Here are just a few of the glaring failures of Pope Benedict XVI, detailed by The New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein and myself:
- He inadvertently insulted Muslims on an early trip to Germany, which resulted in riots across the Islamic world and the murder of an Italian nun in Somalia.
- He presided over a strategy of co-belligerence, where Catholic Bishops teamed up with the protestant Religious Right to assert false and ridiculous claims that their “religious liberty” was under assault. This includes the latest contrived kerfuffle over birth control in health plans.
- Helped promote backward and sexist attitudes towards women
- Strengthened the Catholic celibacy cult, Courage, and regularly degraded LGBT people, while elevating extremists
- The pontiff declared war on marriage equality, dumped money into this issue, and used his homophobic bishops to stick their noses into America’s civil affairs where it doesn’t belong, violating separation of church and state, as well as IRS rules.
- The pope lifted the excommunication of four schismatic ultraconservative bishops from the breakaway Society of St. Pius X, who reject the reforms of Vatican II. One of the breakaway bishops had just recorded an interview denying the facts of the Holocaust.
- He told reporters on the papal plane winging toward Africa that condoms had helped spread AIDS.
- When the clerical sexual abuse scandal spread across Europe and exploded at Benedict’s door in 2010, Benedict met with abuse survivors and oversaw the development of new church policies to prevent abuse. But he was denounced by survivors and their advocates for never moving to discipline bishops who were caught in the cover-up.
- Even Pope Benedict’s attempt to reach out with a pastoral letter to the church in Ireland, worn down by revelations of widespread clergy sexual abuse, left many there infuriated when he appeared to blame the nation’s spiritual disillusionment on the Irish Catholics themselves.
- He presided over two investigations of American nuns.
- He oversaw the censure of theologians and the removal of Bishop William Morris in Australia, who had written a pastoral letter raising the possibility of women and married priests.
- In 2012, he excommunicated the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, an American priest who blessed a woman in what the church considered an illicit ordination ceremony.
- In the last year, the Vatican became entangled in a scandal that led to the arrest of the pope’s personal butler for leaking documents to a journalist who then published an exposé.
Unfortunately, gay and liberal Catholics who keep expressing their seemingly endless supply of “hope” for the new leader of their church, are likely to be disappointed. They are not going to get a progressive pope, and likely won’t even get a moderate one. They could even do worse than the current guy, by having a charismatic Pope selected, who can put a happy veneer over harsh, anachronistic policies.
The best progressives can hope for is a David Souter situation, in which I’m referring to the Supreme Court Justice picked by George H.W. Bush, who turned out to be significantly more liberal that Republicans had anticipated. Similarly, a Pope with an an arch-conservative record will be chosen. The question is, will the individual, once freed from having to shrewdly conceal his real views under the watchful eye of Benedict, be surprisingly open minded and drag the Church into at least the 17th Century?