German traditional Catholic author says Vatican II at the root of sexual abuse crisis in the Church
‘Anyone who seriously asks about the causes of this catastrophe, which was growing at the time, will also have to take into account its ‘When’ – the years that followed the ‘New Pentecost’ of the Second Vatican Council,’ writes Martin Mosebach.
Tue Feb 15, 2022 – 10:33 am EST
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany (LifeSiteNews) —Martin Mosebach, a German traditional Catholic and renowned book author, has written one of the best analyses of the current clerical sex abuse crisis (see full text below). Instead of using indignation about the abuse of children within the Church as an excuse to promote yet another reform program of further decline, Mosebach draws our attention to the fact that the abuse crisis was fostered by a loosening doctrine and discipline in the first place.
Writing for the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the author points out that even Pope Benedict, in his own critique of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and its effects on the Catholic priesthood, “did not dare to discuss the role that the post-conciliar developments had contributed to it [the sexual abuse crisis].”
“What he did not mention,” Mosebach continues, “was the condition in which the clergy found itself as a result of the disintegrating developments after the Council, when the influence of the political revolt began to have an effect on it.”
The condition of the priests, according to Mosebach, had been strongly weakened by the softening of the traditional discipline imposed upon priests. Before the Council, they had been obliged to offer the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass on a daily basis, and they had other supportive measures in their lives, as well. States the author:
Literally overnight, the order that until then had characterized the daily life of a priest was overturned. The cassock and priest’s collar disappeared – the priest became invisible in public. The obligation to celebrate daily Holy Mass was dropped – only those familiar with Catholic Tradition can appreciate the disciplinary support that this daily practice, combined with the obligation to make frequent confessions, is capable of providing.
Thanks to this lack of structure and discipline, a priest could more easily fall into temptations. LifeSiteNews has learned in conversations with older priests that the obligation to pray the breviary daily was an old discipline also very helpful for priests, as was the usual rule that they had to live in community if possible and come home in the evenings at a certain time—albeit with exceptions, of course. One priest stressed how much these rules helped priests to steer away from temptations.
Mosebach also rightly points out that the post-conciliar popes, while upholding the sacredness of the priesthood in theory, did not sufficiently intervene to protect the priesthood in practice.
“None of the last popes,” he explains, “has resisted this erosion of the Catholic priesthood, even if they proclaimed otherwise ex cathedra. It is not to be said that a priest in the classical tradition cannot become a perpetrator of a sexual offense – there have been such at all times, even under strict observance – but one can very well say that it is easier for a priest embedded in the traditional discipline to master his temptations.”
In addition to the aspect of discipline, the author also highlights that many seminaries have questioned the Church’s doctrines: so much so that the Church herself seems to have lost her way – and certainly also her claim to teach truth.
Here again, the problem seems to be that the Popes do not wish to implement discipline to protect the Church’s doctrine. Says the author: “Today Rome can still publish a catechism of Catholic doctrine that is pretty much in line with the tradition of two millennia, but it can no longer ensure that this catechism would be even considered in official academic theology, let alone in seminaries and religious education. For the history of the Church, sixty years is a very short period of time: in it, with unstoppable steadiness, the Church, which until then had survived the most severe shocks, virtually crumbled in many places.”
It would need a deeper discussion to reflect upon the weakening of the Church’s own teachings that has taken place during these last few decades, some of which has also entered the Church’s catechism, as LifeSite journalist Michael Haynes only recently more fully analyzed in his book A Catechism of Errors. Haynes shows, for example, how the new Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1994 contributed to the weakening of the priesthood by stressing the common priesthood of the faithful and by describing the Holy Mass as a “banquet.” But this discussion could be developed at another point.
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Martin Mosebach, with his concise and strong critique of the Church’s failing to foster and protect her clergy, lays out a way of true reform, a reform that is a return to former disciplines and traditions, as the Church has always sought to do over the centuries. It is to be hoped that this essay will be studied intensely and prayerfully by the Church’s hierarchy, since it shows the only way out of a deadly cycle of continuous reforms and dilutions which only further the current crisis.
