Retired Pope Blames Child Abuse Scandal on the 1960s Sexual Revolution

Benedict XVI’s words are in striking contrast with the Vatican’s policy under Pope Francis

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.

During his own pontificate, Pope Benedict extended the statute of limitations for abuse of minors and Vatican judges hardly ever reduced the sentences of defrocked abusers on appeal.

In his essay, Pope Benedict, who will turn 92 on Tuesday, blames clerical sex abuse of minors in large part on the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, which he says was fomented by sexual education in schools. Increasingly available pornography in that period promoted violence and revealing styles of clothing “equally provoked aggression,” he writes.

“Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ’68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate,” Pope Benedict wrote.

At the same time, Catholic theologians largely abandoned the “natural law” school of moral philosophy in favor of a relativism that denied the existence of absolute right or wrong, he wrote.

The combination of those trends led to a corruption of the clergy. Influential “homosexual cliques” formed in seminaries and students there sometimes watched pornographic films, while the future pope’s own theological writings “were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.”

Pope Benedict called for more rigor in prosecuting cases of clerical sex abuse by church authorities. An overemphasis on the rights of the accused has at times made it practically impossible to convict abusers and that mentality remains prevalent, he wrote.

“This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the church,” he wrote.

A prominent Italian activist against clerical sex abuse rejected Pope Benedict’s diagnosis of the roots of the crisis.

“The times have changed and the church hasn’t been able to do likewise” on matters of sexuality, said Francesco Zanardi, spokesman for Rete L’ABUSO. “But he would do better to look at all those times that the church has closed an eye and covered up” in cases of clerical sex abuse.

How the Border Wall, Trump’s Signature Campaign Promise, Turned Into a National Emergency

The president’s declaration comes after divisions and competing priorities in the White House allowed the barrier project to languish

President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S. southern border comes after two years of political neglect of his signature campaign promise, lost amid competing priorities and divisions within his administration, according to current and former White House officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers.

Mr. Trump on Friday said the move would allow him to supplement the $1.38 billion allotted for border barriers in the spending package approved by Congress—far short of the $5.7 billion Mr. Trump wanted. “We’re talking about an invasion of our country,” Mr. Trump said speaking from the Rose Garden in urgent terms familiar during his campaign.

The wall’s reemergence as a top priority within the White House came after the Republican Party’s loss of the House in November’s midterm election, and after goading from conservative media kept Mr. Trump focused on the border wall, current and former White House officials said.

It wasn’t until December, as some government offices entered a 35-day shutdown amid the fight over wall funding, that Mr. Trump assembled a team of advisers devoted to getting it built. They turned out to be a divided group.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, pushed for a broader deal with Democrats to provide protections for some immigrants living in the U.S. without permission, while Vice President Mike Pence sought to limit the scope of the negotiations. Mr. Kushner cautioned the president about issuing a national emergency order; Mick Mulvaney, newly installed as acting chief of staff, pressed for it.

Mr. Trump’s first-term wins had clear leaders: Former economic adviser Gary Cohn delivered on tax cuts. Former White House counsel Don McGahn shepherded two Supreme Court nominations onto the High Court, and Mr. Kushner is credited with pushing a criminal-justice overhaul that reduced prison sentences on some drug convictions.

The wall project had no such director. Last summer, a White House official seeking a senior aide in charge of the border wall was sent to Doug Fears, a deputy to national security adviser John Bolton. Mr. Fears, a rear admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard, is neither a senior administration official nor in charge of border-wall issues, a spokesman said.

By then, frustration was setting in with the president, and in August, he asked Mr. Mulvaney about declaring a national emergency. “You know, that makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Mulvaney told him. The then-budget director started working on plans, which were only finalized last week, according to a senior White House official.

“Easy”

As a candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump described building the wall as a simple job. He tied it to his identity as a builder, a career that dates to the 1960s when he joined his father’s real-estate company. As the author of “The Art of the Deal,” Mr. Trump put his reputation as a negotiator on the line.

