“We turn to you with deep distress!” Cardinals Raymond Burke and Walter Brandmüller wrote to the presidents of bishops’ conferences in an open letter on Tuesday. “The Catholic world is adrift, and, with anguish, the question is asked: Where is the Church going?”
The cardinals added that the church’s sex abuse troubles are “only part of a much greater crisis” fostered by the “homosexual agenda” and a “climate of complicity.”
“Before the drift in process, it seems that the difficulty is reduced to that of the abuse of minors, a horrible crime, especially when it is perpetrated by a priest, which is, however, only part of a much greater crisis,” the cardinals wrote. “The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the Church, promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.”
Burke and Brandmüller, who are known for their conservative Catholic views, have often been critical of Pope Francis for his progressive views. Although the two cardinals highlighted child sex abuse allegations, the church has also come under fire for rampant sexual assault and rape of nuns by priests.
The letter subtly jabbed the pope, criticizing the church’s leadership for its “public denial” of “the divine and natural law.”
“Sexual abuse is blamed on clericalism. But the first and primary fault of the clergy does not rest in the abuse of power but in having gone away from the truth of the Gospel,” Burke and Brandmüller wrote. “The even public denial, by words and by acts, of the divine and natural law, is at the root of the evil that corrupts certain circles in the Church.”
They released the letter ahead of the Feb. 21 to 24 Vatican summit addressing sexual abuse in the church. The crisis captured attention in the U.S. again in the past few months, after a Pennsylvania grand jury published a report in August that identified 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims and Francis publicly confirmed this month that some priests and bishops sexually abused nuns.
Gay people have long been portrayed as a threat to children, although there is no link between sexual orientation and pedophilia or child molestation. Many conservatives perpetuate the idea that homosexuality is deviant and, in some of the more extreme cases, label people who are gay or lesbian as child molesters. Many survivors of priests’ child sex abuse, however, have loudly rejected this widespread, problematic idea.
“To make this link between homosexuality and pedophilia is absolutely immoral, it is unconscionable and has to stop,” survivor Peter Isely told reporters on Wednesday.
“No matter what your sexual orientation is, if you’ve committed a criminal act against a child, you’re a criminal,” he continued. “That’s the designation that counts. Period.”