I’ll get the Emperor Palpatine joke out of the way early: “Let the hate flow through you.” OK, I’m done. Moving on.
It’s no secret that Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement has led to a lot of curious clicks on his Wikipedia page. Plenty of people are wondering what he did and how he’ll be remembered. The short version is this: Benedict was a complete dick, and anybody else will be an improvement.
To be more specific, Benedict will be remembered for undoing 25 years of AIDS prevention in Africa; delegitimizing women in positions of power in the church; and, most importantly, covering up child abuse in the church and protecting the priests accused of molesting these children.
As most people know, the Roman Catholic Church has long been against the use of contraceptives of any sort. While the previous pope, John Paul II, made statements about the immorality of condom usage, he did not suggest eliminating their use. Instead, he stated that abstinence was the only way to avoid contracting HIV and reminded his followers that contraceptives were a sin.
Benedict, however, said that condom usage actually increased the odds of contracting HIV, and that their use made sense only for already-diseased prostitutes. In so doing, he cast condoms in a negative light—not simply as a sin, but as an object intended solely for prostitutes that doesn’t actually help anyone in the long run.
That’s bad enough without me providing commentary on Benedict’s eyebrow-raising views on male prostitution. I’ll kindly refrain.
His views on women were even worse, though. It’s no secret that Catholicism has some very choice beliefs about women, in general. This is a church, after all, that spent a few hundred years slaughtering women who spoke their minds, thought critically about their life choices and tried to
Benedict hails from an old-world school of thought that says women are inferior to men. John Paul at least made an effort to present women as equal to men; in his 1988 letter Mulieris Dignitatem, he said that “both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree.” He later elaborated that men and women are equal under God but that their roles in the church may differ because of the way churches are run.
Never one to underrepresent his views, Benedict declared his opposition to women as equals as often as he could. In fact, while Benedict’s Catholic Church faced heavy scrutiny over allegations of priests sexually abusing children, the Vatican crafted a document of crimes against sacraments and morals. In this document, they equated ordaining women as priests with a crime on par with pedophilia.
Benedict also focused much of his work on eliminating access to contraceptives and good family planning for women, as well as pushing a pro-life agenda to the detriment of women everywhere.
These are not the moves of a person who likes women.
What he will be remembered for most, however, is his handling (or non-handling, as it were) of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. He protected the priests accused of sexual abuse, often defending them in spite of incriminating evidence. He also struggled to rationalize the abuse, providing such gems as “priests are also sinners,” and “less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type.”
It’s expected that Benedict will stay in the Vatican after the new pope is elected, likely to avoid prosecution for child endangerment. He’s previously been named as a defendant in such cases, and it’s entirely possible he could be prosecuted again. However, by remaining in the Vatican, he will retain his immunity and be untouchable.
A good move for someone who knows he’d be found guilty.
All in all, Benedict was a terrible human being and a horrible role model for young people. It’s a relief that there will be a new pope so soon. Hopefully, the next pope (perhaps Peter the Roman, as stated in St. Malachy’s prophecy?) will manage to not mess up Africa, hate on women and protect pedophiles.
It’s a long shot, but we can dream.