Ex-Pope Labels Sexual Revolution as Cause of Church Abuse Crisis

Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 and has since remained largely quiet on Church affairs. (Photo by Paul Haring, CNS)

Earlier today, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released a letter condemning the sexual revolution of the 1960s for causing the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. The letter, a nearly 6,000-word essay, was published in a German newspaper before an official English translation by the Catholic News Agency was released and is controversial on two grounds: the content of the letter and the circumstances of the letter.

Benedict laments that the 1960s brought about a series of actions that proved catastrophic to both traditional ideas of morality and Catholic dogma. While the former Pontiff does not specifically point to a cause of the moral decline, he does list several examples of its presence. The first is the West German government’s decision, in 1967, to promote a more complete sexual education for students. The largest aspect of that policy was the film “Helga – On the Origins of Life”, which controversially was one of the first films with full nudity to show all aspects of a pregnancy. Benedict wrote “Sexual and pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that they were screened at newsreel theaters.” He also blames the clothing the 1960s for, in conjunction with pornography, causing violence.

One of the most controversial lines from the letter relates to pedophilia. Benedict wrote “Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.” Later on in the letter, Benedict seems to say that pedophilia was not an issue until the 1980s. Many have rebuked that claim as objectively false, as pedophilia remains a crime in most of the world with a significant social taboo.

The ex-Pope also discusses the decline of traditional Catholic moral theology. He points to the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope Saint John XXIII in 1962, as a leading cause of the decline, lamenting Vatican II shifted the focus from moral theology’s basis in natural law to a Scripture-based belief. Benedict wrote “Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute) good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.

Another comment from Benedict that has drawn criticism is the claim that “In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries.” Benedict seems to be blaming the Queer Revolution of the 1960s on the sexual abuse crisis the Catholic Church has faced since the 1990s, which is a slight variation on the traditional comment that legalizing homosexuality will lead to sexual miscreants (“What’s next – people marrying their dog?” the argument used to go).

At the time, then-Bishop Josef Ratzinger was one of the most conservative Catholic theologians. Apparently, Benedict, claims, to the point his work was black-listed by the new, more liberal bishops, writing, “Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.

Benedict begins to close out the letter by presenting “solutions” to the crisis. Not the crisis of priests sexually abusing young children entrusted to their care, but the larger sexual freedom “crisis.” “Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God,” Benedict argued. “Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.”

Besides the content of the letter, the circumstances of the letter have sparked controversy. Benedict is the first Pope emeritus in 500 years. His 2013 resignation, citing poor health, put the Church in relatively unchartered territory. At the time, Benedict declared that he would live the rest of his life in quiet prayer and contemplation in an Italian monastery. For the most part, he has held true to that statement, only making appearances in the Vatican to celebrate major Church events with Pope Francis.

That is, until this letter. Benedict writes that he was inspired by the conference held by Pope Francis earlier this year to address the systematic problems that lead to the Catholic sex abuse scandal. That conference, in turn, was sparked by the conviction of Australian Cardinal George Pell for a series of charges relating to his sexual abuse of young boys in the 1980s. In the letter, Benedict seems to indicate that he had spoken to several Vatican officials before releasing it, including the Cardinal Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Pope Francis.

Catholics around the world are unsure of how to respond to the letter from the former Pope, similar to how they reacted when Benedict announced his resignation six years ago. It is a tenant of Catholic belief that when a Pope is elected, he is elected by the College of Cardinals acting through Divine inspiration. How does someone stop being God’s chosen representative on Earth? How should Catholics treat the letter from Benedict? Does it have the same weight as a letter from the sitting Pope? This is unclear, and the fact that Pope Francis seems to have been aware of the letter and not objected to its release raises more questions than answers. The sentiment of Benedict’s letter also contradicts the standard messaging of Pope Francis, “who has often said abuse results from the corrupted power of clergy.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict has faced a series of critiques for his handling of the Church’s sexual abuse crisis during his eight-year pontificate.  While he did remove many accused priests from the Church, he was perceived by many as slow to respond to the crisis as it grew.

In his letter, Benedict does not address the victims of the crisis directly and does not apologize or express sorrow for what was done to them.

