Cardinal Brandmüller: Society ‘Hypocritical’ to Condemn Sexual Abuse by Priests

In a new interview, the German cardinal says the “real scandal” is that the Church hasn’t distinguished herself from a society characterized by growing sexualization.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller (photo: Bohumil Petrik/CNA)

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller has said the debate over clergy sexual abuse “forgets or silences the fact that 80% of the cases of sexual assault in the Church affected male youths not children” and that a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse has been “statistically proven.”

A former president the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, Cardinal Brandmüller told the German news agency DPA Friday that “only a vanishingly small number” of priests has perpetrated abuse and that it was “hypocritical” for society to condemn sexual abuse by priests. 

“What has happened in the Church is nothing other than what is happening in society as a whole,” he said.

He added that he believed the deeper problem was a growing sexualization of society in recent decades, and that “the real scandal is that the Catholic Church hasn’t distinguished herself from the rest of society.” 

A respected Church historian, Cardinal Brandmüller was one of the four cardinals who signed five dubia which sought clarification from Pope Francis on the moral teachings contained in the Pope’s 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.  

In the interview, Cardinal Brandmüller echoed both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI in saying that homosexuals should not be priests, saying that “for the simple reason, a person of homosexual orientation finds it very difficult to cope.” 

“In addition, a priest must be a father,” he added, and that “someone who is emotionally incapable of normal human love and of being responsible for the family would also encounter difficulties as a priest.” 

The cardinal’s comments come after a report published last year found that 1,670 priests had abused 3,677 mostly male minors between the end of the Second World War and 2014. 

Some have criticized the cardinal’s comments. Ulf Poschardt, editor of the Die Welt newspaper, described it on Twitter as “a disgraceful way of relativizing the guilt of the Catholic Church and defaming homosexuals.” 


Fire of Truth at 90

Cardinal Brandmüller, who turned 90 on Saturday, chose Ignis in Terram (fire on the earth) as his motto when Benedict XVI elevated him to cardinal. The motto is taken from words of Jesus: “I have come to set fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49).

The German cardinal once said, quoting the 20th century Jesuit theologian Johannes Leppich, that the Gospel is “not a sleeping pill, but dynamite” and that “if the Gospel is lived, it changes the world.”