The legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

From evolution to safe sex, Benedict revealed himself to be a surprisingly activist Pope

Rebel with a cross

Franco Origlia/Getty Images

In this story first published in 2011, Brian Bethune considered the ways Pope Benedict XVI was changing the Catholic Church:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, not according to confounded Vatican watchers. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was already 78 years old when he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He was widely seen as the arch-conservative doctrinal enforcer, the sharp spear point wielded by his charismatic rock star predecessor—Joshua to Pope John Paul II’s Moses, in the words of one Jewish scholar. The consensus opinion was that Benedict would provide a quiet, business-as-usual continuance of John Paul’s 27-year reign and, given his age, a brief pontificate that would allow the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church time to catch its breath and consider its future options.

No one, it seems, asked Benedict what he thought of the caretaker idea.

From inflaming the Islamic world by quoting medieval anti-Muhammad remarks to welcoming disaffected Anglicans into the Roman fold, becoming personally embroiled in the clerical sex-abuse scandal, endorsing the (sometimes) use of condoms, writing a passage in his newest book exonerating Jews from the charge of killing Christ, and a host of less headline-grabbing initiatives (including a casual acceptance of the theory of evolution), Benedict—as he celebrates his 84th birthday and sixth anniversary as Pope (April 16 and 19, respectively)—continues to be far more active, innovative, and outright newsworthy than expected.

The Pope clearly has goals, large and small, that he wants to see achieved during his pontificate, however short it might turn out to be. For many, inside and outside the Church, he will be judged on his response to the sexual abuse of children by clergy. If Benedict hasn’t gone as far as some would like—such as calling a council dedicated to the scandal—he has, for the most part, assuaged Catholic anger. After the initial shocks last year, when Benedict was accused of helping cover up the scandal, increasingly angry Catholic writers have rallied to his cause.

That includes Michael Coren, the often controversial Canadian broadcaster and author whose new book, Why Catholics Are Right (to be released on the Pope’s birthday), offers an uncompromising—to put it mildly—defence of both Catholic teaching and Catholic history. Coren, like other Catholic commentators including Michael Higgins, past president of St. Jerome’s and St. Thomas Catholic universities (in Waterloo, Ont., and Fredericton, respectively), and the American Vatican correspondent John Allen, argues that Benedict’s forthright response has made him a large part of the solution for the Church.

Far more than John Paul, the present Pope has been open about the scope of the abuse and the harm inflicted; he has met time and again with victims to express his personal sorrow; he has condemned bishops for their actions—and failures to act—as well as the criminal priests they ignored or sheltered; and he has made it clear that it is the welfare of children, not the reputation of the Church, that matters. And Catholic laity have responded to his efforts, realizing, too, that the cover-ups recently revealed were mostly old cases, indicating that steps taken by the Church from the 1980s on—including by Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and the Vatican’s chief disciplinarian—had borne fruit.

It was never Benedict’s plan to see his pontificate dedicated to coping with the disaster of the sex-abuse scandal. For the German-born Pope, observers like Higgins agree, the burning issue of the day will always be the spiritual state of his home continent. “I think he sees a destructive Robespierre moment in Europe,” says Higgins, referring to the French revolutionaries who signalled their complete break with the past and with tradition by declaring 1792 to be Year One. Europe’s advanced secularization—including the slow extirpation of religious symbols (the ongoing European Court of Human Rights case seeking to ban crucifixes from Italian schoolrooms deeply troubles the Vatican)—has cut it off from the roots of its own culture, the Pope believes. Drowning in spiritual anomie, unable to speak coherently about life, death and meaning, Europe can no longer define or even defend itself.

Reversing the expulsion of faith from the public square in Europe is Benedict’s overriding aim. And he has shown himself willing to take significant, if subtle, steps to do so. Benedict’s moves to shore up Catholic identity—overseeing the restoration of the old Latin mass as an alternative rite and otherwise reaching out to alienated traditionalists—have been overshadowed by those he has made to open his Catholic practice, however cautiously, to the modern world. He clearly believes that secular society, and especially Europe, needs an infusion of faith, but he also seems willing to inject some reason into his Church.

Faith and reason, for Benedict, are not only reconcilable, but must be reconciled for a viable human society to flourish. The Church, he told a group of Italian priests in 2007, was uniquely positioned to do that: Catholicism’s historical strength is its passion for synthesis, its rejection of either/or oppositions like faith or reason. In October, the Pope created a new Vatican department aimed at “re-evangelizing” the most secular regions of the globe, in particular areas of Europe that have become “de-Christianized” in his words.