Peck: Pride Flags Make Student Body Uncomfortable (And They Should)

Jackson Peck ’22

As a member of the Saint Anselm community or as a recent visitor to the school, you may have noticed small pride flags planted around campus, waving in the wind, standing strong in the shadow of Alumni Hall. You may have also noticed that the next day on your walk to class that that same flag, once so firm in its convictions, has been removed. It is no mistake that these flags have been disappearing.

The flags were planted anonymously, coinciding with the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, and caught the attention of nearly every passer-by. Some students were upset by the flag, some were uncomfortable, and for identifying students some took them as a sign – ‘You are not alone.’

Saint Anselm College is a Catholic institution with a majority conservative student body, and these flags were planted to force conversations and increase visibility for LGBTQ students on campus. If these flags in any way made students uncomfortable then the mission was accomplished; we should live in a world where someone’s ability to love who they love is not discriminated against. The discomfort stemming from this silent demonstration is a testimony to the need for these flags. The flags are extremely important, not only because it shows that there is an LGBTQ presence on campus and supports members of the community, but because people are constantly taking them down which simply highlights the need for more visibility on campus and more discussions about issues facing the community.

A recent article printed in the Saint Anselm Crier – the official school paper – stated, among many things, “Gay pride flags represent a movement that promotes a form of sexual promiscuity” as well as “the college does not endorse the ideology in question.” The article has sparked debates, and only further encouraged advocates for LGBTQ visibility on campus; however, there are still many individuals who decide to ignore this issue, who do not partake in the discussion for fear of discomfort. Ignorance and inaction are in some cases just as wrong as open discrimination.

As people, we all strive to be accorded the same rights and privileges. We fight for human rights, we oppose those who deny such rights to others, and yet we do not recognize our own injustices – we instead accept them as demonstrations of free speech. The preamble to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights states “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Members of the LGBTQ community were given the freedom to marry in 2015, but the struggle for justice and equality still rages on, and only once there is justice can there be peace.

LGBTQ Community Responds to Flag Controversy

The December 7, 2018 issue of the Saint Anselm Crier included a controversial opinion piece by Maria Benitz ’19 entitled, “In defense of flag removal.” Last week, a handful of small LGBTQ and Trans-gender flags appeared across campus, near walkways and on other green areas on campus. It is unclear who put the flags in the ground. But, within a few days of the flags appearing, they were gone. The removal of the flags has caused some controversy across campus but many students were not aware that they had been removed intentionally or maliciously.

In her letter, Benitz defended the removal of the flags. She wrote that the flags were not approved by the College’s Student Engagement and Leadership office and that, therefore, the flags should have been removed. It is not clear that the flags were not approved by SEAL or the Dean of Students’ Office but, if they were not, then it would have been proper for the appropriate authorities to remove the flags.

It is the second portion of Benitz’s letter that has caused the controversy. Benitz wrote, “Gay pride flags represent a movement that promotes a form of sexual promiscuity contrary to the virtue of chastity” promoted by the Catholic Church. She continued, “The Church cannot support the transgender pride movement, because this movement seeks to validate a form of mutilation of one’s God-given body.”

Several members of Saint Anselm College’s LGBTQ community provided a response to Bentiz’s article. Dennis Aveta ’20, wrote, “Calling non-heterosexual people ‘sexually promiscuous’, stating that no one should have sex if they can’t procreate, regarding gender affirmation surgery as the ‘mutilation’ of the body is overtly offensive…”

Aveta added, “The most common reaction from friends was shock that something so offensive and ridiculous could be printed in the school paper. But it wasn’t shocking to members of the community.” He continued, “We know the discrimination and intolerance we face on campus and in society, and now our allies are starting to understand it too. I am a proud gay man and will not accept homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or any other form of discrimination based on one’s identity.”

Matthew Solomon, ’20, President of the College’s True Equality and Dignity Alliance (TEDA), released a statement responding to Benitz’s article on The Hilltopper. Solomon said, “I am sure these flags represented many things for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. They represented a chance to be seen when they are so often overlooked. They represented the love they have for members of the community who are closeted and may have needed to see that flag. And most importantly they represented the desperate cry for equality of the person who planted that flag.”

Solomon referenced the Unhooked event from last year, saying, “It seems as if only yesterday the campus was caught up in the discriminatory actions taken against the leader of the Knights of Columbus, or the series of anti-transgender talks sponsored by the college.”

