A schism is taking place that is tearing the Vatican apart. The 93-year-old former pope Benedict XVI just released his authorized autobiography in his native Germany. The book ends with an interview between Benedict and the journalist Peter Seewald in which the former pontiff sharply attacked gay marriage, abortion, and scientific methods of conception.

“A century ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to talk about homosexual marriage. Today those who oppose it are excommunicated from society,” he said. “It’s the same thing with abortion and creating human life in the laboratory.”

“Modern society is in the middle of formulating an anti-Christian creed,” he said. “The fear of this spiritual power of the Antichrist is then only more than natural, and it really needs the help of prayers on the part of an entire diocese and of the Universal Church in order to resist it.”

Pope Francis (courtesy: screenshot)

These views set him at odds with his successor, Pope Francis, who has a far more conciliatory approach to homosexuality. Though he does not advocate for same-sex marriage, he has taught that homosexual tendencies “are not a sin.”. Speaking about gay people in 2013, Pope Francis said, “The key is for the church to welcome, not exclude, and show mercy, not condemnation…If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?…”The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers.”

For his efforts, Pope Francis was named the Person of the Year by the LGBT magazine The Advocate.

In a 2019  speech, Pope Francis compared politicians who rage against homosexuals, gypsies, and Jews to Hitler.

An anonymous insider who is very familiar with Catholic theology and the inner workings of the Vatican, having personally met both Popes, explained the rift to Breaking Israel News

“Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are polarized theologically. Pope Benedict is a more conservative theologian,” the source told Breaking Israel News. “Catholic theology very much holds that homosexuality is anti-Christian. PopeFrancis is more progressive. For example, the issue of ordaining married priests, men married to women, has been raised and Pope Francis might be open to that but the Church won’t allow it.”

Pope Francis differs from his predecessor in many ways. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century. His style is significantly less formal than that of Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis chose not to live in the official papal residence in the Apostolic Palace, but to remain in the Vatican guest house, becoming the first pope to do so in over a century. Upon being elected, he chose to accept his cardinals’ congratulations standing rather than while seated on the papal throne, reportedly an immediate sign of a changing approach to formalities at the Vatican. During his first appearance as pontiff on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, he wore a white cassock, not the red, ermine-trimmed mozzetta used by previous popes. He also wore the same iron pectoral cross that he had worn as archbishop of Buenos Aires, rather than the gold one worn by his predecessors. In choosing the name ‘Francis’ (and expressly not Francis I), he was the first pope in over one thousand years to hold a name not used by a predecessor. 

Francis has made many pleas for economic equality and is perceived as a champion of the poor.

“Pope Francis has been know to slip away from the Vatican to be among the people, even going into restaurants where he insists on paying,” the source said. “Pope Benedict really stood on the pomp of the Vatican.”

The recent papal disagreement seems to be a sign of disagreements yet to come.

“The Church is at a crossroads, trying to figure out what is the future for them,” the source said. “The real milestone, if it happens, is if Pope Francis relaxes celibacy rules for priests. He might do so because it is no longer a practical requirement.”

“The people are ready for the progressive changes Francis represents but the Catholic leadership is still split on a softer approach to homosexuality,” the source opined. “Where they can all agree is in opposing abortion.”

Benedict served as pope from 2005 until he resigned in 2013, citing a “lack of strength of mind and body” due to his advanced age. He was the oldest person to have been elected pope since Pope Clement XII was elected in 1730. He was the first pope to resign in over 600 years and the first to do so on his own initiative since in 1294. 

Born in 1927 as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, and his family bitterly resented the Nazis. His father’s opposition to Nazism resulted in demotions and harassment of the family. At the age of 14, he joined the Hitler Youth as all children were required by law to do, refusing to attend meetings. In 1941, one of his cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and murdered as part of their program of eugenics. He was drafted and trained in the infantry but never served, deserting as his unit dissolved due to the approach of the Allied forces.