(Maike Hickson, Life Site News – november 30, 2020) Professor Roberto de Mattei, a prominent Italian historian and traditional Catholic, has commented on the Theodore McCarrick scandal as it has been further revealed by the recently published McCarrick Report. In a statement written for LifeSiteNews, he explains the link between this decades-long history of the Church’s ignoring warning signs about McCarrick’s immoral personal life and the weakening of the Church’s moral integrity since the Second Vatican Council. With the Council, he says, came a “new morality” and the loss of the Church’s determination to condemn evil and fight sin.
LifeSite has noted that the McCarrick Report reveals how all three Popes involved in the McCarrick case – John Paul II, Benedict XVI, as well as Francis – had in one way or another an all-too lenient attitude toward the now-ex cardinal. John Paul II was aware that the U.S. cardinal repeatedly slept, as bishop, with priests and seminarians in the same bed; Benedict XVI had received public warnings by U.S. journalists such as Richard Sipe and Matt Abbot that McCarrick had homosexual relations with priests; and Francis was informed by several of his collaborators about McCarrick’s history yet decided to collaborate with him on multiple fronts.
Since most of the McCarrick scandal developed under the pontificates of Popes with a more conservative reputation, LifeSite reached out to Professor de Mattei, asking him to comment on this phenomenon, also in light of the fact that conservative cardinals such as the deceased Cardinal Joachim Meisner have now come under criticism in Germany for having mishandled terrible cases of sex abuse. For example, Meisner is now being described by a leaked report prepared by a law firm hired by the Archdiocese of Cologne for having kept a priest, Father A., in good standing, and for decades, who had already been imprisoned in 1972 for multiple abuses of children. The priest never encountered canonical sanctions or punishments for his repeated sexual abuse, even in later years – for example after having been once more sentenced by a court for sexual abuse in 1988, the year when Cardinal Meisner became the archbishop of Cologne. An independent LifeSite report on this matter is forthcoming.
In order to explain even the lack of decisiveness in fighting clerical sexual abuse among conservative Popes and prelates, Professor de Mattei points in his statement (see full text below) to the Second Vatican Council. According to him, from the Council “emerged” a “nouvelle morale” that embraced the world and changed the Church’s view of sexuality.
The Council’s Constitution Gaudium et Spes reversed the ends of marriage, giving the traditional primary end of marriage – that is, the begetting and raising of children – a lesser significance than the aspect of conjugal love and support. By reversing the ends of marriage, the path to a love independent of procreation – thereby indirectly opening a path to homosexual “love” – was opened up. De Mattei speaks here of a “distorted idea of love.”
By way of confirmation of this thesis, we might point out that especially the German progressivist wing of the Church repeatedly stresses that the marital act need not be linked with its procreative act. For example, Professor Stephan Goertz, a moral theologian and author of books on homosexuality, proposed in 2015 that procreation was linked with sexuality in the times of the Old Testament since the Jews at the time struggled for their survival. He then went on to say that this “is obviously not any more our situation, and that, since the (Second Vatican) Council, it has also not been any more our own moral teaching on sexuality.”
In the same vein, Professor Eberhard Schockenhoff – the key architect of the German Synodal Path that aims at questioning the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, male ordination, and the Church’s hierarchy – proposed last year that sexuality and lust be regarded in their positive characteristics as helping people to “assure themselves of their identity,” thus they be regarded as a “end in itself,” without reference to procreation.
Professor de Mattei explains this phenomenon as follows: “Sexuality was defined as an essential value for the personal maturation of the individual. The Council’s Constitution Gaudium et Spes, which abandoned the traditional doctrine on procreation as the primary end of marriage, was considered a manifesto of this new relationship with the world.”
As can be seen, this statement is not only applicable to the above-mentioned progressivists, but to all those prelates in the Church who embraced and welcomed the Second Vatican Council.
Here, Professor de Mattei stresses, however, that not every churchman embraced the extremes of the novel morality. “Certainly not everybody, within the Church, has brought this discourse to its logical consequences,” he writes, “but unfortunately John Paul II, with his ‘theology of the body,’ has proposed a false alternative to the new morality.”
With regard to Pope Benedict XVI, the Italian historian states that “while vigorously opposing pedophilia,” he “has never dared to condemn the rampant homosexuality within the Church, applying a policy of silence, which has become aiding and abetting sin.”
This can be seen not only in the McCarrick case – where Benedict XVI explicitly decided against opening up a canonical investigation of the allegations against McCarrick that would have brought light and justice into the matter – but also in the case of a former high-ranking German diplomat, Monsignor K. In the case of Monsignor K, Benedict decided merely to move him away from the Vatican and then, after additional and persisting reports about Monsignor K’s active and aggressive homosexuality, to dismiss him from the diplomatic service and to send him back to his home diocese, instead of investigating the allegations of his misdeeds.
