"Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict's claim that paedophilia wasn't considered an 'absolute evil' as recently as the 1970s. He also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered 'normal' by society. He must be referring to the 'elite' society which openingly condones that and is heavy [sic] into child sex trafficking.... Pope's child porn'normal' claim sparks outrage among victims."Pretty horrible, eh? Talk about having a tin ear. Doesn't the Catholic Church get it? Is Pope Benedict XVI really that clueless?
Well, no. As I wrote my friend, context is everything ...
X, thank you for sharing this with me. ...
... keep in mind two things. One, people are always waiting for the Pope -- any pope, really, but especially this one -- to make a verbal slip. People love to play "Gotcha!" with this guy. It's sad and pathetic, but there it is. So if there's an opportunity to take his words out of context, they will. (I could take anything you said on any controversial topic and wrench it out of context and make you look like a monster.) Is it any coincidence that the reporting from which this slander came is the main newspaper in hyper-anti-Catholic Belfast? Two, if the Pope had really meant what the photo's caption indicates he did, then it would have made the news much more than it did and would have had global indications. That I'm just now becoming aware of it two years after the fact -- me, who devours news, especially when it comes to the Church -- shows that something might be off in the caption's presentation of the facts. It's why I either go to the source or, at the very least, check Snopes.com.
This time, I went to the source. The remarks in question came from the Pope's 2010 address to his Curia (e.g., his administration or bureaucracy), a talk he gives every year around Christmas.
Look at the context.
He starts off saying this:
"In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord’s goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood."Obviously, this man, who has called the priestly sex abuse scandal a "filth," gets it.
He next gets into the "normal" child pornography bit. But he's not saying it's "normal," as in, "Hey, everybody's doing it. What's the big deal?" Instead ... Well, see for yourself:
"We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it."Obviously, he's not saying child porn isn't a big deal. What he's saying is that it's becoming more normal in the sense that it's bigger than ever and more people are indulging in it than ever, despite it's still being illegal. NAMBLA and similar groups are constantly arguing for a lowering of the age of consent. If the age of consent drops, then how long before the age drops in which children (key word) can legally appear in pornography? Do a search for "hot teens barely legal." Look at the number of hits that come up. Even accounting for redundancies, it's a lot!
Now what about that thing about "absolute evil," which comes in the very next paragraph of his talk?
"In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s (note he's not saying "before"), paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos (this opinion is not good, it's perverted). It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. (This and the following are what others are saying, not what he is saying.) There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience (i.e., we have to change this). It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind."So he wasn't saying what he was portrayed as having said at all! He wasn't saying paedophilia was normal "until the 1970s." He was saying that it *started* in the 1970s.
Actually, it started before then, because it goes back to Alfred Kinsey and his assertion, fraudulently derived, that all people are sexual from birth (he got it from the diary of a child molester and forced sexual experimentation on children, which is a matter of fact that you can look up; I'd recommend the work, of Dr. Judith Reissman, which will make you scream in horror).
Furthermore, you can see he's characterizing what others say, and he obviously disagrees with it. He's saying it's wrong to not define certain things as moral absolutes -- as either absolute evils or absolute goods -- to say there is no such thing as right, wrong, good, evil, only less good and more good. In other words, he's decrying moral relativism (i.e, "Well, that may be true for you, but it's not true for me."). And moral relativism is bogus. Either something's true or it's not. He's saying moral relativism is what led in part to the priestly sex abuse scandal because it led those advising bishops to send their priests for therapy rather than to the cops. That's the ultimate context of his comments.
Have I missed anything? Do I get anything wrong? If you disagree with me, I'm very open to hearing why. I'm sure I could learn something.