How low will Benedict XVI-bashing pundits go?

Low. Lower. And so low—in terms of both argument and insinuation—you wonder what forgotten basement of unreality these people are living in. In this case, the cyber pages of The Daily Star (Lebanon):

The pope’s words suggest that homosexuality is a kind of lifestyle choice, a form of modern decadence – a secular, even blasphemous act against God and nature – rather than a fact of birth. This is a common belief among religious believers, be they conservative Catholics, Protestants, Jews or Muslims. Tellingly, Benedict quoted Gilles Bernheim, the chief rabbi of France, who has expressed similar views on the threats to conventional family life.

Fear of sexual behavior is one of the main reasons why most religions establish strict rules concerning sexual relationships. Marriage is a way of containing our dangerous desires. Restricting sexual conduct to procreation is supposed to make the world safer and more peaceful. Because women excite the desires of men, they are thought to pose a threat outside the confines of the family home. That is why, in some societies, they are not allowed to emerge from those confines, or may do so only if fully covered and accompanied by a male relative.

Benedict is not so extreme. Nor does he advocate violence against homosexuals. On the contrary, he sees himself as a deeply civilized man of peace. But I would argue that his speech actually encourages the kind of sexual aggression that can result in the savagery that took place in New Delhi.

The six rapists who killed the young woman were not modern decadents who chose to defy God and nature by claiming new secular freedoms, let alone heterodox sexual identities. From what we can surmise from this case – and many others like it – they are the semi-urbanized products of a highly conventional rural society where the roles of men, and especially women, are tightly regulated. Their victim, a well-educated physiotherapy intern, seems to have been a great deal more modern than her attackers. The men were not uneducated, but they were unable to cope with the freedoms of contemporary women.

Get that? Sure, the author smirks, the Pope doesn’t actually encourage violence, but Benedict XVI’s comments, made in his year-end address to the Roman Curia, somehow encourage and foster it. How so? Here is the basic argument: “But the more sex is repressed and people are made to fear it the greater the chance of sexual violence, because anyone who might possibly stir our sexual desires, man or woman, becomes a potential target of our rage.” 

I suppose that would make sense—if it weren’t complete nonsense and had nothing to do with what Benedict actually said or what the Catholic Church teaches. For example, how can the Church be accused of “repressing sex” when she is also blasted for her supposedly irresponsible rejection of contraceptions and her encouragement of large families? And if serious Catholics are indeed “repressed”, wouldn’t we expect incidents of rape to be quite high among such Catholics, especially married Catholics? Were the six accused rapists mentioned by the author all married Catholic men? I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet a volume of Catholic moral theology that they aren’t. 

I’m not an expert on the pathology of rape and sexual violence. But I do know that the Catholic Church has taught, since her founding, that rape is a grave evil, and that sex is meant for marriage. And that sex outside of marriage—whether heterosexual or homosexual—is sinful, because it violates the nature of man and of the sexual embrace. When I hear of a rape commited by six men, I don’t logically conclude that they suffered from “repression”, but from something quite different, including an inhuman lust that cares not at all about the humanity and dignity of the victim. It is this inhumanity that Benedict touched upon in his address, albeit with a different focus (on the modern “liberation” from gender):

When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. 

Yet, the columnist explains (without really explaining at all), Benedict is “a man who appears to understand little about sexual life. That is why, instead of talking about rapists, he targeted peaceful homosexual men and women who wish to show their commitment to their lovers by marrying them.” The deafness is, sadly, to be expected; the snarky condescension, alas, is becoming all too common. The Church has always condemned rape (yes, I’m stating the obvious); in the ancient world, the Church was often the lone voice defending women against violence and rape. Now those who are worldly and wise, at least according to their confused measure, and who know nothing about humanity and sexuality offer us arrogant, amoral lectures based on sentiment and politically-correct clichés while irresponsibly insinuating that the Pope is responsible for rape and for violence against homosexuals. Lower, lower, lower we go.

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About Carl E. Olson 1233 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.