And in March he addressed, by video hookup, one result of that effort: the first Courtyard of the Gentiles meeting, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The name—taken from the outer space around the great Temple in ancient Jerusalem—is laden with symbolism: it was in the courtyard that Jews and gentiles could engage with each other. The Pope wants the faithful and atheists to have an ongoing series of such (literal) common-ground encounters to discuss what he called “the great human questions of our time” in his address. “Those of you who are non-believers want to take believers to task, demanding from them the witness of a life consistent with what they profess and rejecting any deviation that makes religion inhuman. You who are believers want to say that the question of God is not a threat to society, it does not threaten human life! You have much to say to each other. I profoundly believe that the meeting between the reality of faith and reason allows man to find himself.”

Virtually everything Benedict says or does can be linked to furthering this central goal. After a shaky start, he has become fully aware that whatever a pope signals is parsed by Vatican watchers as detail-obsessed as the Kremlinologists of old. In December 2005, during his first Christmas season as Pope, when Benedict wore a camauro, a fur-trimmed hat popular among 17th-century pontiffs, it was cited as proof he favoured a more traditional—meaning authoritarian—papal monarchy. (He later said his head was cold, and he never wore the hat again.) But the Pope still at times allows one arresting statement to deflect attention from another.

His November comments about condoms were surprising both in substance and in timing: the clerical sexual abuse issue had made 2010 Benedict’s personal annus horribilis, and a pope in less of a hurry might well have responded by deliberately fading from the news cycle. Instead, he gave a lengthy interview in which he stated that the use of condoms in the age of HIV could at times be morally right. He gave the startling (for a pope) example of a male prostitute wearing one for a client’s sake. His meaning—as a Vatican spokesman later confirmed—was that the use of condoms by people infected with HIV, female or male, could be “the first step of responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk to the life of the person with whom there are relations.”

Although his statement did nothing to alter Church opposition to contraceptives, Benedict’s words still angered conservative Catholics adhering to a hard and fast position on the immorality of condom use, even as they were welcomed by many clerics and health care workers in the developing world. The media uproar, however, acted to obscure another comment in the interview. After years of persistent rumours over his health—past strokes and possible current heart disease—Benedict also asserted that resignation for reasons of health was a viable papal option, a remark that went almost unnoticed.

It’s noteworthy that Michael Coren’s robust apologia for Catholic teaching devotes several pages to Benedict and condom use in AIDS-ravaged Africa, but not to the Pope’s newer comments. Instead, Why Catholics Are Right defends Benedict’s 2009 remark to journalists that AIDS was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms.” Coren points out that Benedict was correct to note that condoms have not worked as a public health intervention in reducing HIV infections at what scientists call the “level of population,” whatever difference they might make in an individual’s life. (This is a conclusion shared by Edward Green, director of the Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Project, who added, “This is hard for a liberal like me to admit, but yes, the best evidence we have supports the Pope’s comments—I first put emphasis on fidelity instead of condoms in Africa in 1988.”)

The absence from Coren’s book of this particular instance of Benedict backing away from absolutist thinking marks the author as more Catholic than the Pope. Coren’s entire book is a line in the sand separating true Catholicism from everything else, including other branches of Christianity and cultural Catholicism—the practices and beliefs of those raised Catholic and still (occasionally) attending mass, but not following Church doctrine. Among orthodox traditionalists, Benedict’s reputation for doctrinal conservatism serves him as well as it condemns him in among their liberal co-religionists, while ultra-conservatives think he flirts with liberal heresy. In short, Benedict is in a relatively strong Nixon-goes-to-China position to open leftwards. But his room to do so is far from infinite: pontiffs, clearly, have right as well as left flanks to consider.

Benedict’s most recent foray into the headlines—occasioned by the early March release of excerpts from his new book, Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two (released a week later)—likewise saw one of the most intriguing passages ignored. Benedict quotes Francis Collins, the devout evangelical Protestant who led the Human Genome Project, that “the language of God was revealed” when the genome was unveiled. “In the magnificent mathematics of creation,” Benedict continues, “which today we can read in the human genetic code, we do recognize the language of God. The functional truth about man has been discovered.” As Collins notes in his own book, The Language of God, to understand the genome is to grasp the inescapable fact of evolution, the “functional truth” of creation, and there can be little doubt that Benedict—however obliquely he states it—does so as well. In the same way he dealt with the condom issue—rejecting either/or thinking to reconcile faith (opposition to birth control) and reason (care for the health of a partner)—Benedict bridged his Church’s belief about humanity’s true spiritual nature with science’s revelations about our physical nature.

What understandably obscured the evolution passage was Benedict’s exoneration of Jews from the ancient accusation of being Christ-killers—the heart of two millennia of at times murderous Catholic antagonism toward them. “Now we must ask,” the Pope wrote, “Who exactly were Jesus’s accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death? According to [the Gospel of] John it was simply ‘the Jews.’ But John’s use of this expression does not in any way indicate—as the modern reader might suppose—the people of Israel in general, even less is it ‘racist’ in character. In John’s Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: the Temple aristocracy.” The words caused an immediate stir because a Pope wrote them, because he identified the roots of his theology in specific Gospel passages—thereby essentially instructing the faithful in how to read those verses—and because the media (not to mention numerous Catholics) seemed to have forgotten that the Church as a whole said much the same, in much the same words, 46 years ago at the Second Vatican Council.

