Europe greets Pope Benedict's condom remarks as 'evolution, not revolution'
Pope Benedict's view that there might be rare cases where condom use is acceptable comes at a time when the Catholic church's image in Europe has been battered by child abuse scandals.
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Benedict treads into unusual territory in saying that a pope suffering ill health should consider resigning. He calls the late founder and head of the powerful Legionaries of Christ, Marcial Maciel Degollado, who fathered children and engaged in other sexual misconduct, “a false prophet” and “a mysterious figure” – though he affirms that the Legionaries are a “by and large, sound” group.Skip to next paragraph
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Much of the book is an unapologetic defense of various Benedict positions. He defends a speech in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006, that many in the Muslim world found offensive, even as he backs a Muslim woman’s right to wear a burqa. There is a defense of his reinstatement in 2009 of a radical right-wing bishop who denies the Holocaust, as well as an explanation of the “impossibility” of ordaining women in the Catholic church.
The priest-pedophile scandals this spring, coming in a self-proclaimed “year of the priest” in the church, were “a volcano of filth” brought by the “devil,” Benedict says. But he admits the church must confront child abuse, and that not to do so is a “declaration of bankruptcy for an institution that has love written on its banner.”
But there are lighter moments, such as when the pope says he and his inner circle likes to kick back and watch DVDs, especially the “Don Camillo” Italian comedy films of the 1950s and 1960s that depict a small-town parish priest who engages in lighthearted repartee with the local communist mayor.
Peter Seewald, the German author who conducted the interviews, said today in German media that pedophilia and positions on homosexuals and the ordination of women are “marginal problems” for the church “in comparison with the tragic loss of faith among its members and the decreasing practice, but they are part of the greater public's expectations.…”
The pope, Mr. Seewald continues, "does not reinvent the church's discourse, but he manages to give it a new light which, I believe, is of great help to us all.”
Benedict headed for his native Germany
Transcripts from the new book appeared on the Vatican news website within 24 hours of an announcement that Benedict will visit his native Germany as pope for the first time, and news that 24 new cardinals have been selected, most from Italy.
In much of the European and American Catholic worlds, many faithful believers are known to use contraception, despite church teachings.
The Vatican did appear to hope for a public relations success, while maintaining a position of theological continuity. Vatican media head Frederico Lombardi said that talk on condoms has “not been heard until now with such clarity from the mouth of the pope, even if it’s in a colloquial rather than magisterial form.”
In a blog titled “The Pope’s Condom Ruling is a Liberation,” Ms. Odone writes that: “The philosopher Pope has freed his people from an ugly ghetto. We languished there, vulnerable targets of strident secularists who portrayed the teaching on condoms as the essence of a backward Church. We were full of self-doubt as we had to defend the indefensible. Now, Benedict has sprung us out of this captivity: we can get on and do good."