It seems Pope Benedict XVI has a chronic case of footinthemouth disease. He keeps making incredibly insensitive statements that undermine his efforts to show that he cares about the children abused by priests and nuns:
Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict’s claim yesterday that paedophilia wasn’t considered an “absolute evil” as recently as the 1970s.
In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.
“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.
“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”
Now I am not entirely familiar with 1970s theories, having been born a decade later. However, I am fairly certain that few, if anybody, theorized that pedophilia was a natural process among humans. It certainly occurs with enough regularity that it is probably part of the human condition, but there does not appear to be any evidence that the normal relationship between adults and children is for adults to have sex with children.
More so, I am pretty sure that people considered pedophilia an absolute evil before the 1970s. Were there instances where that did not hold true? Absolutely. In the Netherlands there were child porn magazines as recently as the 1970s. There were also a series of videos that were produced and distributed with apparently little intervention by the authorities. However, those were outlier situations. For the most part, it seems that people were disgusted by the idea of adults having sex with children.
Granted, the Pope has a point about shifting attitudes. Chronologically speaking, it is only recently in the West that we have condemned men having sex with children, and literally only within the last couple of decades that we have begun to condemn women having sex with children. However, the Pope seems to lack any real understanding of the matter:
“We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,” he said, citing the growth of child pornography “that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society” he said.
What society is he living in? Most of the major countries have strict laws regarding child pornography, and those caught making it or possessing it can spend the rest of the lives in prison. Our society is so paranoid about child pornography that there have been people arrested for take photos of their children taking baths or in their underwear. That does not sound like a society that considers it normal.
For whatever reason the Pope continues to take every opportunity to address the sex abuse in his Church to make increasingly disconnected statements. It is unclear if he literally does not get it or if he is so removed that he does not feel like he has to. Whatever the cause, these kind of statements only infuriate the very victims he should be reaching out towards. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that there is no such thing as good and evil, but that is not the kind of comment one should make to abuse victims. Perhaps someone needs to sit down and explain to him the concept of choosing words more carefully because at this point the Pope is not helping the situation.