POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT'S MESSAGE ON THE PRESENT DISTRESS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
A few weeks ago Klerusblatt, a German clerical journal published an extended reflection by Pope Emeritus Benedict on the present condition of the Catholic Church which is, as we all know, reeling from moral scandals worldwide in scope.
The reflection did receive media attention, but it was largely (and falsely) framed as a Benedict vs. Francis faceoff.
The complete essay, translated into English for the National Catholic Register, is a very carefully balanced analysis of the immoral behaviors in the context of the second-half of the 20th Century. I think it well worth reading for anyone who wants to try to understand the Church’s internal problems at a deeper level.
What has received little to no attention, however, from the Pope Emeritus’s reflection is the third and final part where, as he says, “I would like to develop some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.”
While it is not possible to do justice to Benedict’s careful and subtle thinking in this confined space, I cite the following excerpts from Part III to give some idea of its content and in the hope that readers will be interested in seeking out the complete essay on their own.
What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted within us. First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption…
It is very important to oppose the lies and halftruths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them...Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of Martyrs” and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today...who stand up for God with their life and suffering.