Dear Pope Benedict,
I’ve just read your 1989 paper reprinted in Communio in the review’s featured, “Retrieving the Tradition.” In “Difficulties Confronting the Faith in Europe Today” you explain your future papacy’s resistance to change on the “interlinked” issues of contraception, homosexuality, divorce and women’s ordination. At the end of your analysis you make a plea for more theological development of the doctrine of creation.
I heartily agree that more theological reflection on creation is needed but I was distressed and alarmed by your analyses of why Catholics are having their differences. You attribute dissent not to honest differences on the content of what God wills for the church, but to a rejection of moral truth and Divine authority.
You interpret claims of “conscience” and “freedom” as thinly disguised rejections of God and the church. Dissenters can thus be dismissed as modernist intellectuals advocating moral relativism and a self-centered worldview. As you say, “at first glance” this dissent “would be plainly labeled as a surrender of moral integrity, the simplifications of a lax conscience.”
You claim that dissenters on contraception, homosexuality, divorce and women’s ordination are treating the body “as a piece of property,” to do with as they will. But whatever can you mean? Maybe you are confusing those who differ with you with European existential intellectuals like Sartre and atheist crusaders. I assure you that faithful Christians seek change because they judge the church to be distorting the gospel truth of God’s love, mercy and moral reality.
It is an intellectually evasive strategy to use accusations of lax conscience and moral relativism to avoid confrontation and debate over contentious issues that divide the church. You rightly point out that the issues of gender and sexuality are dependent on a theology of creation and a specific view of nature and human nature.
We are arguing over the meaning of human embodiment and God’s love. The deep “metaphysical symbolism” of male and female gender differences that you see as core and essential can be viewed by other Christians as romantic and overblown—and no longer supported by science or philosophy.
Is not embodied human existence in this world and the resurrection far more shaped by sacramental union with Christ, than by complementary gender identity and reproductive purposes. In exercising your Petrine ministry you can lead the church into necessary reflection and discernment. Councils, synods, conferences and other means of open communication are ways toward truth and reconciliation.
Pray use your papal resources and personal gifts to help the center hold.
Yours in truth,