Has the Pope absolved paedophile priests of sin?
He had planned today to do an exposition of the Pope's comments on 'aggressive secularism' and the purposeful juxtaposition of this with the forces of Nazism. He was going to write upon the 'dictatorship of relativism' which 'threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man's nature, his destiny and his ultimate good'.
But he has been pondering throughout the night the Pope's words in the interview that His Holiness did just before he set foot on British soil. Whilst still on the aeroplane, he told journalists that paedophile priests are suffering from an illness: the condition, he said, 'is a disease and free will does not work where there is disease'.
Does the Pope mean by this that a priest's sexual attraction to children is the same type of 'objective disorder' as homosexuality?
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has always been careful to distinguish between the practice of homosexuality (which is a 'grave matter' which 'cries to heaven for vengeance' and so constitutes mortal sin) and the inclination (which is 'objective disorder'). Homosexuality is not simply wrong, which is harm, disorder, destruction in the objective world; it is sin, which is self-distancing from God in the heart.
We sin when we deliberately do what we believe to be wrong. In our hearts we opt for evil, and then move away from goodness and from God, who is good.
If homosexuality is a state which lies beyond a person's choice, it is not a sin unless and until it is acted upon, which is a matter of choice in the exercising of free will.
But Pope Benedict has said that paedophile priests have no control over their lust. He said that the rape and torture of children is not a sin of commission, for the perpetrator has lost their free will 'which does not work where there is a disease'.
A mortal sin cannot be committed accidentally: a person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately chooses to commits the sin regardless. Mortal sins are therefore premeditated by the sinner and so constitute a rejection of God’s law and love.
But if 'free will does not operate', the paedophile priest has not chosen to sin, for there can be no choice where there is no expression of will. God's law is not rejected, for there is no premeditation where there is no free choice.
His Grace is troubled.