New York State In-depth

In the US, there are sharply divided views on Benedict XIV’s legacy

NEW YORK (AP) – Across the United States, admirers of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recalled: to him for his theological ability and devotion to traditional doctrine. However, when some US Catholics learned of his death on Saturday, they remembered him as an obstacle to progress in tackling clergy sex abuse and expanding the role of women in the church.

Professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, described Benedict as “a man of unshakable faith, deep conviction and towering intellect,” but added that he left behind “a complicated legacy.” have.

She noted that last February, following a report implicating him in the cover-up of sexual abuse during the years he was Archbishop of Munich, Benedict “acknowledged his failure at times to take decisive action against sexual abusers.”

Steven Millies, professor of public theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, noted that before he became pope, Benedict played a leading role in enforcing church discipline at a time when the US sex abuse crisis was raging two decades ago made headlines.

“When he was elected Pope to succeed John Paul II in 2005, Benedict XVI was the person who knew best about clergy sex abuse,” Millies said via email. “Nevertheless, the crisis simmered throughout the papacy of Benedict after his resignation in 2013 and even today.”

Millies suggested that Benedict’s most important legacy was his resignation, stemming from “his realization that, given the entrenched power of the Vatican’s centralized bureaucracy, he could not solve the abuse crisis or accomplish much else.”

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who heads the archdiocese for military services in the US and is president of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference, praised Benedict as “an outstanding theologian” and recalled how the announcement of his resignation “shocked the world”.

“He recognized the great demands placed on him as head pastor of the universal Church of one billion Catholics worldwide and his physical limitations for such a monumental task,” Broglio said in a statement. “Even in retirement, when he retired to live a life of quiet prayer and study, he continued to teach us how to become a true disciple of Christ.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was appointed Archbishop of New York and made a cardinal by Benedict, praised the pope emeritus as a “learned, wise and holy man who spoke the truth with love”.

Monsignor Kevin Irwin, dean emeritus of Catholic University of America, called Benedict a “top class professor of theology…a clear thinker who has made a quiet contribution to the continuity of the Church after Pope John Paul II”.

Irwin said Benedict’s resignation left him stunned.

“But in the end it was about understanding that he was overwhelmed and letting him go,” Irwin said.

Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk, Vicar General of the Diocese of Orange in Southern California, remembered Benedict as a gracious leader who had the ability to build bridges and promote reconciliation.

“There was this unfair perception that he was there to cut people off at the knees,” said Doktorczyk, who served five years — from September 2011 to December 2016 — in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for the Vatican’s editing of complaints of sexual abuse by clergy. “He was trying to be a peacemaker. When there was a way to make up, he tried to think outside the box.”

Others have been more critical, including Kate McElwee, executive director of the US-based Women’s Ordination Conference, which advocates allowing women to be ordained Catholic priests.

“For many Catholics, Pope Benedict’s papacy is a chapter in our church history that we are still recovering from,” McElwee said. In her statement, Benedict claimed that as head of the Vatican Magisterium and as Pope, he “managed a rigid campaign of theological oppression on the issue of women’s ordination and created a culture of fear and pain within the Church.”

A harsh judgment also came from David Clohessy, a longtime leader of the network of survivors of those who were abused by priests.

“In more than 30 years as a powerful Vatican bureaucrat – nearly 10 of them as the world’s leading Catholic figure – Benedict enabled countless child abuse crimes and cover-ups to continue by virtually refusing to publicly expose any child molestering minister or complicit church official ‘ Clohessy said via email.

“With his immense power and his vexatious pulpit, he could have prevented hundreds, maybe thousands, of children from being sexually abused. But he did not do it. Instead, he has consistently sided with ordained ministers when it comes to vulnerable children.”


Associated Press reporter Deepa Bharath in Southern California contributed to this report.


The Associated Press’s religion coverage is supported by AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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