Pope Benedict XVI died on December 31, 2022. He was 95. Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Germany, he came of age under the Nazi regime. He served as Pope from 2005 until February 2013, when he became the first pope in six centuries to retire.
At the time, he said, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
Some claimed that he left his position because of the rising tide of priestly sex abuse charges surrounding the Catholic Church and criticism regarding his handling of the scandal.
In a stunningly provocative essay that he wrote in 2019 as Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI blamed the sex abuse crisis overtaking the Catholic Church on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the liberalization of the Church’s theological teachings that stemmed from the Vatican II council. He wrote, in part, that this sexual revolution filtered into the Church:
“Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ’68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.
“For the young people in the Church, but not only for them,” he continued, “this was in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.”
While Benedict may not have been a particularly good ally to Church sex abuse victims, there is little doubt that he was certainly no friend to members of LGBTQ+ communities worldwide.
The former pontiff likened saving humanity from homosexual and gender-variant behaviors to saving the rainforest from destruction at a 2008 Christmas address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.
“[The Church] should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” he said. “The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”
Benedict warned that humans must “listen to the language of creation” and understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior outside heterosexual relations to “a destruction of God’s work.”
His warning came only two years after another of his controversial Christmastime addresses quoted a 14th-century Christian emperor who asserted that the Islamic Prophet Muhammad imposed only “evil and inhuman” conditions on the world.
In his annual “State of the World” address at the Vatican delivered to diplomats from 179 countries in 2012, he released a dire warning stating that marriage for same-sex couples “undermine the family, threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”
By invoking his interpretation of Christian scripture, he follows a long history of Popes who, throughout the ages, have employed these texts to justify and rationalize the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. Popes have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts.
Unfortunately, Benedict’s replacement, Pope Francis, has fared no better and has actually tightened Church restrictions.
The newest El Papa has hardened and extended the already impenetrable Catholic walls by denying LGBTQ+ people (his “children”) the rights of full marriage, civil unions, and adoption; refusing them the benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of legalized partnerships and families; continuing to prohibit them from the priesthood, and denying them the right to be named and serve as godparents.
All we have to look forward to from the Catholic Church is the same barriers for probably the next millennium. But by then, humanity will overpopulate itself into extinction through the Church’s ban on contraceptives and denial of women’s reproductive freedoms.