Pope watchers, who hadn’t forgotten, therefore obsessed over the question, why draw attention to those particular passages at this particular time? Judaism is Catholicism’s most important theological relationship, even if Islam is its most geopolitically significant. After the 2006 speech in which Benedict quoted the anti-Muhammad remarks of a Byzantine emperor, setting off violent protests in the Islamic world, he devoted considerable time to mending fences with Muslims. He travelled to Turkey and Jordan and has constantly expressed his openness to Islam as an anti-secular “friend speaking from within a shared space of common religious concern,” in John Allen’s words. That increased attention may, suggest some observers, have contributed to recent bumps in the road in the Jewish relationship.

Even so, in part those bumps were inevitable: for the Jewish world, John Paul II was the most highly regarded pope it ever encountered, or is likely to. “His personal biography, his enduring friendship with Jews from his earliest childhood, his wartime record, on occasion risking his life to save Jews,” sums up Joseph Weiler, a New York University Law School professor and an Orthodox Jew. All that, Weiler adds, “gave huge credibility to John Paul’s outstretched hand to his ‘elder brothers,’ as he memorably explained in his historic visit to the Rome synagogue when he, personally blameless, had no hesitation in expressing profound regret and apology for Christian wrongdoing toward the Jews.” Any successor would have a hard time following that; Benedict, cool and cerebral in temperament, and, not to forget, a one-time (if unwilling) member of the Hitler Youth, is not just any successor.

Then there is the controversy over wartime pope Pius XII, a half-century-old canker that won’t heal. Immediately after the Second World War, Pius was praised by many Jewish leaders for his efforts on behalf of Jews during the Holocaust, but since Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 play, The Deputy, debate has raged over whether he did enough, given his failure to openly denounce the Nazi genocide. Many liberal Catholics feel the same unease as most Jewish commentators about Pius’s inexorable canonization process. The official Church, however, which venerates Pius for his “heroic virtues” as a Christian, is far more inclined to believe the pontiff did more than could be expected under Nazi occupation. Coren calls him “a righteous Gentile, a righteous Pope, a righteous Roman Catholic, a righteous man.” In this, author and Pope are on the same page: a year after he raised Pius to the status of venerable in late 2009—the first stop on the road to sainthood—Benedict stated that Pius was “one of the great righteous men who saved more Jews than anyone.”

If Pius is an old sore, Benedict’s restoration—from a schismatic order of traditionalist Catholics—of a Holocaust-denying bishop has been a flashpoint. Richard Williamson is one of four men consecrated as bishops in 1988 by breakaway archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who objected to the reforms of Vatican II. The “bishops,” along with Lefebvre (who died in 1991), were all automatically excommunicated for ordaining without papal permission. Benedict, who has long wanted to mend fences with the traditionalists, lifted the excommunications on Jan. 21, 2009—a welcoming hand extended to prodigal sons much like the one he offered Anglican communities unhappy with their Church’s ordination of women and openness to same-sex unions. On the same day, however, a Swedish TV show broadcast an interview in which Williamson stated, “I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, none of them in gas chambers.”

Benedict felt blindsided amid the immediate uproar. Prosecutors in Germany, where the interview was recorded and Holocaust denial is a crime, announced an investigation (Williamson was later fined $20,000), and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel suspended contacts with the Church. The Vatican responded forcefully, declaring that, if he wished to be a functioning bishop within the Church, Williamson “will have to take his distance, in an absolutely unequivocal and public fashion, from his position on the Shoah, which the Holy Father was not aware of when the excommunication was lifted.” So far, the papacy has rejected Williamson’s half-hearted apologies and he has not reconciled with Benedict.

A final factor colouring Catholic-Jewish relations is that Jewish disquiet is starting to be matched by Catholic exasperation. In the wake of the excerpts, some angry posters to Jewish websites denounced Benedict for having the chutzpah, so to speak, to “forgive” Jews for killing Christ. (An understandable reaction, if that was what Benedict had actually done, but to state that the Jews are innocent of the charge of murdering Jesus is not the same as pardoning them for their non-existent crime.) And after Benedict, following in John Paul’s footsteps, visited the Israeli Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem, the Pope drew loud criticism when his speech did not express regret over Williamson, even though he had done so many other times. Some Church leaders, John Allen reported in his 2009 book, The Future Church, resent that their overtures are not “matched by a similar spirit” on the Jewish side. After Yad Vashem, Cardinal Walter Kasper, chief Vatican official for Jewish relations, said, “There seems to be an attitude of, ‘That’s good, but it’s not enough.’ ”

Still, Benedict has every reason to be pleased with the generally positive Jewish response to the deicide passage, including a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing appreciation for the Pope’s “clarity and courage.” It would be only the smallest of ironies if a passage Benedict wrote, in all probability, before becoming head of the Church does more to cement Catholic-Jewish relations than anything since John Paul’s moving visit to the synagogue in Rome.