Solomon also spoke about the impact that Benitz’s article, and the sentiments expressed in it, may have on members of the Saint Anselm College community. He wrote, “My heart goes out to anyone on campus that is still in the closet and has to see things like these articles being published, or the flags being taken down out of intolerance. However, a part of me is appreciative that this is happening. Some of you may be wondering why these little flags and the responses they received are such a big deal. They show the attitude on campus that is still very much there, that the LGBTQ+ community is expected to live quietly on campus. That we are not allowed to express ourselves and be seen for the beauty that our diversity gives us.”

The Hilltopper reached out to the Editor-in-Chief of the Saint Anselm Crier, Em Craig, for a comment on the publishing of Bentiz’s article. On the Crier‘s website, Craig wrote, “We are in support of our students’ right to share their opinions with the school. To deny a student that right, we are denying them their right to free speech.” It is worth noting that the Supreme Court of the United States has created several restrictions on the freedom of speech from the First Amendment, especially when malice, ill-will, and defamation are involved with the speech in question, even in opinion pieces (Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 1990)

The following statement from the Culture Editor of the Crier was posted on December 10: “The editorial team of the Crier does not espouse any of the beliefs published in our newspaper except for the editorials which we write. The Opinion section is meant as a platform for the students of Saint Anselm College, which is a bipartisan campus. This openness means that some of our editions may skew in a certain direction because students who feel strongly about their political background are taking advantage of the Crier’s policy. That is not to say that The Crier is not open to the other side of the conversation. We promote honest and free discussion.”

It seems that the controversy surrounding LGBTQ+ issues on campus is far from over.

Students Attempt to Study for Finals Without Being Morally Outraged

‘Twas the night before finals
when all through the Hilltop,
all students were studying,
until hate made them stop.

Early Sunday evening, The Hilltopper received word from multiple nameless sources that students naively believed they could endure finals week without facing discrimination. “We just assumed, you know, that people would stop attacking our identities for this one week,” a student reflected.

The library was buzzing at the hilarity that the institution would cease enabling discrimination simply because of the pressure of exams. “This is a challenging school. We knew what we were getting into when we decided to come here,” a pro-discrimination Anselmian shared, explaining that finals isn’t a sufficient reason to stop hate speech.

While many students struggled to focus given the eruption, others admit they’ve been desensitized. Said one gay student, “I totally get it, I’m not a fetus, why would they be pro-my-life?”

Matt Solomon, TEDA President, Responds to Crier Letter; Defends LGBTQ+ Visibility


As the President of a club with the primary purpose of increasing visibility for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, I was overjoyed to see the Gay Pride flags and Trans Pride flags spread across campus. I am sure these flags represented many things for the LGBTQ+ community on campus. They represented a chance to be seen when they are so often overlooked. They represented the love they have for members of the community who are closeted and may have needed to see that flag. And most importantly they represented the desperate cry for equality of the person who planted that flag.

I can only assume that the reason these people planted these flags was as a form of peaceful protest against the prevalent prejudice atmosphere on campus. It seems as if only yesterday the campus was caught up in the discriminatory actions taken against the leader of the Knights of Columbus, or the series of anti-transgender talks sponsored by the college. After much progress, there is still work to be done. The culture on campus is one of being asked to quietly exist. Of being asked not to make too many waves with your diversity. This is a sentiment that alarms me for many reasons.

First, it proves the complete ignorance of what it feels like for a member of the LGBTQ+ community while in the closet. I personally spent several years in the closet, surrounded by intolerant people, who would do things like publish articles about how Gay Pride represents sexual promiscuity instead of love, tolerance, and acceptance. To perfectly describe what it is like in the closet is impossible, but in my experience, it was a void. A completely empty space where my existence was put on hold for seven years of my life. I spent every day as if a zombie, aimlessly living a life that was not mine. The only emotion that would ever creep in was hate. Whenever I was reminded of my sexuality, of that part of my being that the world around me despised, I would be left alone in that void with only the hatred I had for myself. In this dark place, I attempted suicide multiple times. When I came to college I met a group of friends who accepted me with open arms, regardless of my identity. This is the first time I had ever experienced anything like that in combination with the freedom that comes with college, so I broke out of that place for the first time since I was 12 years old.

