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Letter #1, 2020: The Controversy over the Book

[2020-01-17]
[Engleză]
"O Salutaris Hostia,

Quae caeli pandis ostium!"

("O Saving Victim, opening wide

The gate of heaven to man below!")

—A hymn in praise of Jesus Christ, composed by St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the 1200s. Aquinas says the work of Jesus Christ was, through his sacrificial death, to open the gates of Heaven (eternity) to man. (Here is a link to a sung version of the hymn: link). This teaching — that Christ, through his sacrificial death, re-enacted at every Mass, opened the gates of Paradise to fallen mankind — is the essential basis for the veneration all Catholics have for the priesthood, and both Emeritus Pope Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah teach in their new book that the priesthood is a sublime calling because the priest, conformed to Christ (including through priestly celibacy), actually participates in Christ's ultimate work: opening heaven to fallen humanity

The Controversy that Continues to Intensify

The controversy over the Cardinal Robert Sarah-Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI book on priestly celibacy, and the chaos surrounding its publication; the revelatory comment today of Archbishop Viganò; and the great conflict over celibacy and the Catholic priesthood, and so over the sacramental heart of Christianity itself

By Robert Moynihan



Cardinal Robert Sarah (right) and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spent many weeks during 2019 corresponding by letter and preparing essays about the meaning of clerical celibacy in what was ostensibly a joint project -- a co-authored book.

Cardinal Robert Sarah

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The book was published this week, in French, and it will soon be published in other languages, with the book's authorship attributed to both men. (Link for a report on the Ignatius Press English-language edition.)

Suddenly, through a process that has not been fully explained, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein (below, left - pictured with Pope Francis), the personal secretary of Benedict, announced that there had been "a misunderstanding" and that the book was not co-authored by Benedict, but authored only by Cardinal Sarah "with" Pope Benedict making a contribution.

Italian journalist Antonio Socci now claims — without giving attribution to any source, so it is not known whether the account is true — that the change was ordered by Pope Francis himself (link to Socci's article in Italian.)

According to this account, Francis learned of the book publication, became enraged(!), summoned Gaenswein, and in person commanded Gaenswein to do whatever was necessary to take the Emeritus Pope's name off the book as co-author. (Indeed, Socci's sources told him that Francis at first asked for a "total retraction," in other words, that Benedict say he had not written any part of the book; but no "total retraction" could be made because Benedict had authored some parts of the book.)

Gaenswein then made a public announcement that Cardinal Sarah had "misunderstood" the agreement between Pope Emeritus Benedict and himself, and that, for this reason, Benedict's name would be taken off as "co-author." (See these links for reports on this: in German, in the Catholic News Agency report in the Catholic Herald by Hannah Brockhaus, and in the National Catholic Reporter report by Joshua McElwee.)

Pope Emeritus Benedict, left, and Pope Francis

Here is an account, based on Socci's report, from LifeSiteNews yesterday which tells this astonishing, but not yet fully confirmed, story:

Vatican insider: ‘Furious’ Francis demanded Benedict retract name from priestly celibacy book

Vaticanist Antonio Socci said that Pope Francis ordered Benedict's secretary to remove the name of Benedict XVI from the cover of the book.

Wed Jan 15, 2020 - 2:39 pm EST

By Dorothy Cummings McLean

ROME, January 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A Vatican-based journalist has alleged that Pope Francis was “furious” over Pope Benedict’s contribution to a book co-authored with Cardinal Robert Sarah defending priestly celibacy, demanding that Benedict retract his name from the work.

Antonio Socci, an Italian Catholic journalist best known for his coverage of Church news, has reported on social media that Pope Francis was infuriated by the texts in Des Profondeurs de nos coeurs ("From the Depths of Our Hearts") supporting priestly celibacy.

“The day before yesterday... the end of the world broke out in the Vatican because Bergoglio was furious,” Socci wrote on Tuesday.

“In fact, that very authoritative pronouncement of Benedict XVI prevents him from taking a pickaxe to ecclesiastical celibacy as he had planned to do in the next post-synodal exhortation,” he continued.

“Thus, [Pope Francis] personally called Archbishop (Georg) Gänswein, the secretary of Benedict XVI as well as the Prefect of Bergoglio’s Pontifical Household, and ― furious ― ordered him to remove the name of Benedict XVI from the cover of the book …”

Socci said that “reliable sources within the Vatican” had given him the “behind the scenes” story leading up to the Pope Emeritus’ decision to distance himself from the book he co-authored with Cardinal Sarah. The prolific author of such works as The Secret of Benedict XVI: Is He Still the Pope? stated that Pope Francis wanted his predecessor to renounce his authorship entirely ― which would have been a falsehood.

“Bergoglio demanded a full and total retraction,” Socci wrote.

“For this reason the first filtered news spoke of sources ‘close to Benedict XVI’ who said that Benedict had neither co-authored a book with Sarah nor approved the cover, that is, his signature on the book,” he continued.

“This, however, was not true, and Benedict XVI could not bring himself to bear false witness implying that Cardinal Sarah had involved him without his consent. Nor had Pope Benedict the least intention of retracting what he had written in defense of celibacy in that volume.”

Socci noted that at the outbreak of the scandal Cardinal Sarah had published his correspondence with the Pope Emeritus that demonstrated that the book was the work of them both and that the book had Benedict’s consent. The Pope Emeritus’ instructions to publishers to downplay his authorship in future editions of the work, however, was allegedly to protect Archbishop Gänswein.

“....Benedict also found it necessary to shelter his secretary from South American ‘vendettas,’ given that he had received a peremptory order from Bergoglio,” Socci wrote.