While not directly relating to the problem of homosexuality, a third example of Pope Benedict’s “policy of silence” that turns out to “abet sin” is the case of the Integrated Community (Integrierte Gemeinde), a Catholic community that had received its canonical status from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1978, with certain conditions placed upon them. However, he did not establish ways of making sure that these conditions – for example, that they do not tinker with the rubrics of the Holy Mass and that they preserve the sense of being members of the Catholic Church and don’t think they are something exclusive – were met and implemented. And, as multiple reports show, he also did not take seriously the warning reports he received from different sources. As a newly published report of the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising shows, this group never mended its ways, had a cult-like character, and intruded into the personal lives of its members, telling some of them whether they should have children or not and that much of their personal wealth should be handed over to the community. Much abuse has taken place in more than 40 years of this group’s existence, leading to the estrangement of parents and children and to the break-up of marriages. While Pope Benedict only a few weeks ago distanced himself from this group, he still has two of their members (Professors Weimer and Buckenmaier) on the board of the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation, which was founded in 2007 with his approval.
Let us return to Professor de Mattei’s principled comments. He extends his critique of Benedict’s weakness in fighting moral corruption in the Church to some of his conservative collaborators and prelates. “Just like Pope Benedict,” he adds, “also many other conservative prelates were affected by this weakness in dealing with and confronting the homosexual problem within the Church. Ignoring these responsibilities would be hypocrisy.”
Finally, explains the Italian historian, the Second Vatican Council weakened the Church’s abhorrence of evil and her willingness to fight sin. Here, he points to Pope John XXIII’s opening speech at the Council. On October 11, 1962, John XXIII made “the distinction between the truths of faith and morals and ‘the way in which they are announced.’”
“From that moment on,” de Mattei continues, “the supreme authorities of the Church gave up explicitly condemning evil, and limited themselves to speak, in an often unclear way, on the good. No truths have since been defined and no errors anathemized. Evil was often hidden or ignored.”
That is to say, the Council not only brought us an opening toward a “new morality” that opened paths to an acceptance of homosexuality, but it also weakened the Church’s determination to fight evil. In this sense, Pope Francis’s new encyclical Fratelli tutti is for Professor de Mattei a continuation of the loss of this “supernatural” worldview that keeps in mind the end stages of our human existence, heaven or hell.
Please see here Professor de Mattei’s full statement:
The McCarrick case is the ultimate and sensational expression of a vast problem that has its origins in the “nouvelle morale” that emerged with the Second Vatican Council. According to this new psychological and moral attitude, Catholics should change their relationship with the world, discovering its positive character. Sexuality was defined as an essential value for the personal maturation of the individual. The Council’s Constitution Gaudium et Spes, which abandoned the traditional doctrine on procreation as the primary end of marriage, was considered a manifesto of this new relationship with the world. We moved from the love of neighbor, based on the love of God and the discipline of sexual instincts, to a dialogical relationship with the other in which the satisfaction of instincts was justified in the name of a distorted idea of love. Certainly not everybody, within the Church, has brought this discourse to its logical consequences, but unfortunately John Paul II, with his “theology of the body,” has proposed a false alternative to the new morality; and Benedict XVI, while vigorously opposing pedophilia, has never dared to condemn the rampant homosexuality within the Church, applying a policy of silence, which has become aiding and abetting sin. Just like Pope Benedict, also many other conservative prelates were affected by this weakness in dealing with and confronting the homosexual problem within the Church. Ignoring these responsibilities would be hypocrisy.
If the gay-friendly culture has its implicit premise in the new morality introduced by the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes, which is the last document of the Second Vatican Council, the failure to condemn homosexuality has its presupposition in the discourse with which on October 11, 1962, John XXIII opened the Council establishing the distinction between the truths of faith and morals and “the way in which they are announced.” From that moment on, the supreme authorities of the Church gave up explicitly condemning evil, and limited themselves to speak, in an often unclear way, on the good. No truths have since been defined and no errors anathemized. Evil was often hidden or ignored. But if good is not clearly defined and evil is not firmly condemned, it no longer makes sense to speak of heaven or of hell, which are the reward or the punishment that, for eternity, await those who die either in a state of grace or in a state of sin. And in the end it no longer makes sense to even talk about eternity. A horizontal and sociological worldview replaces the vertical and supernatural one. This leads to “Fratelli tutti.”