These statistics come from the Trevor Project, and prove that the lack of visible support for the LGBTQ+ community is a life-threatening problem. (Youth is defined as any age between 15-24)

     Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.1.
LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.
     LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
     Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGB youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.
     Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.
     In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.3 LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
     Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

Visibility is the most important aspect of helping the LGBTQ+ community. It is what I have devoted my life to, and I would give everything up for the cause.

As soon as I reclaimed my identity I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to make sure that no one ever felt the way that I felt. This meant working tirelessly to spread LGBTQ+ inclusion wherever I could, and on this campus I had my work cut out for me. I started in Academia, writing papers and making arguments about things like how Jean-Jacques Rousseau would feel about the LGBTQ+ community. I moved on to Residential Life, where I made sure that the male Freshman dorm was inclusive for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. I worked with campus ministry, Abbot Matt, Father Benet, and more to ensure that they were just as committed as I was in spreading love for all. I organized the first ever Pride on Saint Anselm College (I called it LGBTQ+ Visibility Day) to showcase that the LGBTQ+ community and Saint Anselm College could live in harmony, without one overshadowing the other. I worked with my fellow officers of the True Equality and Dignity Alliance to create a safe space where our members felt loved and accepted and free to be whoever they wanted. I accomplished these things because I worked with the people on campus who understood the most important part of this battle for equality. That this is not an ideological war, this is not about belief systems, this is about our lives. This is about ensuring that all people feel accepted and safe in the place where they spend 8 months of their lives each year.

My heart goes out to anyone on campus that is still in the closet and has to see things like these articles being published, or the flags being taken down out of intolerance. However, a part of me is appreciative that this is happening. Some of you may be wondering why these little flags and the responses they received are such a big deal. They show the attitude on campus that is still very much there, that the LGBTQ+ community is expected to live quietly on campus. That we are not allowed to express ourselves and be seen for the beauty that our diversity gives us. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years with the wonderful people on this campus that hope to drown out the ignorance and hate that is on this campus waiting for its chance to crawl out of the woodwork. I hope that this article will inspire them to continue our fight and I call on others to join us as well. The True Equality and Dignity Alliance will be hosting multiple events next semester in addition to the Second Annual LGBTQ+ Visibility Day, we hope to see you all there.

Peace and Love,
Matthew Solomon
President, T.E.D.A.

Lyons: Trans Rights Are Under Attack (Again)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

The Trump Administration recently released a memo detailing a proposal that would greatly limit transgender peoples’ rights, safety, and freedom of expression. A new definition of sex that does not include gender identity is up for debate. According to The New York Times, the memo from the Administration states “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This redefinition is defended by the Department of Health and Human Services as an attempt to specify the definition of sex under Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education programs and any other federally funded activities. The new definition impacts two policies currently under debate.

One concerns gender discrimination in colleges that receive federal financial aid, and the other involves federally funded health programs. If passed, this new regulation will affect the approximately 1.4 million transgender people in the United States, who, coincidentally, would also like to be protected from gender discrimination in educational spaces. This decision would drastically decrease the Obama-era policies that allowed for a wider and more fluid definition of gender that expanded legal protections for gender nonconforming individuals.

LGBTQ+ groups and activists took to the streets of New York on Sunday to protest this discriminatory policy. Additional demonstrations were planned for the White House on Monday. On Twitter, the hashtag #WontBeErased is trending as trans* people and allies alike assert the civil rights of transgender people. Trans twitter users are sharing pictures of themselves with this affirmation of visibility. Leaders of the Women’s March tweeted: “Trans and gender non-conforming people cannot be written, beaten, imprisoned, or shut out of existence. Protect trans rights. Protect trans lives,” while GLAAD simply but powerfully repeated “Trans people #WontBeErased.

If you want to support trans* people and fight back against discriminatory policies, here are some ideas to get you started.

To trans readers: you are valid. We will fight for you and beside you.

 (Sources from The New York Times here and hereTime, and the general Twitter.)

New U.S. Visa Policy Draws Ire from LGBTQ Groups

On October 1st, a new policy went into effect banning visas for unmarried partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations officials. This new regulation will also impact U.N. ambassadors, U.S. embassy staff, employees of international organizations working in the U.S., and foreign military members stationed in the United States. Partners under these categories will need to provide proof of marriage to enter the country. Unmarried couples have until the end of 2018 to submit proof of marriage or leave the country within 30 days.

