A reader writes:
I am disturbed by your interpretation of Pope Benedict’s line “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith.” You make it sound like all the rapid changes in this world are toward the good, and hidebound conservatives like B16 just can’t handle them for irrational reasons. I am pretty sure Benedict was thinking of things like abortion drugs, “three-parent” technology, mechanized warfare, the hookup culture, all the horrible innovations of our time that threaten our humanity. Yes, the Church’s fight is getting harder all the time, but that’s not necessarily evidence that she’s wrong about everything. I think he means that the Church is increasingly relevant as our society continues to push at the boundaries of human dignity in the name of progress.
I’ve been a reader of your blog for a decade, and throughout all this time I’ve always been able to somehow relate to you, even when I fiercely disagreed (think Iraq war). But your reaction to Benedict’s retirement leaves me speechless. “What fascinates me is whether he can now be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” for having enabled and concealed the rape of countless children.” … THAT is your reaction? It shows a disturbing amount of disdain that borders on hate.
Not only that you – uncharacteristically for you – assert something as fact which is extremely unlikely (the “enabled” part), you automatically pick the worst possible interpretation of Benedict’s motivation. Since you’ve proven to have the quality of self-reflection, honestly ask yourself: Would you have ever dreamed that Benedict would retire? After all, it goes entirely against your reading of him that you’ve disseminated in the past. And if your answer is “no”, could you misunderstand Benedict now, as well?
Benedict has never sugarcoated his beliefs and never shied away from any conflict. How could the extreme reactionary immovable dogmatist as who you’ve ever pictured him abdictate over “new ideas, discoveries and truths about human nature” he feels unable to cope with? It makes no sense whatsoever, and is rather a reflection of your own emotional traumas which you project on him.
What I see instead is an old man who has ever walked through life with open eyes, and who realizes that he is becoming unable to perform his duties in an acceptable way anymore. And no matter how much I may disagree with Benedict’s views, I feel that him stepping down deserves respect. Denying him this basic courtesy the way you did makes you a much pettier and smaller man than you usually are.
Look: the man was the chief figure in the church hierarchy charged with dealing with the child-rape conspiracy that spread across the whole globe. Every single case came to his desk. These were crimes of monstrous evil. Yet he insisted that the church deal with them in complete secrecy, never sent a priest to jail, even gave the mass rapist Marcial Maciel a comfortable retirement, allowed the priest who raped over 200 deaf boys to enjoy a quiet retirement, and even now will invite Cardinal Mahony to elect the new Pope. He put the prestige of the institution repeatedly before the dignity and inviolability of children. The only word for that is evil.