Despite having retired from the papacy in 2013 after a papacy increasingly marked by scandal, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI hasn’t given up making public pronouncements on morals in society.
A new biography by German journalist Peter Seeward, simply titled Benedict XVI The Biography: Volume One, contains a 2018 interview between the author and the pontiff, in which Benedict vented his concerns about the world’s moral decline, particularly as it relates to issues like abortion, reproductive technology, and (of course) gay marriage:
One hundred years ago, everybody would have considered it to be absurd to speak of a homosexual marriage. Today one is being excommunicated by society if one opposes it… Modern society is in the middle of formulating an anti-Christian creed, and if one opposes it, one is being punished by society with excommunication. The fear of this spiritual power of the Anti-Christ is then only more than natural.
Benedict appears to confuse social excommunication with “people who want nothing to do with you anymore.” Imagine becoming persona non grata for opposing the marriages — in some cases, even the existence of — people you’ve never met.
He apparently sees no contradiction in accusing equal rights proponents of social excommunication on behalf of the Church that literally invented excommunication as a punishment. That word, “excommunication,” would not exist without the Catholic Church.
Given his history as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Inquisition), he doesn’t seem to find anything inherently wrong about the practice of shunning or otherwise sanctioning people for their dissenting opinions; he’s just mad that other people are presuming to do it in ways he doesn’t like.
It’s worth noting that, when the Church excommunicates somebody, they believe they’re consigning that person to eternal torment in a pit of fire, often for a disagreement over some nicety of religious doctrine. The social excommunication Benedict laments often amounts to individual people deciding, in great enough numbers to have an impact, that a person holding dehumanizing opinions about others is not somebody they care to spend time around.
In the same interview, Benedict hand-waved away the troubles that dogged him throughout his years in the papal seat, including the sex abuse scandal he inherited and the corruption and infighting revealed by the “Vatileaks” scandal. He preferred bringing the focus back to how persecuted they all are as Christians and Catholics:
Of course, issues such as ‘Vatileaks’ are exasperating and, above all, incomprehensible and highly disturbing to people in the world at large. But the real threat to the Church and thus to the ministry of St. Peter consists not in these things, but in the worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies, and to contradict them constitutes exclusion from the basic social consensus.
The power structure of the Catholic Church benefits from this approach. If they can keep the faithful focused on how much anger they’re receiving from the people who object to discrimination and prejudice, there’s precious little bandwidth left for those same faithful to consider the corruption at the top of the organization that receives so much of their time, attention, effort, and money.
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