that is closing in and will likely make landfall in Baltimore at the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
.. I have never seen people so serious and determined to take actions of their own. Frankly, as the faithful often remind us, their real power is the power of the purse—that and voting with their feet. I have usually dismissed plans to refuse to give to the Annual Bishop’s Appeal or other such collections as the threats of a few on the fringes, but I am now hearing such things from far more mainstream sources who say that it is the only way to get the bishops’ attention.
.. I have learned from Church history that reform almost never comes from the top; it comes from religious life and from the grass roots, from among God’s people. Please stay faithful to the Lord and His Body the Church. Pray as never before. Realize that the devil would like nothing more than for you to walk away from the sacraments.
.. feel freer than ever to confront Church leadership and insist upon reform
.. I encourage each of you to write personally to your bishop. It is not enough to sound off on social media or in comments sections on the internet. Be old-fashioned: write a physical letter to your bishop and request a written reply, at least acknowledging receipt. Be brief and charitable, but also be clear about the crisis of trust in episcopal and clerical authority and your deepening concerns over what this means if trust cannot be restored.
.. Remember, too, not every bishop or priest is equally to blame. Some are suffering as much as you are. However, no one, clergy or lay, should exempt himself from the task of summoning the Church to reform and greater holiness.
.. To those who are inclined to use financial withholding as an expression of concern, I ask that you remember that much of these collections go to help the poor. Please consider such a method as a kind of last recourse. Use it only if you must, and as a medicine not an expression of vengeance. I ask that you consider giving an equal amount directly to those who help the poor. Also, if you choose to do this, write to your bishop explaining what you are doing and why.
.. I am grateful that many lay faithful love the Church enough to be angry. Sometimes one must be angry enough to be willing to act for change and to persevere in that work. I hope you will honor your anger and use it to creative ends: to tirelessly demand real reform in all the ways God gives you to see. Be careful to target your anger and speak it in love and for the good of all.