As Mr. Trump prepares for re-election—and for voters to scrutinize his record as president—he has adjusted his message. “If you think it’s easy with these people, it’s not easy,” Mr. Trump said, referring to Congress, during a rally last summer in West Virginia.
.. Another early advocate of the wall was Stephen K. Bannon, the Trump campaign’s chief executive who became Mr. Trump’s top strategist and senior counselor. The promise to build a wall “and eventually make Mexico pay for it” was written on a dry erase board in Mr. Bannon’s West Wing office, competing for attention among other campaign promises. It was one of more than four dozen pledges on the white board, organized by policy area.

On another office wall, Mr. Bannon listed the goals for Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, listed on 36 pages of computer paper taped together. The legislative agenda included the “End Illegal Immigration Act,” proposed legislation that would have made the wall a priority. It was never introduced.

The project was made tougher without a supportive constituency in Washington to pressure lawmakers. Labor unions don’t view the border wall as a job stimulus, and business didn’t see clear benefits to the bottom line.

“The mistake they made was not coming in right away and coming up with a plan,” said Tom Davis, a Republican former House lawmaker. “You wonder why they didn’t try to jam this through when Republicans controlled the House because it’s a lot more complicated now trying to convince Nancy Pelosi.”

In the first weeks of the Trump administration, Mr. Kushner raised tensions inside the West Wing when he entertained suggestions by Democratic lawmakers to secure wall money in exchange for supporting protections for immigrants protected under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

Mr. Kushner and Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, also left some West Wing aides with the impression that the president should put the wall on hold while renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

.. Messers. Kushner and Cohn later suggested outfitting the wall with solar panels, and possibly selling the energy to Mexico. The president loved the idea so much he adopted it as his own.
.. Advisers suggested that Mexico would indirectly pay for the wall through a renegotiated Nafta. The revised trade deal, which hasn’t been approved by Congress, includes no language about a border wall.

In March, Congress completed a $1.3 trillion spending package, but included just $1.6 billion for a border barrier, with most of the money intended to replace existing fencing. It banned the money from being spent on concrete slabs or any other of the wall prototypes the White House was considering.

Upset there wasn’t more money for the wall, Mr. Trump threatened to veto it. At an emergency meeting at the White House with his staff and Republican leaders, Mr. Trump learned that the spending bill incorporated all of the border wall money that was requested in the White House budget proposal.

“Who the f— put that in my request?” Mr. Trump shouted.

Mr. Trump directed his fury at Marc Short, then his legislative affairs director, while John Kelly, the former chief of staff was silent. Mr. Kelly was the Department of Homeland Security secretary when the agency made the request for border funds the year before.

Mr. Mulvaney, who assembled the White House’s budget proposal, privately encouraged the president to veto it and suggested Mr. Trump blame then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, who should have sought more wall money.

Mr. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Mr. Trump they would push for more wall money in the next round of spending bills at the end of the year. During the fall, Mr. Trump was energized by crowds chanting “built the wall” during his many midterm-election rallies.

Soon after the November election, it became clear to the White House that lawmakers weren’t interested in a fight over border-wall money. Mr. Trump decided to carry out his threat to close what he could of the U.S. government.

During the shutdown last month, Mr. Trump complained to conservative allies that Mr. Ryan should have pushed harder for wall funds. Last weekend, the president complained about it again during a meeting with a Republican member of the committee that negotiated the latest deal.

“Mr. President,” the Republican lawmaker said, “we gave you everything you asked for.”

Did a Queens Podiatrist Help Donald Trump Avoid Vietnam?

In the fall of 1968, Donald J. Trump received a timely diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that led to his medical exemption from the military during Vietnam.

For 50 years, the details of how the exemption came about, and who made the diagnosis, have remained a mystery, with Mr. Trump himself saying during the presidential campaign that he could not recall who had signed off on the medical documentation.