“Thus this compromise solution was adopted: on the cover of future editions of the book the author will be Cardinal Sarah ‘with the contribution of Benedict XVI,” he continued.

“The text in the book, in any case, will remain the same.”

Socci said that this “messy compromise” means that Pope Francis’s “court” are able to tell the media that the Pope Emeritus has retracted his signature from the book, “even though this is not true” and his name still appears on the agreed-upon parts of the work.

“A most ugly story of clerical power that in the end points to a gagging of Benedict XVI,” Socci remarked.

“However, there remains the underlying question: if Bergoglio, in his exhortation bashes celibacy, with the ordination of ‘viri probati,’ which is in fact in direct conflict with the doctrine of the Church recently reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI,” Socci stated.

“Thus he assumes responsibility for a most serious breach with heavy consequences.”

The American publisher of the English translation of the work, Ignatius Press, has affirmed the co-authorship of the work. The company’s founder and editor-in-chief, a former student of Joseph Ratzinger, told LifeSiteNews on Monday that claims Benedict had not co-authored the book were “fake news.”

“I just got a call from Cardinal Sarah. He confirms that Pope Benedict is co-author with him,” said Fr. Joseph Fessio.

Ignatius press confirmed Tuesday that it will continue to list the two prelates as co-authors.

According to an official letter written to the bishops of the world, but leaked to LifeSiteNews, Pope Francis wants to publish a final document on the Amazon Synod by early February. One of the most controversial topics of the synod, the possibility of ordaining married aboriginal men in the Amazon to the priesthood, is expected to be addressed in this post-synodal exhortation.

[End LifeSiteNews article on Socci's Italian report]

================

So here we are...

So here we are: the controversy over this new book on priestly celibacy has exploded and is raging...

Critical issues are at stake in the battle over the publication of this book. They range from the question of:

(1) the role of celibacy in the priesthood to

(2) the nature of the relationship between Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

Under the first point, it is generally agreed that celibacy is a "discipline" not a "dogma." There are married Catholic priests. For example, there are about 120 married Anglican priests who, upon becoming Catholics, have been recognized as Catholic priests (link); and, in the eastern rites, priests are permitted to marry before they are ordained. However, it is the view of many — and, in particular, of Pope Emeritus Benedict and Cardinal Sarah — that the tradition of a celibate priesthood is of central importance for the identity of the priest, who is devoted exclusively ("married") — like Christ Himself — to the Church.

Regarding the second point, this controversy raises the question of whether a retired Pope could or might have any magisterial or governing authority, and if so, of what type. So, this controversy seems to reflect an unresolved institutional crisis related to the lack of clarity about the present situation of "two Popes" — though most commentators might say that that itself is a false way of putting the matter, since, they would insist, there are not "two" Popes at all, only one -- as has always been Catholic tradition and belief.

The key point today is that clarity about these issues remains frustratingly elusive because the two central characters -- Emeritus Pope Benedict and Pope Francis -- have not themselves spoken on the matter.

Everything that is being said about this controversy is coming from intermediaries: from the book's co-author, Cardinal Sarah; from Archbishop Gaenswein; from publishers, like Fr. Fessio; and from anonymous "sources" of various reliability...

Only if Benedict and Francis would speak, without intermediaries, could some semblance of clarity emerge.

In re-publishing the reports that follow, I attempt to make a contribution to clarifying the issues at stake, without pretending to offer a definitive conclusion about the truth of what has transpired.

===============

Two key points

There are two key points to keep in mind:

(1) A puzzling delay in an expected decision on celibacy in the priesthood from Pope Francis.

Pope Francis had been expected to issue his "wrap-up" statement on the Amazon Synod, held during October in Rome, either just before or after Christmas, 2019.

Speculation was that his statement would approved the ordination of married men in the Church in the special context of the Amazon region.

But it was widely understood that, if the approval was granted for the Amazon Region, it would "inevitably" (so observers on all sides judged) slowly be extended to places like Germany, and then to other countries, and finally to the whole world.

But that statement has not yet come out.

But now two weeks have passed by since the end of 2019.

Something seems to be holding up the post-Synod statement.

And at this precise moment, this book has appeared, containing a direct appeal from the old Pope (Benedict) to the new Pope (Francis) not to take the step many expect Pope Francis is about to take.

So this is the drama of the situation. Benedict in the book is appealing to Francis not to take a step many were expecting Francis has decided to take.

(2) A public "slap" against both Emeritus Pope Benedict and Cardinal Sarah

The events of the past three days are being read by most Vatican observers as a public "slap" against both Cardinal Sarah and Emeritus Pope Benedict by "someone" who evidently has authority over both of them.

That "someone" is evidently Francis himself.

But this is still not entirely clear, because -- as some observers say -- it could be that someone in the circle of Francis has acted on Francis' behalf.

In this view, Francis may not be fully aware of what is being done under his authority.

It would not be the first time, in the Vatican, that decisions are taken and commands issued without informing the Pope.

=====================

Two additional articles

Here follow two articles of considerable interest:

(1) a comment today by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on the role of Archbishop Gaenswein, and

(2) a more general reflection on these matters in First Things written by Francis X. Maier, the Chancellor of Archbishop Charles Chaput in the archdiocese of Philadelphia — and at one time, when I worked at the National Catholic Register in the 1980s, my editor and mentor.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

Article #1: Today's Comment by Archbishop Viganò

Abp Viganò denounces Benedict’s secretary for ‘abusive and systematic control’ of Pope Emeritus

Sursa: www.InSideTheVatican.com


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