In an extraordinarily candid interview with Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI discusses the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, papal fallibility, the saints he calls friends, and a fondness for old films
. . .You are now the most powerful Pope of all time. Never before has the Catholic Church had more believers, never before such extension, literally to the ends of the earth.
Naturally, these statistics are important. They indicate how widespread the Church is and how large this communion is, which encompasses races and peoples, continents, cultures, and people of every kind. But the Pope does not have power because of these numbers.
Communion with the Pope is something of a different sort, as is membership in the Church, of course. Among those 1.2 billion Catholics are many who inwardly are not there. Saint Augustine said there are many outside who seem to be inside, and there are many inside who seem to be outside.
In a matter like faith – like membership in the Catholic Church – inside and outside are mysteriously intertwined with each other. Stalin was right in saying that the Pope has no divisions and cannot issue commands. Nor does he have a big business in which all the faithful of the Church are his employees or his subordinates. In that respect, the Pope is, on the one hand, a completely powerless man. On the other hand, he bears a great responsibility.
He is to a certain extent the leader, the representative, and at the same time the one responsible for making sure that the faith that keeps people together is believed, that it remains alive, and that its identity is inviolate. But only the Lord himself has the power to keep people in the faith as well. . . .
The Pope on... dealing with scandals within the church
Right now, in the midst of the scandals, we have experienced what it means to be very stunned by how wretched the Church is, by how much her members fail to follow Christ. That is the one side, which we are forced to experience for our humiliation, for our real humility. The other side is that, in spite of everything, he does not release his grip on the Church. In spite of the weakness of the people in whom he shows himself, he keeps the Church in his grasp, he raises up saints in her, and makes himself present through them. I believe that these two feelings belong together: the deep shock over the wretchedness, the sinfulness of the Church – and the deep shock over the fact that he doesn’t drop this instrument, but that he works with it; that he never ceases to show himself through and in the Church.
The Pope on... drugs
Many, many bishops, above all from Latin America, tell me that wherever the road of drug production and trafficking passes – and that includes large sectors of these countries – it is as if an evil monster had its hand on the country and had corrupted the people. I believe we do not always have an adequate idea of the power of this serpent of drug trafficking and consumption that spans the globe. It destroys youth, it destroys families, it leads to violence and endangers the future of entire nations.
This, too, is one of the terrible responsibilities of the West: that it uses drugs and that it thereby creates countries that have to supply it, which in the end exhausts and destroys them. A craving for happiness has developed that cannot content itself with things as they are. And that then flees into the devil’s paradise, if you will, and destroys people all around.
And then there is a further problem. The destruction that sex tourism wreaks on our young people, the bishops say, is something we cannot even begin to imagine. The destructive processes at work in that are extraordinary and are born from the arrogance and the boredom and the false freedom of the Western world.
You see, man strives for eternal joy; he would like pleasure in the extreme, would like what is eternal. But when there is no God, it is not granted to him and it cannot be. Then he himself must now create something that is fictitious, a false eternity. . . .
You can read the entire interview at The UK Telegraph