Former Pope Benedict XVI Calls Marriage Equality a “Deformation of Conscience”

Pope Benedict XVI

Former pope Benedict XVI sharply criticized marriage equality as the result of a “deformation of conscience” that is in “contradiction to all previously successive cultures of mankind.”

In the introduction to a new anthology of his own writings on Europe, the former pope struck against European nations’ movement to expand marriage rights to same-gender couples. That introduction was published in Il Foglio, an Italian publication. The text reads, in part (via Google Translate):

“We are witnessing a distortion of conscience which evidently penetrated deeply into sectors of the Catholic people. To this one cannot respond with some small moralism or even with some exegetical remorse. The problem goes deeper and therefore must be tackled at the bottom. First of all, it seems important to note that the concept of homosexual marriage is in contradiction with all the cultures of humanity that have occurred up to now and therefore signifies a cultural revolution that is opposed to the whole tradition of humanity up to now. . .

“The basic certainty that man [human person] exists as male and female; that the transmission of life is a task assigned to man [human person]; that it is the community of male and female that serves this task; and that in this, beyond all differences, marriage essentially consists – it is an original certainty that until today it has been obvious to humanity.

“A fundamental upheaval of this certainty. . .was introduced when, with the pill, the separation between fecundity and sexuality became possible in terms of principle. This is not about cases, of if and when, possibly, the use of the pill may be morally justified, but of the fundamental novelty that it as such means: that is to say precisely the separation in terms of principle between sexuality and fecundity. This separation means, in fact, that in this way all forms of sexuality are equated.”

Benedict goes on to criticize reproductive technologies that help people, including LGBTQ couples, have children, suggesting procreation becomes not the “occasional passion of the body” but a “planned production of our doing.” He continues:

“In this way, however, it is evident that, with respect to the question of ‘same-sex marriage,’ it is not a question of being a little bit broad and open. Rather, the basic question: who is man? And with it also the question if there is either a Creator or if we are not all only products of [one’s own] making. . .

“Unfortunately, ‘the human ecology’ has not yet materialized. Man too has a ‘nature’ that has been given to him, and to rape or deny it leads to self-destruction. This is precisely what we are dealing with in the case of the creation of man as male and female, which is ignored in the postulate of ‘same-sex marriage’.”

The former pope’s introduction is unfortunate on two levels. First, there is simply the matter of Benedict continuing to publish in the era of Pope Francis. This question of how pope emeriti are to behave, a question not dealt with since the twelfth century, is being figured out in real time so there are bound to be difficulties. But when Benedict’s occasional new writings are so dissonant from the current pope’s emphasis on being pastoral and accompanying people, it is a problem.

Second, when he does write or speak, Benedict seems fixated on LGBTQ people. Last year, he called marriage equality “absurd” and linked it to the Antichrist. In 2019, he linked sexual abuse in the church to a “homosexual clique.” Again, such language and thought is in stark contrast to Pope Francis, who this week made his support for same-gender civil unions undeniably clear.

As both Joseph Ratzinger and as pope, Benedict has been a notable theologian in the twentieth century, even if much of his latter work is regrettable for LGBTQ people, advocates of academic freedom, and others. But with his continued insistence on denigrating some of God’s people, he ensures that anti-LGBTQ work will be a defining part of that legacy. In moments like this, Benedict should recall his promise upon Pope Francis’ election to remove himself from the public spotlight and choose to say nothing at all.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 18, 2021

Related Articles, “Benedikt XVI.: ‘Ehe für alle’ zeigt ‘Deformierung des Gewissens‘”

9 replies
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Former Pope Benedict XVI Calls Marriage Equality a “Deformation of Conscience”

    “Former pope Benedict XVI sharply criticized marriage equality as the result of a ‘deformation of conscience’ that is in ‘contradiction to all previously successive cultures of mankind.’”

    That is a flat-out untrue statement. Unfortunately, Benedict’s continued publications are very troubling and harmful to the LGBTQ community. Instead of being tossed on the trash heap of irrelevant theology, they become weapons in the hands of the haters of church inclusion and revisionist theology.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    B XVI needs to be reminded he is not Pope and should follow the last Pope who resigned go to a monastery in Switzerland and close the door/remain silent. He was hateful when in office and his ramblings in retirement should not be published. His Prada shoes and other affectations reveal enough of his self-loathing as a gay man to not allow him to vent his offensive bile. XVI is correct God created Man (broad meaning) in His image and those diverse images are the face of God.

    • Duane Sherry
      Duane Sherry says:

      Re: “self-loathing as a gay man”

      Could the former German Shepherd be chasing his own tail, barking in fear of his own shadow?

      I’m not sure, but there sure seems to be a lot of psychological projection from the hierarchy, so it would come as no surprise.

  3. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    I’m not a linguist, but I’m pretty sure the word “person” or the term “human person” exist in Italian (“la persona” and “la persona umana”). The fact that the former pope continues to use the masculine term “l’uomo” (“man”) suggests something quite basic about sex and gender: he just doesn’t get it! Yes, he does qualify “l’uomo” with the “maschio” and “feminina,” but why can’t he speak of the human person, with a single term, that includes all human persons?

    Also, his logic is lacking. His statement that, “the concept of homosexual marriage is in contradiction with all the cultures of humanity that have occurred up to now and therefore signifies a cultural revolution that is opposed to the whole tradition of humanity up to now,” is a case in point. He seems to think that simply because contemporary humanity societies have an awakened view of sexuality and gender that this view is in “contradiction” or is “opposed to” what has come before. Isn’t it possible, dear Benedict, that these views are an evolution of previous perspectives? Isn’t it possible (and likely) that our understanding of human sexuality is building not only on the tradition of humanity that has been received (including those parts of the tradition that you probably are not aware of!), as well as the lived experience of millions of human persons who don’t fit so neatly into your predetermined binary boxes?

    Oh, how I wish the former pope would keep his word and live a life of quiet prayer and study, staying out of the limelight and stop stirring up trouble!

    • Karin S. Tate
      Karin S. Tate says:

      Exactly. Scripture explicitly endorses slavery and yet attitudes towards slavery have obviously evolved and no church advocates its continuation in any form. When will a similar turn around happen in the Church’s attitudes towards women and the LGBTQ community?

  4. Bob Hare
    Bob Hare says:

    I have a few thoughts, but I will only share this one. Pope Emeritus Benedict says one thing. The present pope, Pope Francis says almost the opposite. What are you going to do? I like the rule that a doubtful law does not apply. You decide. It’s the primacy of conscience.

  5. Steven Stencil
    Steven Stencil says:

    Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict XVI has caused great harm within the Catholic Church within my view regarding his lack of support for and the implementation of Vatican Ii reforms. His resignation as Pontiff was the best decision he ever made. His positions in most areas have never been respected by many in Church leadership. He should simply live out his life of prayer and penance and allow Pope Francis the opportunity to minister. We do not need Benedict’s voice in today’s world in lieu of the destruction within the Church has already accomplished thru his seeming evil internal politics within the Church.


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