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FutureChurch’s Statement on the Death of Pope Benedict XVI

Upon the death of Pope Benedict XVI, FutureChurch offers prayers for him and the church and condolences to his family and friends.

Pope Benedict

The late pope offered the church consequential gifts. Most prominent among those gifts was his decision to resign his papacy. The recognition of his limitations in carrying out the functions required of a pope rightly helped de-mystify the office and humanize the people who sit at the helm of authority in the Church.

But it must not be forgotten that Pope Benedict XVI left a legacy of pain for many faith-filled Catholics; especially women, LGBTQI+ Catholics, and those who had the courage to publicly dissent from his doctrinaire views.

While affirming women’s equal dignity in the church and recognizing that the roles that women held in the early Church were in no way secondary,* his actions belied his distrust of women and their Spirit-led faith and authority. As prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later, as pope, he became a chief curator and enforcer of church laws, teachings, and policies that sought to keep women subordinate and silenced.

During his tenure, he investigated the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) twice. During the 2012 offensive, the Vatican accused the LCWR of promoting “radical feminist themes” and “corporate dissent” and fully intended to seize significant control over the most prominent and most trusted Catholic organization of women in the country.

The Vatican also harshly criticized Professor Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, casting aspersions on her feminist scholarship with fallacious arguments.

These attacks on the nuns led to one of the most notable uprisings of Catholics in the United States. Ordinary Catholics and reform organizations (including FutureChurch) organized hundreds of protests in support of the nuns and their courageous, compassionate, and Gospel led ministries. Under the banner of “NunJustice,” representatives delivered over 17,500 signatures to the Vatican urging them to quell the attacks and honor the work of the most respected Catholic authority in the country – women religious.

Further, as Pope Benedict dealt out punishments, he offered clerics who sexually abused children and committed crimes the benefit of a process, while automatically excommunicating the pioneering women who chose a path to priestly ordination. The clericalism and sexism used to justify those decisions were in plain sight at every turn.

As New Ways Ministry and DignityUSA clearly demonstrate, the pope’s policies and teachings on homosexuality have devastated our LGBTQI+ friends and family and caused immense suffering and pain.

While we grieve the loss of Pope Benedict XVI, we must not expunge the record when it comes to his many efforts to keep women subordinate and LGBTQI+ people excluded. The policies set while he served as prefect of the CDF and later as pope, matter today. Women and LGBTQI+ Catholics still suffer the effects of his policies in a Church that continues to undermine their authentic value, gifts, wisdom, and authority.

In a Church still plagued by sexism, homophobia, clericalism, and other forms of injustice, we will continue to raise up the voices of justice; pray; and work to bring healing, hope, and love to all those who suffered during his time in power.