Please see here the full text by Martin Mosebach:
The reform disaster of the Church: nobody wants to see the causes of the abuse scandal. But they can be clearly identified
by Martin Mosebach
In the course of the ongoing abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, there are constant questions about the causes: Pope Francis wants to identify a fatal “clericalism” as a trigger, some bishops are convinced that the abuses of children and adolescents by priests are favored by the “system” of the Church, others specifically want to make celibacy responsible for them.
The Church as a whole must be completely renewed. “No stone must be left unturned” is what is heard, which seems somewhat exaggerated in view of the fact that the delinquents of the last sixty years are no more than three percent of the priests who were active during this period. It is apparently forgotten that the Church of the present is by no means the encrusted and fossilized monster she appears to be in these statements. Rather, the Church has undergone a revolution that is unparalleled in her entire history.
While the Second Vatican Council, which ended sixty years ago, confirmed the external form of the hierarchy, the leadership of the Church by the Pope and the bishops, and the traditional faith of the Church, it also set in motion a development that in fact “left no stone unturned” – the face of the Church has changed beyond recognition in these sixty years. And these changes have not been completed – the truth is that this process has long since become unmanageable, since the structures of obedience in the post-conciliar Church have largely collapsed.
The years after the ‘New Pentecost’
Today Rome can still publish a catechism of Catholic doctrine that is pretty much in line with the tradition of two millennia, but it can no longer ensure that this catechism would be even considered in official academic theology, let alone in seminaries and religious education. For the history of the Church, sixty years is a very short period of time: in it, with unstoppable steadiness, the Church, which until then had survived the most severe shocks, virtually crumbled in many places.
If not everything is deceptive, however, a high proportion of the cases of abuse occurred precisely in the decades following the Council. Anyone who seriously asks about the causes of this catastrophe, which was growing at the time, will also have to take into account its “When” – the years that followed the “New Pentecost” of the Second Vatican Council.
One cannot expect such a scrutiny from the hierarchy – the Council itself has only recently been canonized by the canonization of the two Council Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. Even Benedict XVI, who spoke about the abuse scandals from his retirement home, did not dare to discuss the role that the post-conciliar developments contributed to them.
Benedict merely recalled that this period had coincided with the ’68 revolt – with what was called “sexual liberation,” when it was debated by intellectuals who are still highly respected today whether or not pedophilia should continue to be considered a crime. What he did not mention was the condition in which the clergy found itself as a result of the disintegrating developments after the Council, when the influence of the political revolt began to have an effect on it.
The priest becomes invisible
In retrospect, however, here lay exactly the disaster. The undermining of all authority and the sexual revolution met with a clergy that had been deprived of all the elements to maintain its discipline. Literally overnight, the order that until then had characterized the daily life of a priest was overturned.
The cassock and priest’s collar disappeared – the priest became invisible in public. The obligation to celebrate daily Holy Mass was dropped – only those familiar with Catholic Tradition can appreciate the disciplinary support that this daily practice, combined with the obligation to make frequent confessions, is capable of providing. In theology and in priestly formation, the sacramental character of the priesthood was questioned, if not outright denied. The “Depositum Fidei,” the actual deposit of the faith, was tattered anyway. Anything reliable and binding was considered obsolete.
The Christian religion’s claim to truth was now suspected of being totalitarian, violent, and intolerant – by theologians, mind you, who interpreted the ominous Council motto of “aggiornamento” as a call to constantly subject church doctrine to the prevailing mood at the given time. The notion of the sacredness of the priesthood was particularly denounced. According to the traditional Catholic view, the priest acts at the altar “in persona Christi” – he embodies Christ during the rite, so he is by no means the “chairman” [i.e., presider—ed.] of a celebration of Mass, as it is called today, as if it were a party assembly.