Allen recalls in his wide-ranging survey of future trends in the Church that many Catholics used to joke that the 1967 Beatles tune, The Fool on the Hill, perfectly captured the irrelevance of Pope Paul VI in the 1970s, with its lines, “Nobody ever hears him / or the sound he appears to make / and he never seems to notice…” No one would have dreamed of saying that after John Paul II’s 1978 arrival on Vatican Hill. And whatever might have been expected of the surprising Benedict XVI, it can’t be said now.




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The legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

  1. Overall this is a good article. There are some minor things which could have been articulated differently, but all things considered, this is pretty good.

    One of those ‘minor things' is that perhaps it would have been more accurate to highlight that the 16 year old Ratzinger actually deserted from his Hitlerjugend unity (risking severe punishment), and not that he was a member of it, which as you point it out, was automatic for all children of his age.

  2. Overall this is a good article. There are some minor things which could have been articulated differently, but all things considered, this is pretty good.

    One of those ‘minor things%E2%80%99 is that perhaps it would have been more accurate to highlight that the 16 year old Ratzinger actually deserted from his Hitlerjugend unity (risking severe punishment), and not that he was a member of it, which as you point it out, was automatic for all children of his age.

  3. Overall this is a good article. There are some minor things which could have been articulated differently, but all things considered, this is pretty good.

    One of those ‘minor things' is that perhaps it would have been more accurate to highlight that the 16 year old Ratzinger actually deserted from his Hitlerjugend unity (risking severe punishment), and not that he was a member of it, which as you point it out, was automatic for all children of his age.

  4. I think the most important aspect of Pope Benedict's ministry is that he is focusing on calling people to turn back to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pope reminds us that the only Saviour is Jesus, and that people need to turn to Jesus for His love, forgiveness, and the eternal life that only Jesus offers. The Bible says it so well, in John's Gospel, chap 3 v. 16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus, that whoever believes in Jesus will never perish but have eternal life.

  5. I think the most important aspect of Pope Benedict's ministry is that he is focusing on calling people to turn back to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pope reminds us that the only Saviour is Jesus, and that people need to turn to Jesus for His love, forgiveness, and the eternal life that only Jesus offers. The Bible says it so well, in John's Gospel, chap 3 v. 16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus, that whoever believes in Jesus will never perish but have eternal life.

    • The pope reminds you that if you don't believe you go the hell. That's the threat that most 3rd world countries were told when they got invaded by your religion.

  6. The most important thing about Pope Benedict is the way that he dealt with priests raping tens of thousands of children, which also includes his time as Bishop Ratzinger.

    He promoted the idea of lying, hiding the truth and fighting law enforcement, which they do to this day. Read the first 6 pages of the grand jury report at http://www.philadelphiadistrictattorney.com/image… to find out how horrifying it still is.

    He also continues to ignore and forget the victims.

    A bishop in Belgium admits he had sex with his nephew from age 5 to age 18, and the pope STILL can't figure out what to do. For anyone else, it would be a 5 minute decision.

    I'm embarrassed to say I was once a member of the Catholic church.

    Parents – save your children from the Catholic church. The Pope, his bishops, and his priests just don't think child rape is a big deal, they don't think honesty is important, and they hvae been horrible in their treatment of victims. You'll never see them practice the "loving arms of God".

    They've ruined a perfectly good religion.

  7. The most important thing about Pope Benedict is the way that he dealt with priests raping tens of thousands of children, which also includes his time as Bishop Ratzinger.

    He promoted the idea of lying, hiding the truth and fighting law enforcement, which they do to this day. Read the first 6 pages of the grand jury report at http://www.philadelphiadistrictattorney.com/image… to find out how horrifying it still is.

    He also continues to ignore and forget the victims.

    A bishop in Belgium admits he had sex with his nephew from age 5 to age 18, and the pope STILL can't figure out what to do. For anyone else, it would be a 5 minute decision.

    I'm embarrassed to say I was once a member of the Catholic church.

    Parents – save your children from the Catholic church. The Pope, his bishops, and his priests just don't think child rape is a big deal, they don't think honesty is important, and they hvae been horrible in their treatment of victims. You'll never see them practice the "loving arms of God".

    They've ruined a perfectly good religion.

    • I think you are mixing up the tragic situation of child abuse with one of your sales pitches you give so frequently in your business. Highly disturbing!