Now a possible explanation has emerged about the documentation. It involves a foot doctor in Queens who rented his office from Mr. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, and a suggestion that the diagnosis was granted as a courtesy to the elder Mr. Trump.

The podiatrist, Dr. Larry Braunstein, died in 2007. But his daughters say their father often told the story of coming to the aid of a young Mr. Trump during the Vietnam War as a favor to his father.

“I know it was a favor,” said one daughter, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, 56, who along with her sister, Sharon Kessel, 53, shared the family’s account for the first time publicly when contacted by The New York Times.

Elysa Braunstein said the implication from her father was that Mr. Trump did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. “But did he examine him? I don’t know,” she said.

“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” Elysa Braunstein said. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.”

No paper evidence has been found to help corroborate the version of events described by the Braunstein family, who also suggested there was some involvement by a second podiatrist, Dr. Manny Weinstein. Dr. Weinstein, who died in 1995, lived in two apartments in Brooklyn owned by Fred Trump; city directories show he moved into the first during the year Donald Trump received his exemption.

.. Beginning in October 1968, records show, Mr. Trump had a 1-Y classification, a temporary medical exemption, meaning that he could be considered for service only in the event of a national emergency or an official declaration of war, neither of which occurred during the conflict in Vietnam. In 1972, after the 1-Y classification was abolished, his status changed to 4-F, a permanent disqualification.

The doctor’s daughters said his role in Mr. Trump’s military exemption had long been the subject of discussions among relatives and friends.

“It was family lore,” said Elysa Braunstein. “It was something we would always discuss.”

She said her father was initially proud that he had helped a “famous guy” in New York real estate. But later, her father, a lifelong Democrat who had served in the Navy during World War II, grew tired of Donald Trump as he became a fixture in the tabloid gossip pages and a reality television star, she said. The daughters, both Democrats, say they are not fans of Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Trump has had a complicated relationship with the military, having quarreled with the likes of Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam; the parents of a slain soldier; and the architect of the Osama bin Laden raid, even while speaking during campaign rallies about his enthusiastic support for veterans and the armed forces. He has also been critical of people who have been less than forthright about their Vietnam records. Earlier this month, he chided Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, over misleading statements he made years ago about his own Vietnam record, calling him “Da Nang Dick” on Twitter.

Republicans left no doubt what they think of women

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) barked at female sex-crime victims, “Grow up!” He called Christine Blasey Ford a “pleasing” witness. He shooed women away with a flick of his wrist. Hatch also posted “an uncorroborated account from a Utah man questioning the legitimacy and sexual preferences” of Julie Swetnick, one of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s accusers. The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board raked him over the coals:

The despicable attack launched by Sen. Orrin Hatch and the Senate Judiciary Committee — more precisely, the Republicans on that committee — on one of the women who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is a textbook example of why more victims do not come forward.

Worse, it betrays a positively medieval attitude toward all women as sex objects who cannot be believed or taken seriously.

Not a single Republican spoke up to criticize him. One would think someone would point out that he brought dishonor on himself, his party and the Senate. But clearly Republicans take no umbrage at such conduct.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) attempted to excuse the lack of a single Republican woman — ever — on the Judiciary Committee. “It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it.”

Kavanaugh snapped and sneered at female senators on the Judiciary Committee. Republicans didn’t bat an eye or hold it against him. He was just mad, you see.

President Trump repeated the calumny that if the attack was “as bad” as Ford said she’d have gone to the police. He declared it was a “scary time” for young men. He openly mocked Ford at a rally to gin up his base’s anger. Republican apologists said he was just explaining the facts. He actually misrepresented her testimony, falsely claiming she couldn’t recall many facts — the neighborhood of the house where she was attacked.

 William Saletan called out Trump and his defenders: “It’s true that Ford can’t recall important details about place and time. It’s true that she can’t recall how she got to the house or how she left. It’s true that every accused person is entitled to a presumption of innocence. But Trump’s portrayal of Ford’s testimony wasn’t true. It was a pack of lies. And people who defend it, like Lindsey Graham, are liars too.”