Pope Benedict presides over a withering church. Retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland has come out of the closet as a gay man. Archbishop Weakland recently wrote his memoirs which are to be published later in the year. The proceeds of his book are to go to the Catholic Community Foundation. Archbishop Weakland retired from the Church at the age of seventy-five as per Church law. However, he did so in disgrace. In 2002, Weakland was sued by a man claiming that he had raped him in 1979. Paul Marcoux, who was a theology student at the time, attempted to extort Archbishop Weakland with a love letter that he had received at the time. Weakland used money from the archdiocese to pay off Marcoux from 1998 to around 2002. Pope John-Paul II expedited Weakland’s retirement request. In him memoirs, Weakland makes mention of the problems surrounding the pedophile priest scandals, and even admits his own culpability in them.
Weakland called upon the Church to discuss gays in the priesthood without the hysteria and fear that has plagued the discussion. This hysteria has been mounting since the ascension of Benedict XVI. Weakland retired to a Benedictine monastery.
Pope Benedict has been far less popular than his predecessor, Pope John-Paul II. The issues surrounding Benedict’s life before the priesthood are even starting to become more problematic. A recent episode of CSI: New York addressed for the popular audience the activities of the Hitler Youth. In the episode Yahrzeit, a fugitive member of the Hitler Youth murders a man who could expose his life long deception. In the episode, they discuss the activities of the Hitler Youth including the fact that they were encouraged to help round up Jews and to bring them to the camps. Pope Benedict was a member of the Hitler Youth during World War II. Membership in the Hitler Youth was a requirement for all German boys over the age of fourteen. According to reports, Benedict’s father was against Naziism, and the young Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict’s original name) was unenthusiastic about his role in the Hitler Youth. However, his membership in the Hitler Youth and other issues including his recent rescinding of the excommunication of Holocaust denier Richard Nelson Williamson and the reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X have plagued his tenure as Pope. John-Paul II was well noted for his opposition to Naziism, his resistence to the Nazi occupation of Poland, and to his outreach to Israel over his tenure as Pope.
When Pope Benedict visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, his speech backed away a great deal from a similar speech given by Pope John-Paul II. Pope Benedict stated how millions of Jews were killed rather than the almost exact number of six million, and used the word killed rather than murdered. During the Shoah, somewhere between five million eight hundred thousand and six million Jews were murdered by Nazis in a variety of often brutal ways. There is some debate over the terms Holocaust and Shoah. Many scholars use the term Shoah (Calamity) to describe the specific murder of Jews by Nazis and the term Holocaust to encompass the entirety of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against individuals including homosexuals, the disabled, and other groups seen as undesirable by the Nazi regime. While Pope John-Paul II did not fully apologize for the actions of the Catholic Church during World War II, he came the closest. Pope Benedict seemed to pull away from his predecessor’s near apology.
Pope Benedict also courted controversy by visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque, located on the Temple Mount. During his visit, balloons in the colors of the Palestinian flag were released, some having Vatican or Palestinian flags tied to them.
Pope Benedict has not only been plagued by the deterioration of external political influence, but he has overseen the decline of the Catholic Church in the United States. Membership in the Church has dropped by twelve percent. The recent appointment of Archbishop Dolan to the Archdiocese of New York has resulted in a trickling exodus of Catholics who are unhappy with the rigidity of the Catholic Church. New York priests have tended to be among the most liberal in the country even as far back as the 1950′s. Many in the New York Fire Department, and the wider New York community, were displeased by the disrespect that Pope John-Paul II paid to Father Michael Judge who was killed on 9/11 while giving Last Rites to a fallen fire fighter.