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Former Pope’s name removed as co-author of book on celibacy

January 14, 2020

Pope-emeritus Benedict has requested that his name not be listed as the co-author of a new book defending the Church’s tradition of celibacy, after the release of excerpts from the book triggered a fiercely partisan reaction.

Tbe retired Pontiff had written an essay for the book, From the Depths of Our Hearts, which appears along with an essay by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The book—scheduled to appear in print this week—is an energetic defense of priestly celibacy, appearing in print at a time when the Church awaits a document from Pope Francis summarizing the work of the Amazon Synod, which ended with a suggestion that the requirement of celibacy be reconsidered.

When excerpts from the book appeared in print, some Vatican analysts suggested that Pope-emeritus Benedict had not actually written the essay ascribed to him, or that he had somehow been tricked into collaboration in a project that was designed to embarrass the current Pope.

Cardinal Sarah replied angrily to these suggestions, which he described as “defamations of an exceptional gravity.” He released copies of letters that he had received from Benedict, along with the former Pope’s essay. In his letter, the retired Pontiff clearly gives Cardinal Sarah permission to use the essay in whatever form he sees appropriate.

Archbishop George Ganswein issued a “clarification” on January 14, saying that while Pope-emeritus Benedict was certainly aware of Cardinal Sarah’s plan to produce a book on celibacy, he (the former Pope) was not aware that he would be listed as co-author of the book. Archbishop Ganswein disclosed that he had, at the former Pope’s request, asked that the publishers remove the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the work.”

The retired Pope also asked that he not be listed as co-author of the Introduction and Conclusion of the book. Those sections had been presented as joint efforts by Benedict and Cardinal Sarah. They will now, apparently, appear under Cardinal Sarah’s name alone. The main section of the book, consisting of essays by Benedict and Cardinal Sarah, will remain essentially unchanged.

Archbishop Ganswein, in his statement, emphasized that the difficulty arose from “a misunderstanding, without questioning the good faith of Cardinal Sarah.”

The intemperate reactions to the appearance of a written work by the former Pope, and the embarrassing sequence of public statements by Church officials, highlights the tensions that now prevail at the Vatican. It seems clear that intense pressure was put on Pope-emeritus Benedict, Cardinal Sarah, and Archbishop Ganswein to the lessen the impact of the new book.

Ironically, at the same time, Andrea Tornielli, the chief spokesman for the Vatican, was recalling in his own public statement that Pope Francis has spoken out repeatedly in favor of the discipline of priestly celibacy.


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  • Posted by: koinonia - Jan. 17, 2020 2:29 PM ET USA

    This really went poorly. How can such high profile figures struggle so mightily? Is this effort even helpful if one of the authors- a former pope- has his name removed? So much confusion.

  • Posted by: Dennis Olden - Jan. 14, 2020 7:53 PM ET USA

    Where are Fr. Fessio and Ignatius Press in all this? Will Father have to retract what he has said in defense of the use of Pope Benedict's name for the book?

  • Posted by: canónigoregular - Jan. 14, 2020 7:03 PM ET USA

    In the last line of the second paragraph, due, one would hope, to a typographical error, the word "bishop" seems to be used as a verb. "To bishop" suggests a wealth of various meanings. I am still pondering what it might mean "to bishop" the celibacy requirement.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 14, 2020 3:23 PM ET USA

    "...after the release of excerpts from the book triggered a fiercely partisan reaction." I hope Pope Francis condemns the rigidity of those partisans.