      It has been documented that the overwhelming majority of abuse cases in the Catholic Church took place prior to the 1990s. Since then many things have changed, most importantly, in the past 15 – 20 years the number of new cases has dramatically dropped, and all but disappeared (however, even one is too many!).

    • If you were really disturbed about child abuse, you would be concerned with the current situation in our society, as described by more recent data:

      For example, in the US 25% of girls and 16% of boys are sexually abused prior to reaching age 18 (Finkelhor, at al., 1990). According to Vogelnatz, Wilsnack, and Harris (1999), child sexual abuse among girls in the US ranges between 21% – 32%.

      According to the March 22, 2010 media release: “Sexual Misconduct Continues to Plague US Schools,” 10% of children will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee during their academic career.

      In the United Kingdom, according an estimate by the Adult Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Network, 25% of males and 33% females experienced sexual abuse prior to the age of 18 (data available on their website).

      In India, according to the 2007, 13-state National Study on Child Sexual Abuse, by the Ministry of Women and Child, UNICEF and Save The Children, 21% of children experience severe sexual abuse. (Statistics regarding child sexual abuse are on average comparable in other countries.)

      • Yeah, that all sounds great but the catholic church preaches it is the highest authority on how to live a healthy life if you follow their holy doctrines. Then you get that horny celibate priest that young people look up to and trust and suddenly you got some pressure on your rear. Even one case, let alone thousands should be enough to outlaw this church.

        • You speak like an expert on the matter …

  8. I think you are mixing up the tragic situation of child abuse with one of your sales pitches you give so frequently in your business. Highly disturbing!

    It has been documented that the overwhelming majority of abuse cases in the Catholic Church took place prior to the 1990s. Since then many things have changed, most importantly, in the past 15 – 20 years the number of new cases has dramatically dropped, and all but disappeared (however, even one is too many!).

  9. If you were really disturbed about child abuse, you would be concerned with the current situation in our society, as described by more recent data:

    For example, in the US 25% of girls and 16% of boys are sexually abused prior to reaching age 18 (Finkelhor, at al., 1990). According to Vogelnatz, Wilsnack, and Harris (1999), child sexual abuse among girls in the US ranges between 21% – 32%.

    According to the March 22, 2010 media release: “Sexual Misconduct Continues to Plague US Schools,” 10% of children will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee during their academic career.

    In the United Kingdom, according an estimate by the Adult Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Network, 25% of males and 33% females experienced sexual abuse prior to the age of 18 (data available on their website).

    In India, according to the 2007, 13-state National Study on Child Sexual Abuse, by the Ministry of Women and Child, UNICEF and Save The Children, 21% of children experience severe sexual abuse. (Statistics regarding child sexual abuse are on average comparable in other countries.)

  10. The above are but a few examples, and as you can see they cut across cultures and religions, and they show that child sexual abuse is a serious social issue of our society TODAY. Why aren't we hearing about these? Who is doing the cover-up? Who is responsible? So, please save me from your tiring diatribe against the Catholic Church. You claim to be good at math, you can figure out what parentage of the adult male population (most perpetrators are adult males) has to be involved in child sexual abuse to produce these kinds of numbers of abused children. If you were really concerned about child abuse, you would be doing something constructive about its prevention today, as opposed to going after people least likely to commit this crime.

  11. The above are but a few examples, and as you can see they cut across cultures and religions, and they show that child sexual abuse is a serious social issue of our society TODAY. Why aren%E2%80%99t we hearing about these? Who is doing the cover-up? Who is responsible? So, please save me from your tiring diatribe against the Catholic Church. You claim to be good at math, you can figure out what parentage of the adult male population (most perpetrators are adult males) has to be involved in child sexual abuse to produce these kinds of numbers of abused children. If you were really concerned about child abuse, you would be doing something constructive about its prevention today, as opposed to going after people least likely to commit this crime.

  12. Well, sex scandals or not, Mr. Bethune makes one hell of a blunder by stating that the pope has casually accepted evolution. I was studying Catholicism in the mid 70's and evolution was accepted by the church then; and as far as I know the Catholic church had accepted evolution as not in any way at odds with church teaching for decades before that. The Catholic church, for all its faults, accepts the metaphorical nature of scripture; in other words, Genesis is a nice story with some important lessons, but it ain't history.

  13. Well, sex scandals or not, Mr. Bethune makes one hell of a blunder by stating that the pope has casually accepted evolution. I was studying Catholicism in the mid 70's and evolution was accepted by the church then; and as far as I know the Catholic church had accepted evolution as not in any way at odds with church teaching for decades before that. The Catholic church, for all its faults, accepts the metaphorical nature of scripture; in other words, Genesis is a nice story with some important lessons, but it ain't history.

    • You are right. There is no contradiction between evolution and church teaching.