In July, the U.S. mission informed relevant U.N. members, “Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” and therefore “partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible.” The changes began in October, giving a three-month window for unmarried couples to act. This decision, it has been said, will further the equal treatment of same-sex and straight relationships. According to a statement on the State Department website, the new visas “are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.”

Many critics, however, were quick to point out that this policy may, in fact, cause hardships for same-sex couples. Samantha Power, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., noted that only 12% of U.N. member states actually allow same-sex marriage— and only 26 countries worldwide. This decision reverses then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s 2009 policy that granted visas to partners of U.S. and foreign diplomats, on the understanding that marriage equality was still a work in progress.  Akshaya Kumar, Deputy U.N. Director at Human Rights Watch, explained that this may “[force] those living in countries without marriage equality to choose between a posting at UN headquarters or family separation.” If couples are married in the U.S., they may face discrimination in home countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Foreign Policy reports that “limited exceptions” will be offered to diplomats from countries where same-sex marriage is not legal but “that government would have to provide documentation proving that same-sex marriage was illegal and commit to accepting same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats.”

The new policy will affect approximately 105 families from the United States. It is unclear how many foreign couples will be affected by this change. This decision comes as a blow to the LGBTQ+ community, after the legal recognition of marriage equality in the U.S. in 2015, and advocacy groups worldwide. Many LGBTQ+ organizations and human rights groups have expressed concern that this policy will be far more discriminatory than equalizing.

Cover image from Yahoo! News.

Lyons Calls on Anselmians to Attend LGBTQ+ Events

Although the semester on the Hilltop is coming to a close, the next few weeks are full of on-campus events. LGBTQ+ issues have been a common topic of conversation this semester, and three upcoming events seek to celebrate every diverse and unique individual on campus.

The first event, occurring next Tuesday from 4:00-6:00 in Perini, is a panel composed of identifying students. This will be the first of many events put on by the new True Equality and Dignity Alliance. Kelsey Warner, T.E.D.A. President says of the event, “The Purpose of the LGBTQ+ Anselmians panel is to make the ‘other’ familiar in community. It is often so easy for any person to make generalizations about a community without knowing the people that decision may affect. As such, we are hoping to show the community that not only do identifying students exist on this campus, they are heavily involved, recognizable Anselmians. We are trying to facilitate a community discussion, but also encourage people to ask questions of the LGBTQ+ panelists to clarify assumptions or stereotypes about the community. Ultimately, we are trying to show that this group is a part of the Anselmian community, and want that community to be as informed as it can be about the individuals that are a part of it.”

The next event is a celebration of LGBTQ+ individuals. Sophomore RA Matt Solomon has worked with dozens of individuals from all reaches of the Saint Anselm community to make this event a success. “LGBTQ+ Visibility Day is an effort to showcase the support of the Saint Anselm community for LGBTQ+ Anselmians. The lack of visible support for the LGBTQ+ community is a large factor in their high suicide and homelessness rates. This event is a celebration of the overwhelming love and unity we share as Anselmians. Yet it also serves as a message for those on campus who may not feel comfortable publicly expressing themselves on campus that they are welcome here. We will have music, yard games, snow cones, a LOT of food, raffles, a performance by Hint of Lime, and much more!” Matt says. Keep an eye out for this monumental event next Thursday from 4:00-6:00 on the Alumni Quad!

Finally, in keeping with tradition, Saint Anselm College will participate in a national Day of Silence. T.E.D.A. treasurer and junior education/English double major Abby Garland sheds some light on what Day of Silence means: “Day of Silence is an annual day of action that holds the purpose of bringing awareness to the effects that bullying and harassment have on those students of the LGBTQ+ community. By taking a day-long vow of silence, those who participate stand with the LGBTQ+ students who have been silenced. This day is more than an excuse to not talk in class. This day is for showing support and giving recognition to those that have been made to feel that they have no voice.” T.E.D.A. will have a table in Davison with more information as well as stickers that students and faculty can take to show support.

I know that the last few weeks of the semester are insanely busy for college students, but if you find yourself with a free moment, I urge you to stop by these three events. At a time when there is so much conflict surrounding LGBTQ+ issues, it is important to reassure identifying students that they have a place on the Hilltop. While each event seeks to explain and celebrate the other, at the end of the day, we are all Anselmians.