By Francis X. Rocca
Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI deplored the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and linked it to other vices, including child pornography, sexual tourism and drug abuse, which he said were all promoted by an ideology of social moral relativism.
The pope made his remarks on Monday (Dec. 20), in his annual Christmas address to leaders of the Roman Curia, the Vatican's central bureaucracy.
Looking back over major events of 2010, Benedict put special emphasis on the clerical sex abuse scandals that broke out in several European and South American countries.
"To a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis," the pope said.
Acknowledging both the "particular gravity of this sin committed by priests" and "our corresponding responsibility," Benedict said he was also compelled to note the "context of these times in which these events have come to light."
The pope said child pornography "seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society," while sexual tourism in underdeveloped countries "threatens an entire generation."
The "problem of drugs ... extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world" with a "violence that tears whole regions apart," Benedict said.
The pope traced the "ideological foundations" of these vices to the 1970s, when he said that "pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children."
It was the same time, Benedict said, that even some Catholic theologians taught that "there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself" but that "anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances."
A prominent American advocate for sex abuse victims rejected Benedict's comments as "disturbing" and "unseemly."
"The pope insists on talking about a vague 'broader context' he can't control, while ignoring the clear 'broader context' he can influence -- the long-standing and unhealthy culture of a rigid, secretive, all-male church hierarchy fixated on self-preservation at all costs," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.