  14. You are right. There is no contradiction between evolution and church teaching.

  15. Safe sex = pick on the choir boy.

  16. Safe sex = pick on the choir boy.

    • You are assuming that the priests caught with in sexual abuse disagreed with you about condoms, same sex marriage, sexual liberation, divorce or abortion. The dioceses which were the most liberal (in Ireland & England, the Maritimes, Boston & New England, California, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Belgium etc.) were hit the hardest in terms of both the number of abuse cases and the number of cover-ups.

      • No, there aren't any 'conservative' dioceses any more….they are all 'liberal' to varying degrees.

        And much of it hasn't come out yet.

        However it'll be the money situation that finally does the church in.

        • I know a lot of it hasn't come out yet. We haven't dealt with the sex abuse crisis involving female religious authorities, who had far more contact with children on a day to day basis than the men did. Estimates predict that for number of cases, it will outnumber the cases of predation by men. Whether it will be of a similarly overwhelming prevalence of same-sex assaults remains to be seen.

          As for the Church ceasing to exist without money… certainly the Church will become less visible in the public sphere without money, but I'm doubtful that it will cease to exist any time within the next 1000 years. If it is going to cease to exist however, I'd rather it do it sooner rather than later. After all, why waste your time on the Church if it isn't eternal?

          • Well since the RCs don't have any 'female religious authorites' beyond nuns, that will automatically limit the damage to less than that of priests.

            Not 'without money'…..with laundering money. Hanky panky with the books. They've already been nailed several times for it.

            There's an old prediction that this pope is the second last one….at the rate things are going I wouldn't be surprised if that happens. I've seen the church fall from revered absolute authority to a joke just in my lifetime.

            But then nothing is eternal…not even the universe.

  17. Brian – You missed your calling. You should look up Charles Lewis and write for the National Post. This is one of the most pandering and ludicrous articles I've ever read in Macleans. This Pope is hardly a rebel unless you include his history and what he and his church stands for – indifference to the Nazis, the Roman rat lines, extreme child abuse by clergy (which he knew about and waved off as a nuisance), pushing his church onto 3rd world countries with the threat of going to hell, homophobia of gays and lesbians, hiding behind the pro-life movement, denying women an equal place in his church, condoms are ok only if you are a gay prostitute, and the list goes on.

    As to sending out his troops to prop up his religion in waning countries, this is a move of desperation. People in droves no longer believe in a church with this horrid background, preaching its centuries old doctrines made up by men for men – and who can blame them. If you want to call this Pope a rebel, call him a rebel still trying to push his cause.

  18. Brian – You missed your calling. You should look up Charles Lewis and write for the National Post. This is one of the most pandering and ludicrous articles I've ever read in Macleans. This Pope is hardly a rebel unless you include his history and what he and his church stands for – indifference to the Nazis, the Roman rat lines, extreme child abuse by clergy (which he knew about and waved off as a nuisance), pushing his church onto 3rd world countries with the threat of going to hell, homophobia of gays and lesbians, hiding behind the pro-life movement, denying women an equal place in his church, condoms are ok only if you are a gay prostitute, and the list goes on.

    As to sending out his troops to prop up his religion in waning countries, this is a move of desperation. People in droves no longer believe in a church with this horrid background, preaching its centuries old doctrines made up by men for men – and who can blame them. If you want to call this Pope a rebel, call him a rebel still trying to push his cause.

    • Yeah but wouldn't you want your gay prostitue to wear a condom too?

  19. Yeah but wouldn't you want your gay prostitue to wear a condom too?

  20. What a an outrage that Catholics have so little moral outrage at the scandal that they can be are described as being "assuaged: by Pope Benedict about the rape and sodomy of children.

  21. What a an outrage that Catholics have so little moral outrage at the scandal that they can be are described as being "assuaged: by Pope Benedict about the rape and sodomy of children.

    • Oh, we have outrage. We just don't trust your organization enough to be a solution to the problem, nor do we wish to give you any money. The list of contact names on your website are fairly infamous, and are part of a political wing in the Church which exists to undermine authentic catholic traditions, doctrine and teaching.

      The Liberal dissidents want to blame everything on a repressed, conservative hierarchy, but the simple fact is that the liberal ideologies and liberal clergy are just as (if not more) responsible for the sex abuse cases as the people they are beating the war drums against.

      • When was the last time you saw a media report on child sex abuse by the anglicans, protestants, united or baptists? Or do you think their cover-up techniques are better than the catholics.

        • Yes this is the problem. There are no headlines and wall-to-wall reportings, but if you look at the stats, they are the same. Every statistical research shows that Catholic cleargy are not worse than other clergy or professionals. But, of course, you will not see this with a bigotted approach. (see stats above)

  22. I think most Catholics people just pay attention to the church or Pope anymore, it's been like this for a long time but the church just don't realize it greatvacationspots.net and gossipmagazineonline.com All religious people tell me the same thing now a days they have a faith with god and may attend church but don't care about the "church" per say anymore. They have realized their faith is with God, not the church. Afterall wants to be associated with a church that allows such wrong things to go on, and doesn't face the their facts. The church is run by very old people who are totally out of touch with reality.

