In Benedict XVI’s view, the Catholic crisis of clerical sexual abuse was, in the main, an ecclesiastical by-product of the “sexual revolution:” a tsunami of cultural deconstruction that hit the Church in a moment of doctrinal and moral confusion, lax clerical discipline, poor seminary formation, and weak episcopal oversight, all of which combined to produce many of the scandals with which we’re painfully familiar today.
This diagnosis does not explain everything about the abuse crisis, of course. It does not explain psychopaths like MarcialMaciel and Theodore McCarrick. It does not explain the abusive behavior by clergy and religious in pre-conciliar Ireland and Quebec. It does not explain the challenges the Church faces from clerical concubinage (and worse) in Africa today. But Ratzinger’s epidemiology does address, pointedly, the sharp spike in clerical sexual abuse that began in the late 1960s and peaked in the 1980s, before the reforms of the priesthood and seminaries initiated by Pope John Paul II began to take hold.