Discipline and temptation
Whoever would represent the Catholic and orthodox conception of the priesthood in a seminary today might, at best, expect to be ridiculed. The liturgy of the Mass, which had been handed down from young Christianity for more than 1500 years, was replaced by a Mass ordowritten in subversive haste, which reduced the sacredness of the rite as far as possible and in such a way that a Protestant could hardly take offense at it. To this day, one can hear in the seminaries that celibacy will soon fall. A theologian who holds the teaching, even of the most recent Popes, that it is impossible for the Church to ordain women, has no prospect of a theological chair today.
Not one of the most recent Popes has resisted this erosion of the Catholic priesthood, even if he proclaimed otherwise ex cathedra. It is not to be said that a priest in the classical tradition cannot become a perpetrator of a sexual offense – there have been such at all times, even under strict observance – but one can very well say that it is easier for a priest embedded in the traditional discipline to master his temptations.
In this context, the Roman assumption that pedophile crimes are a consequence of “clericalism” is downright grotesque – the opposite is the case. It is a post-conciliar anticlericalism within the Church that denies the sacramental special position of the priesthood, which has stripped priests of important aids that help them to remain faithful to their vows.
The episcopal handling of the post-conciliar abuse scandal is incomprehensible if one sees only an evil corporate spirit at work that does not want to cast a shadow on the Church’s works. Good will is also involved in many disasters. In this case, the good will sprang from a change in mentality that had gripped the entire Western world – a very general unease with the word “punishment”.
The mercy trap
Modern society no longer feels legitimized to punish – with some justification because nowadays a generally binding moral code is at least marked with a question mark. In today’s view, punishment is diametrically opposed to mercy. And the Church is merciful, what else?
For centuries, however, mercy, this indisputable quality of the Church, had been understood differently. Punishment and mercy were an inseparable pair. Punishment was an important instrument of mercy. It opened the way to repentance and atonement for the sinner – and this only cleared the way for mercy, which culminated in the forgiveness of guilt – in heaven, mind you, not on earth.
In the post-conciliar period, the Church slipped out of such a way of thinking very quickly. Canonical criminal law was toned down; the Church’s own jurisdiction, which had been its pride for centuries – there are even martyrs for her jurisdiction, such as St. Thomas Beckett – went to sleep.
The bishops, seeing before them the lamentable malefactor who sat weeping before them, wanted to be human – merciful, that is, although Christian mercy remains incomplete without the struggle for the endangered soul. Those who are indignant today about this certainly mistaken practice complain that mercy was shown to the perpetrators, but not to the victims. They forget that the victims do not need mercy; they can demand the opposite: justice.
What reform should look like
It is not surprising that in the face of the increasing number of abuse cases, there is a call for reform of the Church. But it must not be forgotten what the term “reform,” well anchored in Church history, meant until Vatican II: namely, a restoration of discipline, a tightening of the reins, an end to profligacy, and a return to the traditional order.
The “reforms” of the Second Vatican Council are the first in the entire history of the Church to depart from this conception; they no longer trusted Tradition to reach the people of the present, and therefore relied on a general softening of practice and doctrine, although without succeeding, with this pastoral relativism, to keep people in the Church.
It is not a Church that is frozen in its rites and fossilized in its doctrines that has been losing the faithful in a steadily increasing stream since Vatican II, but a Church that has softened in doctrine and become liturgically formless. It is not priests who have broken under the yoke of a rule foreign to life and become abusers, but those who have now been freed for decades from clear spiritual supervision.
Now that the “reform” disaster of sixty post-conciliar years is before everyone’s eyes in all its shameful proportions, the Pope and many bishops, especially the German ones, can think of nothing else to say than that one has just not gone far enough in the radical dismantling of the Catholic proprium – this reminds one of the short-sighted tailor who looks at a pair of mismatched trousers, cocks his head and wonders: “Cut off three times and still too short.”
Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.
Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte, Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.