  23. I think most Catholics people just pay attention to the church or Pope anymore, it's been like this for a long time but the church just don't realize it greatvacationspots.net and gossipmagazineonline.com All religious people tell me the same thing now a days they have a faith with god and may attend church but don't care about the "church" per say anymore. They have realized their faith is with God, not the church. Afterall wants to be associated with a church that allows such wrong things to go on, and doesn't face the their facts. The church is run by very old people who are totally out of touch with reality.

  24. Is the Pope Catholic? Of course not, He's Jewish. This argument is about absurd as Is President Obama an American? the West is losing it. What's next? Is the Queen Royalty?

  25. Is the Pope Catholic? Of course not, He's Jewish. This argument is about absurd as Is President Obama an American? the West is losing it. What's next? Is the Queen Royalty?

  26. When a Pope presents himself as a friend to everyone not willing to make the hard choices, the weak kneed members of the Catholic faith feel very comfortable as they feel their short comings and diluted points of view will not be challenged. This Pope does not take the easy road and has re-affirmed the will of God for his flock. The flock maybe smaller but is a much truer representation of the theology of the Catholic Church.

  27. When a Pope presents himself as a friend to everyone not willing to make the hard choices, the weak kneed members of the Catholic faith feel very comfortable as they feel their short comings and diluted points of view will not be challenged. This Pope does not take the easy road and has re-affirmed the will of God for his flock. The flock maybe smaller but is a much truer representation of the theology of the Catholic Church.

  28. I thought this was going to be a good article and then right away the author failed. He put in the fallacious statement that the Pope endorsed the use of condoms. Having read the entire book in which that quote was pulled from, the Pope did no such thing. As the author correctly stated, the Pope did say that in the case of a male prostitue with HIV it would signal that the male prostitue was, direct quotes, "a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants." The Pope nevers says that condom use is morally justifiable in certain cases but the use of a condom in certain cases might be signaling a step in the right direction. Besides the errors on evolution and the condom issue, it was a decent article.

  29. I thought this was going to be a good article and then right away the author failed. He put in the fallacious statement that the Pope endorsed the use of condoms. Having read the entire book in which that quote was pulled from, the Pope did no such thing. As the author correctly stated, the Pope did say that in the case of a male prostitue with HIV it would signal that the male prostitue was, direct quotes, "a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants." The Pope nevers says that condom use is morally justifiable in certain cases but the use of a condom in certain cases might be signaling a step in the right direction. Besides the errors on evolution and the condom issue, it was a decent article.

  30. The problems with the catholic church are of their own doing and their misguided ways – they are no different than any other religion in the problems they inflict on society – confession is for each believer and God – no man has such authority- not even the pope– any religious institution that places their interest between God and Gods creation will crumble like dust in the wind –Christian, Muslim or Jew They like the rest will reap what they have sown.

  31. The problems with the catholic church are of their own doing and their misguided ways – they are no different than any other religion in the problems they inflict on society – confession is for each believer and God – no man has such authority- not even the pope– any religious institution that places their interest between God and Gods creation will crumble like dust in the wind –Christian, Muslim or Jew They like the rest will reap what they have sown.

  32. Catholic acceptance of evolution is nothing new, and it's definitely not radical.

    • Really? Where did you get that from? The same place that says jews are ok now?

  33. Catholic acceptance of evolution is nothing new, and it's definitely not radical.

  34. You are assuming that the priests caught with in sexual abuse disagreed with you about condoms, same sex marriage, sexual liberation, divorce or abortion. The dioceses which were the most liberal (in Ireland & England, the Maritimes, Boston & New England, California, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Belgium etc.) were hit the hardest in terms of both the number of abuse cases and the number of cover-ups.

  35. Oh, we have outrage. We just don't trust your organization enough to be a solution to the problem, nor do we wish to give you any money. The list of contact names on your website are fairly infamous, and are part of a political wing in the Church which exists to undermine authentic catholic traditions, doctrine and teaching.

    The Liberal dissidents want to blame everything on a repressed, conservative hierarchy, but the simple fact is that the liberal ideologies and liberal clergy are just as (if not more) responsible for the sex abuse cases as the people they are beating the war drums against.

  36. No, there aren't any 'conservative' dioceses any more….they are all 'liberal' to varying degrees.

    And much of it hasn't come out yet.

    However it'll be the money situation that finally does the church in.

  37. I know a lot of it hasn't come out yet. We haven't dealt with the sex abuse crisis involving female religious authorities, who had far more contact with children on a day to day basis than the men did. Estimates predict that for number of cases, it will outnumber the cases of predation by men. Whether it will be of a similarly overwhelming prevalence of same-sex assaults remains to be seen.

    As for the Church ceasing to exist without money… certainly the Church will become less visible in the public sphere without money, but I'm doubtful that it will cease to exist any time within the next 1000 years. If it is going to cease to exist however, I'd rather it do it sooner rather than later. After all, why waste your time on the Church if it isn't eternal?

  38. Well since the RCs don't have any 'female religious authorites' beyond nuns, that will automatically limit the damage to less than that of priests.

    Not 'without money'…..with laundering money. Hanky panky with the books. They've already been nailed several times for it.

    There's an old prediction that this pope is the second last one….at the rate things are going I wouldn't be surprised if that happens. I've seen the church fall from revered absolute authority to a joke just in my lifetime.

    But then nothing is eternal…not even the universe.

  39. Oh, the bigoted ones creeping out of the woodwrok …

  40. Since this article is about the Catholic Faith and the Pope,
    I should show the Biblical roots of Confession, the Papacy, and the importance of the Church.
    After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:21–23).

    "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18)

    The apostle Paul says to Timothy: "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14,15)

    God bless,
    Steve

  41. Obviously Catholicism is fair game for any hack who thinks they know what they are talking about!

    Let's see you dare to do an identical piece on Islam. What do I sense hesitation. You bet I do. Why, because it would be considered racist, that's why!

    It's so obvious that you chose Holy Week to be the most disrespectful. I

  42. I am very disappointed in Macleans for publishing this piece of nonsense. This isn't journalism it's an advertisement. Send an invoice to the Roman Catholic Church Macleans – and charge by the word.

  43. I can understand how a person can become irrational with disappointment and shock over the sex abuse scandal that has so wounded so many, myself included. But this is mostly a legacy of the 'free love' ethics of the '60's. Audited records for abuse claims show a total of fewer than ten serious claims in the US out of 63 million. The Catholic church is certainly the safest place in the US for a child, and this is how it should be. Pope JP II, some say, really couln't believe that such terrible corruption could have existed, (and it was NOT usually just a case of turning a blind eye, but naive treatments from psychologists and a culture of forgiveness and a fear of scandal. This doesn't excuse of course, but such issues in the '60's were widely viewed as 'moral' issues and parents almost never wanted a public trial.

  44. That said, it is surprising, given Fr Mendel's seminal work in genetics which SAVED Darwinian theory from a lot of scientific resistence that the writer thinks there has ever been a problem with evolutionary theory. And Big Bang physics was from a priest, Jorges Lemaitre, as well. Modern western science despite the highly misunderstood Galileo incident was largely a work of Catholic and Christian Europe.
    As to condoms, the UNAIDS study of Hearst and the Harvard study (Greeen) BOTH agreed with the pope that the emphasis on codoms was furthering the AIDS epidemic.In a consumer culture that worships 'natural', it's ironic that its the church that defends natural human sexuality. And the idea that Catholics 'hate' homosexually attracted persons is simply ridiculous. Any first year biology student knows we are not at all designed for certain sexual practices. But the chruch's view is neither underinformed or insensitive to deeper psychological realities that can cause gender confusions. I think the Catholic Church has been and continues to be , by a very wide margin the most progressive, intelligent and forward looking force for good ever seen in all of history. I am very happy that she is there for me and all.

  45. Well said Patrick. It is hardly possible to uderstate the ignorance of so many in our day who are truly western cultural illiterates. There are probably a million or so Canadians (very conservatively) who honestly believe, largely due to our media's fascination with US biblical fundmantalists, that there's supposed to be some kind of conflict between science and religion. How uninformed do you have to be to buy that one. It's positively scary. Mind you , we live in a culture that is primarily ordered around corporate profit requirements, so things that don't immediately pay off with increased consumption are actively and passively discouraged. Do people never ask how they could have free will if everything is just physical for instance? Are mathematics and logic physical things? There is more to existence than meets the bottom line. I'ver read that Pius XII was directly involved in saving over 700,000 jewish lives and he ordered the churches and convents to hide and protect them. No one did more. Certainly not Canada and the US who turned away boatloads of desperate jewish refugees.

    Cheers

  46. Silly, you can't say, "I'm more Catholic than you," that's like saying I'm more human and such. A Catholic is simply one who in communion with the Pope.

  47. I’d say one of the more important changes to the church under Benedict’s reign occured because of legal investigations into priests in various arch-dioceses around the world. The days of shuffling off predators from one district to another and silence over the abuse of parishioners are coming to a close, but certainly not thanks to Ratzinger.

  48. A more important matter might be an answer to that age-old ecclesiastical question: does the Pope crap in the woods?

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